Friday, November 13, 2009

A Healthy Dose of Skepticism?

Regarding last night's talk by Christopher Horner, I can see that there is some argument against the Cap-and-Trade program, and reason to look at it in a very circumspect manner. The Competitive Enterprise Institute's somewhat dubious journalistic and scientific ethics, however (two of their biggest projects of the past decade have been downplaying global warming and the health effects of secondhand smoke, and surprise! two of their biggest donors are the oil industry and the tobacco industry), give us reason not to simply take in Mr. Horner's talk, but to approach it, too with a great deal of skepticism. I was also under the impression that the CEI was the think-tank that had explicitly offered $10,000 for researchers to publish articles opposing the IPCC's view of climate change, a blatant and particularly obvious violation of scientific ethics. I was mistaken, this was the American Enterprise Institute (though the CEI and AEI have some overlap in membership). However, CEI is one of the groups that has been frequently accused by legitimate scientists of heinously misrepresenting their research or unscientifically extrapolating short term data. While Mr. Horner was certainly a persuasive speaker and his arguments on the ineffectiveness of caps may be justifiable, I was bothered by more than his potential bias and his think-tank's general disregard for scientific ethics. More noticeably, he seemed to be blatantly hypocritical in his rhetoric - after attacking Al Gore (who I will not certainly not defend as unbiased) for appeals to emotion and alarmism, and for mocking the denialists, he proceeded to do exactly the same thing (the remark about the Italian mafia cornering the wind energy market seemed particularly irrelevant and inflammatory). And some of his figures on his funding seemed equally misleading (12 million total from the oil companies to support anti-global warming research, he claims, when CEI and AEI have received nearly a third of that from Exxon alone, before even beginning the other oil donors (Amoco, Texaco) or other think tanks - I'm not buying that number).

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