It has been drawn to my attention that Myron Ebell will be Mr. Trump’s lead agent in choosing personnel and setting the direction of the federal agencies that address climate change and environmental policy. Not everyone is entirely happy about this3 and doubtless Trump will be distressed by that, but he is unlikely to take this unexpected opposition too seriously. Scratching my head and trying to think of a contrarian way to approach the matter, I thought I’d try reading what he has actually said, instead of reading what other people who don’t like him say. First of all, slightly to my surprise, I discover that I’ve had no cause to edit his wikipedia page5.
The NYT tells me that
Mr. Ebel leads the Cooler Heads Coalition, a loose-knit group that says it is “focused on dispelling the myths of global warming by exposing flawed economic, scientific, and risk analysis.” He has been one of the nation’s most visible climate contrarians, known for dispensing memorable sound bites on cable news shows and at events like the annual conferences sponsored by the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based group that rejects the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change. Mr. Ebell has said that “a lot of third-, fourth- and fifth-rate scientists have gotten a long ways” by embracing climate change. He frequently mocks climate leaders like Al Gore, and has called the movement the “forces of darkness” because “they want to turn off the lights all over the world.” No one, it seems, is immune to his criticism. He called Pope Francis’s encyclical on climate change, issued in mid-2015, “scientifically ill informed, economically illiterate, intellectually incoherent and morally obtuse.” “It is also theologically suspect, and large parts of it are leftist drivel,” he added.
But before we go on, here’s a lovely sunny picture from, errm, the summer to cheer us all up in these dark rainy days2.
Scrolled down? Jolly good. On we go. Here are ME’s posts at the CHC1. Let’s go through them:
* [2016/01] UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat Announces Steps for Signing and Ratifying the Paris Climate Treaty. The Next Step Is Up To the Senate. Gloss: politics, not science. The point he is trying to make – and if we’re honest, it is a good one – is that the Paris Treaty is actually, errm, a treaty and should therefore be presented for ratification. Obama is not doing this – he is at best sidestepping the law – and we guardians of Law and Decency really don’t give a toss about that, do we, because a Higher Duty says it’s the Right Thing To Do.
* [2016/01] Robert M. Carter, RIP Meh: Carter wasn’t worth his time, but then he wasn’t worth mine, either. No scientific content, and in an obituary niceness is expected, unless you’re me.
* [2015/12] President Obama Thinks Paris Climate Treaty Will Bind Next President – more not-science.
* [2015/09] Pope Francis Will Try To Meet with Ailing Fidel Castro and Will Be Met by Obamas at Andrews AFB – Da Pope has betrayed him, so he’s taking the piss, but without the accompanying pic it is hard to even tell.
* [2015/08] EPA’s Colossally Costly Power Plan Fulfills Obama’s Campaign Promise – again: politics, not science.
* [2015/06] Pope Francis’s Climate Encyclical: Help Poor People by Dismantling Industrial Civilization – a familiar theme: the Left are anti-lifting-poor-out-of-poverty la la la. There’s more to say on that, but not here. Although it briefly touches on the science: Laudato Si’ fails to get the science right (see paragrahps 2026 [he means 20-26 I think -W]) it is mostly about politics, as is LaSi itself. He is, of course, wrong to say so unreservedly that it “fails to get the science right”.
* [2015/04] AEI Holds Carbon Tax Love-In. Apart from the “love-in” of the title, a straight report of a carbon tax event, which as you know I’m in favour of as are all right4-thinking people.
* [2015/02] New York Times Repeats Scurrilous Greenpeace Attack on Willie Soon Without Checking the Facts: here he is defending the indefensible, but as with the Carter obituary (has anyone heard from Soon recently?) he’s just defending someone on his own side; and once again there’s no science in there.
* [2015/02] British Political Elites Unite In Economic Suicide Pact – more politics.
