Conference Speakers Call for End to ‘Politically Correct Science’

Published May 18, 2017

Keynote speakers at The Heartland Institute’s 12th International Conference on Climate Change spoke of the need to increase respect for science and improve climate policy in the United States.

Speakers included Patrick Michaels, director of Center for the Study of Science at Cato Institute, and U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. Both speakers stressed the heart of the scientific endeavor is constant questioning of received truths and claims of scientific consensus and said scientific research funded by government must be held to the highest standards and carried out transparently, with the facts laid before the public so they can decide on appropriate policies.

Vacating the Endangerment Finding

Michael’s presentation addressed reasons to vacate the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Endangerment Finding, under which the Obama administration decided carbon dioxide poses a threat to human health and welfare. Michaels said rescinding the Endangerment Finding is necessary to keep environmentalists and the courts from imposing again costly, unjustified climate regulations the Trump administration is rolling back or removing.

“Why do we have to vacate the Endangerment Finding?” said Michaels. “I assure you, when the president announces the Clean Power Plan is no longer in business, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Defense Fund, and every other tentacle of the green blob will be in court petitioning for a stay because of the Endangerment Finding.”

In Obama’s first inauguration address in 2009, the first action item he mentioned was health care and the second was global warming. Thus, Michaels said, it was not surprising when less than 90 days into Obama’s first term EPA issued its preliminary Endangerment Finding. Michaels said the Endangerment Finding is based solely on flawed climate models that don’t accurately reflect Earth’s response to carbon dioxide.

“[Since] these models are demonstrably failing, the Endangerment Finding can get thrown out the window,” said Michaels.

Federal Dollars Corrupt Research

Michaels said the problem with climate science today was presciently described by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in his farewell address on January 17, 1961.

“The free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research,” Michaels quoted Eisenhower as saying. “Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. … Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must, also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite. The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever-present and is gravely to be regarded.”

Government funding has coopted and corrupted climate research, said Michaels, with universities now “enslaved” to federal research dollars.

“The reason academia is so big on political correctness is that it is dependent upon the welfare of [federal] overhead,” said Michaels.

Ending ‘Politically Correct Science’

After lauding The Heartland Institute for being the best fact-checker of the Obama administration’s claims, Smith recounted his battles to force scientists working for Obama administration executive agencies to carry out their research in a transparent, open, testable fashion.

“Many times the previous administration promoted a political agenda rather than providing good, sound science,” said Smith.

Smith said the Obama administration used scare tactics to get the public and the media to support and promote federal action on the climate.

“In regard to the Obama administration, they often regularly claimed that extreme weather, hurricanes, and severe storms were getting worse due to human-caused climate change,” Smith said. “They never let science get in the way of their assertions.

“Their claims were actually contradicted by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, … [which] found a lack of evidence for almost every kind of extreme weather event,” Smith said. “Americans are tired of scare tactics and misleading info. We should focus on good science rather than politically correct science.”

Stonewalling Requests for Data

Smith explained the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee was unable to make much headway in improving either the output of or the way scientific research was conducted during the Obama administration. Spurning the committee’s legal oversight authority over the relevant science agencies, including EPA, scientists during Obama’s presidency regularly stonewalled the committee’s requests for documents supporting the administration’s claims Earth was warming with catastrophic results. As a result, Smith said, the Science Committee issued its first subpoena in 21 years to compel the disclosure of taxpayer-funded data and research, ultimately issuing 25 such subpoenas during the previous Congress.

“I don’t anticipate issuing near that many in the current Congress,” said Smith.

With Smith at the helm and President Donald Trump in the White House, the science committee is taking steps to depoliticize executive agencies’ use of science, by ensuring transparency in the development and deployment of research used to justify regulations.

The first hearing the science committee held in 2017 was titled “Making EPA Great Again,” Smith said.

“The committee has a responsibility to ensure the federal government is efficient, effective, and held accountable to the American people,” Smith said. “The government should rely on the best and sound science, [with] regulations being based on sound science, not science fiction.

“The days of ‘trust me’ science are over,” said Smith.

Smith called for the assembled audience to support the 2017 Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment Act (HONEST), which Smith introduced and has already passed through the House, to require EPA to base its regulations on publicly available science.

Veronica Harrison ([email protected]) is the marketing director at The Heartland Institute.