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You may have heard by now that a seminal climate denier document, a report by one Edward Wegman which purportedly debunked the statistics behind the hockey-stick model of global warming, and which effectively set the stage for the climategate scam, was largely plagiarized from a book by Raymond Bradley, one of the scientists whose work Wegman was trying to discredit. Not surprisingly, scientific illiterate, Senator Joe Barton, who, as the former head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, commissioned Wegman’s report, has decided to stonewall and still stands by the report “because he claims it ‘found significant statistical issues’ with climate change data.”

However, the scientific writers on the Deep Climate Website, who analyzed the report and verified the charges of plagiarism in the first place, also contend that the problems not only go further, they involve meddling by Barton’s staff in order to bias the findings. Although Wegman has tried to minimize the contributions of Barton’s staff, he cannot hide the fact that he not only plagiarized Bradley (and Wikipedia (!)), but in doing so, omitted key segments of Bradley’s work that would have undermined Wegman’s contentions that there were statistical errors in the hockey-stick paradigm. In other words, like almost all of the denialist “evidence” dredged up and paid for by corporate energy interests, this entire document was bogus from beginning to end.

Nevertheless, it has had the effect that it was designed to have.  As David Kurtz of TPM puts it, by the time that the report was discredited, “it had already made the rounds and accomplished its main purpose: giving climate change deniers a peg to hang their hats on.” This constant denialist noise is the goal of the those who fund and help propagate the attacks on legitimate climate science. A representative of one such organization, the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is on the record about their strategy:

At an October blogger briefing at the Heritage Foundation, Americans For Prosperity president Tim Phillips explained his organization’s plans for defending global warming pollution. A day after his policy director, Phil Kerpen, claimed the organization did not question the science of climate change at a Center for American Progress Action Fund event, Phillips relished in the success of the “UK email scandals” for convincing people of a scientific “conspiracy” … .

And the AFP and similar organizations are succeeding in their effort to discredit climate science. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2006 79% of those polled responded positively when asked about whether there is solid evidence to support global warming. That number has dwindled to 59%.  

It’s not difficult to understand why denialism is slowly prevailing. Each claim against climate science is widely publicized in right-wing blogs and given credence in the right-wing media machine, but when they are disproved, the story appears only in a few major newspapers, a few specialist, climate-science outlets, and perhaps in the back pages of a few smaller newspapers like the St. Louis Post-Dispatch – and then it disappears. The right-wing continues to cite the discredited stories with no reference to the evidence disproving them – and with no push back from the traditional media when they do so.

Instrumental in this process are GOP politicos who, in spite of contrary evidence, continue to mouth claims that there are real, substantive doubts about climate change or the fact that it is due to human activity. FiredUp! Missouri noted a few weeks ago that almost all the members of the newly elected Missouri GOP congressional delegation fall into this camp. Some of them, such as Vicky Hartzler (R-4), who claims to have access to data that disproves global warming, and Billy Long (R-7), who agrees that the “science is questionable,” are probably dim enough to actually believe that they are quoting real science. Some like Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-9) probably find such beliefs convenient and hope to cash in on the anti-science environment to make a name for themselves – witness Luetkemeyer’s proposed legislation that would have denied U.S. funding to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) because it was engaged in “dubious science.” And of course, there is always Roy Blunt who can be counted on to go along to get along, especially with the energy interests who have funded a significant part of his political career.

I am proposing that we not let this latest expose of falsehoods permeating the climate-denialist cabal go gently into that good night.  I would like to see each of the good Missourian GOPers who represent us in Congress repeatedly called to task for their causal repetition of claims that have been shown to be false. They should be asked on what grounds they accept claims that the climate is not changing or that the change is not anthropogenic. They should be asked to respond to the evidence that climategate is a fraud and to the distortions and forgeries at the heart of climate denialism arguments. At the very least, they need to demonstrate that they have sufficient knowledge to be able to evaluate claims about science before they cavalierly dismiss scientific claims and legislate accordingly.

We need to demand that Missouri journalists do a better job in confronting politicians; we need to call them on it via letters and emails and phone calls when they don’t do a good job, and we need to ask those questions of our Representatives ourselves in letters, emails, phone calls, and at constituent meetings – and challenge their answers. If we ever want serious politicians, we need to call out the dim-witted poseurs we have sent to Washington.