Posted by: bmeverett | January 8, 2010

2010’s stupidest climate change comment

A short post that I just can’t resist. The year is only 8 days old, yet I’m nominating Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-CA), the Chairman of the House Intelligence Subcommittee, for Stupidest Climate Change Comment of the Year. Granted, there are 357 days to go, but I’ll bet that her comment holds up to win the award.

The press has reported over the past few days that some of our spy satellites have been re-tasked to look at changing ice formations in an effort to improve our understanding of climate change. The obvious question, particularly in light of the Christmas Day Underwear Bomber incident, is why anyone would divert any intelligence resources from the difficult task of keeping us safe. Here’s how Ms. Harmon justifies the diversion of satellite capabilities:

“If you really want to understand where al-Qaida and other bad guys are going to move next, one of the things you have to understand is climate change. Famine and drought cause human migration and poverty. That creates pockets where terrorists can organize.”

Where to start? First of all, al-Qaidi is a Muslim organization, not a desert organization. Al-Qaida takes root among Muslim populations where terrorists feel safe and sheltered, not where the sand is dry. Many of those areas, like Afghanistan and Yemen, are arid, but others, like Nigeria, Malaysia, the Philippines and London, are not.

Second, our ability to model the climate system is so limited that we cannot predict anything at all, and I mean nothing. Climate models were unable to predict either the rapid temperature run-up in the 1990s or the leveling off of temperatures over the last ten years. They were unable to predict the rapid Arctic ice melt of a few years or the rapid ice recovery of the last couple of years. Models cannot predict hurricanes, droughts, rainfall, snow or anything else. The idea that satellite images will improve the models to the extent that we can not only predict increasing droughts but forecast precisely where these droughts will occur is simply absurd.

Ms. Harman’s comment is a perfect blend of Washington and California: environmental nonsense with obtuse political rationalization. Anywhere else in the country, a statement like hers would be laughable, but our current elected officials are simply beyond being embarrassed at this stage.

Let’s all agree that it would be nice to improve our understanding of the climate system. Scientists working on this issue should be applauded. Let’s not ask the 101st Airborne Division to count tree rings, and let’s keep our intelligence capabilities – all of them – focused on tracking our enemies.



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