Question: What ethical conclusions can one reach from this story about the great, environmentally responsible state of California?
“California grossly miscalculated pollution levels in a scientific analysis used to toughen the state’s clean-air standards…The pollution estimate in question was too high – by 340 percent, according to the California Air Resources Board, the state agency charged with researching and adopting air quality standards. The estimate was a key part in the creation of a regulation adopted by the Air Resources Board in 2007, a rule that forces businesses to cut diesel emissions by replacing or making costly upgrades to heavy-duty, diesel-fueled off-road vehicles used in construction and other industries.
The staff of the powerful and widely respected Air Resources Board said the overestimate is largely due to the board calculating emissions before the economy slumped, which halted the use of many of the 150,000 diesel-exhaust-spewing vehicles in California. Independent researchers, however, found huge overestimates in the air board’s work on diesel emissions and attributed the flawed work to a faulty method of calculation – not the economic downturn.
The overestimate, which comes after another bad calculation by the air board on diesel-related deaths that made headlines in 2009, prompted the board to suspend the regulation this year while officials decided whether to weaken the rule. The setbacks in the air board’s research – and the proposed softening of a landmark regulation – raise questions about the performance of the agency as it is in the midst of implementing the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 – or AB32 as it is commonly called, one of the state’s and the nation’s most ambitious environmental policies to date….Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, offered no explanation when The Chronicle questioned her about the diesel emissions miscalculation. She was recently asked why the air board estimate of a nitrous oxide source was off by at least a factor of two – air board scientists have since revised their numbers, and data show the estimate was off by 340 percent. Nichols’ response: “I can’t answer that for you.”
Nichols was emphatic, though, when asked whether she has concerns about other scientific calculations made by air board scientists. “No, no, no, no, no, no, no and no,” she said.”
“No, no, no, no, no, no, no and no.”
Night is Day, Black is White, Good is Bad, Wrong is Right.
Those who refuse to trust without question the scientific calculations regarding emissions and minute changes in climate temperature, as well as the subsequent policy decisions made by bureaucrats who do not have the expertise to know good data from bad, are derided in the press as fools and “deniers.” Meanwhile, environmentally concerned officials continue to hold office despite making make jaw-dropping statements like Nichols, who said, in effect, that despite sending California regulators figures that were off by more than 300% and which were made the basis for legislation that increased business expenses considerably, the climate scientists still deserved unwavering belief and reliance by the public, which must pay higher prices and endure worse employment as a result of the scientists and regulators 1) carelessness, 2) incompetence, 3) arrogance, 4) zealotry. Pick one. Or many.
Here are the answers to the question posed above:
Competence, Accountability and Responsibility: Events have proven repeatedly that the data on climate-affecting emissions is not remotely as certain, accurate and reliable as policymakers say it is. Scientists have to be far, far more objective and responsible in analyzing data. Policymakers need to put aside their pro-climate change biases and require rigor and accuracy before they rely on such data. The media has to stop cheerleading and start insisting on accountability.
Trust and Trustworthiness: At this point, there is no rational justification for trusting scientific pronouncements related to climate change—not when states are misled into devastating regulations based on reliance on figures that are three times too large. Nichols attitude is typical, intellectually reckless, and intolerable, yet it mirrors much of the political establishment and the majority of the media. Its translation is “My mind’s made up; don’t confuse me with facts,” and it is the mindset of opinionmakers who accuse skeptics of the very attitude that makes them untrustworthy themselves.
Honesty and Integrity: It is time that advocates for radical legislation regarding carbon emissions have the honesty and integrity to admit that the scientific evidence is nowhere near as certain, reliable, and unequivocal as they have been saying it is. It is imperative that more scientists admit this as well.
Mary Nichols wants us to ignore a 340% mistake. What we need to do is learn from it.