You get the idea. I’ll stop going post-by-post, because they are all much the same: politics, and economics, not science. When given the chance he takes minor sideswipes at the science, yes, but it is never his major focus. He takes the piss out of John Kerry getting the GHE wrong (Kerry has probably mistaken it for the ozone layer). There’s a post in July 2014 pointing to him being interviewed by James Delingpole. ME insists that he puts forward freedom and open markets above all else; and he and JD are worried about the Vast Socialist World Gummint Conspiracy. ME repeats the tedious “flat 20 years temperature” which is silly (also seen slightly earlier in the 17 year version), but such talk wasn’t uncommon in 2014 (Kevin Trenberth took the pause seriously in Science in 2015 and didn’t give an unambiguous answer; that’s not the same as “flat” of course, but still). There is also interesting discussion – worry, perhaps, about the success of the tactic – of the way their opponents make GW a moral issue (a strategy I wasn’t terribly happy with just recently). And his assertion that this makes it necessary for him to show that GW is fake. But they spend almost none of the interview talking about science. Another fragemnt is “…we first have to make the scientific case that the planet is not in peril and we’re not all going to fry; yes there may be some warming and yes there has been some warming but its not really in the top 20 challenges that we face…”.
I think the best clue to his thinking on this does come from the interview6. You should listen to it, if you want to know what he’d be like in charge. If he walks-his-talk, he’ll be in favour of repealling regulation, just like Trump promised.
I got bored reading all those essentially-similar blog posts. So I switched to wiki, which told me, under the heading “Global warming denial”, that In 2001, Ebell stated his belief that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the European Union and the rest of the world to harm America’s economy. He justified the allegation with a quote from European Commissioner Margot Wallström in her response to Bush’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol.. The  is a ref to EU sends strong warning to Bushover greenhouse gas emisssions. Unfortunately, it is only a ref to what MW says, and doesn’t even mention ME. This falls rather short of wiki’s normal standards.
Googling throws up the smoggies who provide the damming:
Believing that man-made climate change exists, as I do, does not necessarily mean that you think that it is rapid or a serious problem or that the policies to address it will actually do anything or that you are willing to pay the costs of those policies
which is the only quotable quote they can find for him since 2007.
You might say, since it is so clear that science is not his major focus, but politics and economics is, then why should he get the task he has been given? And the answer, obviously, would be that those agencies and policies do have major political and economic ramifications. Asking someone pure science, or possibly even mostly-science-with-little-understanding-of-economics, to do the job wouldn’t obviously make sense.
Afterword: ME could have written my We Don’t Need a ‘War’ on Climate Change, We Need a Revolution?
Aafterword, 2018/04: or, try Snopes.
1. Also known as “globalwarming.org”. I’ve never been too sure how seriously to take the identity of each fragment of this clearly interlinked group, but really, who cares exactly who he is writing the words for, it is words that are identifiably his that matter.
2. If you’re in the northern mid-latitudes, at least.
3. Conversely, the nutters are both delighted by the appointment and by the outrage it has caused.
4. “right” as in “correct”, not as in “wing”.
5. Well I have now but I hadn’t then: check the timestamps.
6. Listening to that I thought he sounded quite unpolished. Entirely unlike a pol; in that he took some trouble to clearly articulate a logically coherent message. He very much was not just ramming home pre-made talking points. This is roughly congruent to Gavin’s “I’ve been at events & on radio w/Ebell – he’s not that impressive” which I’ve only just seen.
* The US Libertarian party
* They may not like it, but scientists must work with Donald Trump say Jack Stilgoe and Roger Pielke Jr. ATTP has a convoluted reason for not liking it, but ter be ‘onest guv I didn’t finish parsing it.
* The CEI (though not explicitly ME) are cautiously in favour of a Universal Basic Income; even citing Hayek.
* Love Global Warming: What’s wrong with mild winters, anyway? – ME in Forbes, 2016/08. A useful antidote to anyone who thought his views were actually sensible.