“Four Pinocchios” for Perry: Washington Post rates his “whoppers” on climate
2011

Texas Gov. Rick Perry

“Four Pinocchios.”

That’s the worst rating a politician can get from the Washington Post’s Fact Checker column. And that’s what Gov. Rick Perry, running for the GOP nomination for president, got Thursday for his dramatic allegations about climate science the day before.

One Pinocchio is given by Fact Checker for “some shading of facts.” Two are given for “significant omissions and/or exaggerations.” Three are awarded for “significant factual error and/or obvious contradiction.” Four – the most a politician can get – are bestowed for what the Post calls outright “whoppers” of untruth.

Perry received the uncoveted Four Pinocchios after Fact Checker columnist Glenn Kessler looked into the accuracy of two statements by the governor on Wednesday – first, that “a substantial number” of climate scientists have “manipulated” their data to snare research funding, and second, that scientists are regularly “coming forward and questioning” the conclusion by the great majority of climate (and other) scientists that human-caused global warming is changing the climate.

Perry and his presidential campaign strategists couldn’t have liked the headline on the column – “Rick Perry’s made-up ‘facts’ about climate change” – and there was nothing in the column itself to cheer them up, either.

Kessler asked Perry’s spokesmen for evidence to back up his newest climate claims. They answered with regard to his assertion that more and more scientists are questioning the idea of manmade global warming, but provided nothing to back up his allegation of scientific misconduct involving the fudging of research data.

(Texas Climate News contacted Perry’s campaign staff on Wednesday to ask if he believes any Texas researchers have manipulated data and to request names of some of the numerous scientists he said are “coming forward and questioning” manmade warming. No response had been received by the time of this article’s posting.)

To support the claim of a growing number of scientists skeptical about human influence on climate, the Post columnist wrote, one Perry spokesman sent him a link to the website of an initiative called the Petition Project, “which claims to have collected the signatures of 31,487 ‘American scientists’ on a petition that says there is ‘no convincing scientific evidence’ that human release of greenhouse gasses will ’cause catastrophic heating of the earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the earth’s climate.’”

But looking into the Petition Project – long cited by some climate change skeptics – Kessler found that only 9,000 signatories have PhDs, “a relatively small percentage” have any climate expertise and that “under the petition’s rather expansive definition of a ‘scientist,’ more than 10 million Americans would qualify to sign it.” Also, he wrote, “the number of signers has barely budged from 2008, further undercutting Perry’s claim of a groundswell of opposition.”

Another Perry spokesman sent links to several articles to demonstrate a growing wave of scientist skepticism, but they actually were “anecdotal in nature” and provided no evidence of such an increase, Kessler wrote.

The Perry staffers sent no information at all, despite “repeated requests” by the Post, to back up the governor’s charge of widespread data manipulation. This, Kessler wrote, was “perhaps because that particular scandal appears to be a figment of Perry’s imagination.”

If Perry was referring with his data accusation to the so-called Climategate matter involving some scientists’ stolen emails, which gave rise to accusations about manipulated data, then “five investigations have since been conducted into the allegations – and each one exonerated the half-dozen or so scientists involved,” Kessler wrote.

The columnist’s overall conclusion:

Perry’s statement suggests that, on the climate change issue, the governor is willfully ignoring the facts and making false accusations based on little evidence. He has every right to be a skeptic – all scientific theories should be carefully scrutinized – but that does not give him carte blanche to simply make things up.

Meanwhile, Texas scientists continued to respond Thursday to Perry’s campaign reiteration and rhetorical sharpening of his skepticism about climate science.

Gerald North, distinguished professor of atmospheric sciences and oceanography at Texas A&M University, replied to a request by TCN for his reaction with emailed comments on a passage in Perry’s 2010 book, Fed Up! The passage has drawn a good deal of media attention this week in light of Perry’s charges of data manipulation.

Here’s the book passage by Perry:

For example, they have seen the headlines in the past year about doctored data related to global warming. They know we have been experiencing a cooling trend, that the complexities of the global atmosphere have often eluded the most sophisticated scientists, and that draconian policies with dire economic effects based on so-called science may not stand the test of time. Quite frankly, when science gets hijacked by the political Left, we should all be concerned. …

And it’s all one contrived phony mess that is falling apart under its own weight.

North’s annotations:

“Doctored data” – All parties have been exonerated of any wrongdoing.

“We have been experiencing a cooling trend” – We have not seen a cooling.

“So-called science” – The science is solid.

“Hijacked by the political Left” – There is nothing political about the scientific findings.

“All one contrived phony mess that is falling apart under its own weight” – No evidence of that.

North concluded: “The science behind anthropogenic [human-caused] global warming continues to improve and there seem to be no contradictions to any assertions made in any of the reports issued by the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] or the National Academy of Sciences.”

Andre Droxler, a professor of earth science at Rice University and director of its Center for the Study of Environment and Society, emailed this statement outlining basic scientific conclusions about climate change when he was asked for a response to Perry’s skeptical remarks:

Well-established observations and facts clearly point out that, by burning large quantity of carbon-based fossil fuels, humans have increased in the past century and are currently increasing non-condensing greenhouse atmospheric gases concentration, such as CO2 [carbon dioxide] and CH4 [methane] in the atmosphere, to high levels never reached in the past 800,000 years based upon Antarctic ice core records.

The average atmospheric CO2 concentration value currently at 392 parts ppm [parts per million] is higher than average pre-industrial values of about 280 ppm by about 40 percent. There is no doubt that the carbon trapped in the increased atmospheric CO2 concentration has its origin in burned carbon-based fossil fuels. Increased greenhouse atmospheric gas concentrations should be trapping heat in the lower atmosphere.

As expected, the past 30 years’ infrared radiation values, measured by satellites, have increased in the lower atmosphere whereas infrared radiations escaping towards space have dropped. In parallel and synchronously, global temperatures in the lower atmosphere have risen while in the upper atmosphere they have fallen.

In addition, as the greenhouse effect would predict, it is also observed in the past 20 years that warming at nights and in winters are outpacing warming during days and summers.

Meanwhile, moving on from climate science, Perry seemed to take a swipe at the field of biology as he campaigned on Thursday, telling an elementary-school-age child in New Hampshire that “evolution is a theory that’s out there” but has “got some gaps in it.”

In what was clearly a rejoinder to Perry, Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman, a former Utah governor, issued this message on Twitter: “To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.”

– Bill Dawson

[Disclosure: Gerald North was an editor of the new University of Texas Press book, The Impact of Global Warming on Texas, which was commissioned by the Houston Advanced Research Center, publisher of Texas Climate News. Bill Dawson, editor of TCN, wrote the book’s introduction. Dawson also formerly taught an undergraduate class offered by Rice’s Center for the Study of Environment and Society.]

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