A couple of days ago, I posted about economist Alan Carlin’s “suppressed” report on the EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas endangerment finding. Not only was the report a pastiche of warmed over contrarian talking points attacking the scientific consensus on climate change, but at least one entire section had been lifted almost whole from longtime disinformation specialist Pat Michaels’ World Climate Report (WCR).
Now further study reveals an even more shocking connection: the “suppressed” Carlin report appears to have been inspired by, and largely lifted from, an attack on the EPA published last November in climate science disinformation specialist Patrick Michaels’ World Climate Report. And all this came without any attribution of the large swathes of copied material to WCR or the original author (presumably either Michaels or sidekick Chip Knappenberger).
There have been some interesting developments since I last wrote. Roger Pielke Jr has weighed in, equating the suppression of the Carlin report with the muzzling of James Hansen in 2007, and even suggesting that the latest U.S. Climate Change Special report shared some shoddy scholarship practices with Carlin’s ouevre. I’ll leave readers to ponder which of these assertions is the more patently ridiculous, but NASA’s Gavin Schmidt’s comments at RealClimate do shed some light on the former one.
Perhaps of greater consequence is the apparent determination of U.S. Senator James Inhofe to hold an investigation of the EPA’s supposed “suppression” of the report, as reported by FoxNews. Inhofe, of course, is a longtime climate contrarian whose Senate committee website was transformed into a climate disinformation clearinghouse under the stewardship of aide Marc Morano (now at Climate Depot).
Meanwhile the same Fox News report makes clear what we had already suspected: Carlin wrote the report on agency time, but under his own initiative.
An EPA official told FOXNews.com on Monday that Carlin, who is an economist — not a scientist — included “no original research” in his report. The official said that Carlin “has not been muzzled in the agency at all,” but stressed that his report was entirely “unsolicited.”
“It was something that he did on his own,” the [EPA] official said. “Though he was not qualified, his manager indulged him and allowed him on agency time to draft up … a set of comments.”
It was against this backdrop that I went looking for more of Carlin’s sources. (If you want to follow along, and don’t mind downloading 4 Mb PDFs, Carlin’s draft is here and the final report is here).
In addition to the section on Greenland that I described before, I quickly discovered another whole lifted section (1.4 on hurricanes), pretty much verbatim from WCR’s blog post on hurricanes from November, 2008.
But then I decided to approach the problem the other way round and look for WCR “reports” on the EPA. And it turned out that there were quite a few:
- Dead on Arrival: EPA/CCSP Sea Level Rise Report Already Outdated (January 19, 2009)
- EPA: Shooting Blanks at Global Warming (April 28, 2009)
- Does EPA Have the Wrong Gas? (June 16, 2009)
Obviously, most of these were too late to make it into the report. But then I found one that wasn’t.
Lo and behold, there it was: an epic World Climate Report post from last November 19 with the straightforward title Why the EPA Should Find Against Endangerment. And it immediately became clear that I had found Carlin’s main inspiration and source.
The piece starts with the provocative (not to mention highly dubious) premise that the EPA’s Technical Support Document (TSD) supporting the Endangerment Finding is out of date because it is based on the 2007 assessment report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
However, the Endangerment TSD is largely a dated document which relies heavily on the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC’s AR4 was published in the spring of 2007, but to meet the deadline for inclusion in the AR4, scientific papers had to be published by late 2005/early 2006. So, in the rapidly evolving field of climate change, by grounding its TSD in the IPCC AR4 the EPA is largely relying on scientific findings that are, by late 2008, nearly 3 years out of date.
And here is Carlin’s very opening salvo in Section 1, “Draft TSD Is Seriously Dated and the Updates Made Are Inadequate”, incorporating that very same premise:
Although a real effort has been made to introduce references to more recent CCSP reports, the draft endangerment TSD is largely a dated document which relies primarily on the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). A lot has happened in those intervening three years since the input deadline for AR4. The IPCC’s AR4 was published in the spring of 2007, but to meet the deadline for inclusion in the AR4, scientific papers had to be accepted for publication by early 2006. Given the lag between submission and acceptance the real cut-off for new research was even earlier. So, in the rapidly evolving field of climate change, by grounding its TSD in the IPCC AR4 the EPA is largely relying on scientific findings that are, by early 2009, largely 3 years or more out of date. [Emphasis added]
Carlin did manage to update to reflect current chronology, and added small embellishments of his own to emphasize the supposed “datedness” even more. But the passage is unquestionably cribbed from WCR, as is Carlin’s central overarching premise.
The WCR then moves on to perhaps the most widespread and deceptive of contrarian memes, that of supposed recent “global cooling.” (This has been discussed and debunked innumerable times, but if you must you can look at two of my recent modest efforts here and here, or innumerable posts at RealClimate [e.g here] or Tamino’s Open Mind [here]).
Global temperatures have declined (Figure 1a)—extending the current run of time with a statistically robust lack of global temperature rise to eight years (Figure 1b), with some people arguing that it can be traced back for 12 years (Figure 1c).
Carlin has exactly the same passage in section 1.2 – and he didn’t even have to change the numbering of the figures, which were also lifted straight out of WCR!
Next, WCR moves on to a brief discussion (and misleading interpretation) of the latest research on hurricanes and Greenland ice melt, with links to earlier blog posts. Of course, as noted above, the corresponding WCR posts on hurricanes and on Greenland were incorporated in their entirety into the Carlin opus.
In the last half of the post, WCR moves on to a discussion of the supposed lack of impact of global warming on humans.
But perhaps the most glaring problem of all with the EPA’s Endangerment TSD is the nearly complete disregard of observed trends in a wide array of measures which by and large show that despite decades of increasing anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (as detailed by the EPA) the U.S. population has triumphed over any changes in “vulnerabilities, risks, and impacts” that may have arisen (to the extent that any at all have actually occurred as the result of any human-induced climate changes).
This part of the WCR post became the pivotal section 3 of the Carlin report, “Contrast between Continuing Improvements in US Health and Welfare and their Alleged Endangerment Described in the draft TSD”, which begins almost identically:
One of the problems with the EPA’s Endangerment TSD is the nearly complete disregard of observed trends in a wide array of measures which by and large show that despite decades of increasing anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions the U.S. population does not seem to have been adversely affected by any vulnerabilities, risks, and impacts that may have arisen (to the extent that any at all have actually occurred as the result of any human-induced climate changes).
The following paragraph is identical in both, except for the figure numbers, of course:
For instance, despite the overall rise in U.S. and global average temperatures for the past 30 years, U.S. crop yields have increased (Figure 2), the population’s sensitivity to extreme heat has decreased (Figure 3), and our general air quality has improved (Figure 4). Further, there has been no long-term increase in weather-related property damage once changes in inflation, population size, and population wealth are accounted for (an essential step in any temporal comparison). All of these trends are in the opposite sense from those described in the EPA’s Endangerment TSD.
And, once again, all the figures are included.
In fact the entire section was lifted from WCR, including the concluding graph of life expectancy:
What better measures of human health and welfare are there? In fact, there is no better way to obtain a good picture of how human health and welfare may trend in the future under increases in greenhouse gas emissions than to assess how we have fared in the past during a period of increasing greenhouse gas emissions and ambient levels. True, hurricanes will strike again in the future and cause a great deal of damage and suffering. But that will largely occur because our climate is one which includes hurricanes. The same is true for tornadoes, droughts, floods, heat-waves, cold outbreaks, strong thunderstorms, heavy rains, hail, lightning, snowstorms, blizzards, freezing rain, etc. Those are all aspects of our climate.
Climate change may alter the strength, path, or frequency of these events—lessening some and increasing others. But to the large part, our nation’s climate in the future will be made up of the same characteristics as it is today.
So there you have it. Four key sections of Carlin’s masterpiece, and indeed his central guiding premise, were lifted directly from an intellectually vacuous and misleading attack on the EPA on a blog run by a PR disinformation spinmeister with a long history of links to fossil fuel interests. And, of course, none of this was attributed to World Climate Report or the author (presumably Pat Michaels or Chip Knappenberger), compounding the shoddy misleading “scholarship” with outright plagiarism.
Apparently, some of Carlin’s supporters have complained that he was not given sufficient time to complete his work. If his superiors had not nipped his ill-conceived project in the bud, who knows what Cut-and-Paste Carlin could have achieved: perhaps a complete compendium of all the material found at World Climate Report and the Friends of Science, together with a “best of” selection from Inhofe’s website.
I fervently hope that now real and hard questions will start to be asked about the role of the major particpants in the shameful orchestrated attack on the EPA, starting with the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Carlin himself. And it’s also high time to subject to greater scrutiny the fossil fuel companies and their PR surrogates who are behind the dissemination of so much of the gross misinformation that made up the Carlin report.
As for the EPA itself, it might want to check out some of Carlin’s other past work – who knows what other shenanigans might lurk. The only faintly embarrassing question the EPA needs to answer now is this: How did Alan Carlin ever manage to stay on the payroll for so long?