Alaska as a State in Denial?

Forget Katrina and Louisiana (where there are many other man-made factors, such as bad river management/flood protection), Alaska is the state most affected by Global Warming. It is also on the front lines of continued Republican efforts to confront reality directly … and deny it!

Several Republican members of the Alaska State Legislature drove through, almost beneath the radar scope, a $2 million funding for a conference on Global Warming. This conference, however, is not intended to be an honest discussion about Global Warming’s impacts on Alaska and what Alaskans might do in the face of these impacts (both in terms of changed energy/other usage to reduce contributions to Global Warming and amelioration measures to help Alaska/Alaskans deal with Global Warming). No, instead, it is an effort to put together a lavish environment to fete and give prominence to pseudo-scientists that seek to obfuscate reality and inhibit action to deal with Global Warming.

This “academic-based conference ” in which the ground rules are set:

The state Legislature is looking to hire a few good polar bear scientists. The conclusions have already been agreed upon — researchers just have to fill in the science part.

What is that pre-arranged conclusion?

Legislators hope to undermine the public perception of a widespread consensus among polar bear researchers that warming global temperatures and melting Arctic ice threaten the polar bears’ survival.

In other words, a wanted ad: “Alaskan Republican Legislators seeking a few good climate change deniers to “prove” scientists wrong.”

As the key representative stated (without embarassment?):

the point is not to seek some non-biased measure of scientific truth. The point, said House Speaker John Harris, R-Valdez, is to provide a forum for scientists whose views back Alaska’s interests.

“You know as well as I do that scientists are like lawyers.”

“Scientists are like lawyers.”

Some things are too unbelievable to make up.

“Scientists are like lawyers.” Evidently, their role in life is to fight an advocacy position for whoever hires them, not to seek truth, but to advance positions.

Sound Science” to support legislative priorities rather than using science to inform and guide legislative and policy action.

Sound science is a phrase often used by corporate public relations and government agency spokesmen to describe the scientific research used to justify a claim or position. Sound science, however, has no specific scientific definition itself, so the phrase is used subjectively.

In fact, the $2 million won’t go only to putting the pseudo-scientists up in fancy digs but for a “national public relations campaign to promote the [pre-determined] findings of the conference.”

What does an Alaskan scientist think of this?

“This truly is the conference to nowhere,” said University of Alaska researcher Rick Steiner, who has pressed the Palin administration unsuccessfully for five months to release any scientific backup for its position opposing the federal polar bear listing.

Steiner, the University of Alaska professor, has been trying since December to find out if the state’s own marine mammal experts supported the state’s endangered-species stance, which Palin said publicly was based on sound science. On Friday, Steiner released a long chain of e-mail correspondence, saying the state first promised to send internal documents and then refused. The state Department of Law is now reviewing the internal memos from scientists to see if they can be released under the state’s open records laws.

“It is stunningly hypocritical that the state will spend $2 million to convene a scientific conference on this issue, but they will not release their own scientific analysis,” Steiner said.

Yes, Governor Palin (R) based decisions on “sound science“. How reassuring.

Of course, the outrage of anyone questioning spending $2 million of Alaskan taxpayers’ money on a search for “sound science”.

Yesterday, the Republican President of the State Senate (Lyda Green) and Representative Harris had an OPED in the Ancorage Daily News: $2 million conference on polar bears, climate is justified. Yes, justified in the same way that Exxon’s funding of Global Warming deniers is justified: short-term profits for a specified group over any concept of social compacts and longer-term implications.

Green’s and Harris’ core point: that science is about “sides”, in almost a Faux News variant, that to discuss science requires being “fair and balanced” rather than objective and truthful. Remember, a lawyer is not required to be truthful in defense of their client, but can obfuscate and deceive via the use of ‘true information’ that falls short of being truth and truthful.

As for the conference itself, it would involve presentations by individuals from both sides of the climate change controversy. The administration and legislators could then determine for themselves how they should deal with the diverse views among scientists

“Both sides of the climate change controversy …” Evidently, when Alaskans speak of the Apollo missions, they speak about “both sides”, including the “side” that asserts that they were a hoax. In Alaskan elementary schools, there must not be any globes out of deference to the “side” of the argument represented by the Flat Earth Society.

What do Green and Harris assert?

Credible science requires more than a cursory glance at competing viewpoints. Indeed, the whole foundation of the scientific process is to establish truth and facts on which most everybody agrees. While some scientists and policymakers may believe there is a consensus that global warming is being driven by human actions, there are other scientists who claim otherwise. This raises the question as to what is scientific, verifiable fact and what is not.

“There are scientists who claim otherwise …” in the face of “some scientists and policymakers”. Green and Harris are trying to sell the false flag that a serious debate still exists, that the National Academy of Science, the International Panel on Climate Change, the 1000s of scientists, the most prestigious scientific institutions of the world are all seemingly conspiring to sell a false bill of goods. Instead, since “scientists are just like lawyers”, what needs to happen is to have “both sides” present information in an Alaskan conference so that legislators, like Green and Harris, can cherry pick from the presentations for the “sound science” that supports their pre-conceived notions.

Let us look at another paragraph:

Science should provide factual data on a particular subject or problem. The policymakers then need to weigh that information against a whole host of other variables, such as impacts on the economy or the practical feasibility of the solution, before making their decision.

That is fair. “Science should provide factual data …” Sadly, what Green and Harris seek is a $2 million fishing expedition for truthiness to support their desired policy outcome rather than an honest discussion of “factual data” and the best of scientific understanding to inform better policy-making.

One has to wonder, why waste $2 million if Green and Harris already know the solution?

PS: And, of course, it is clear that Green and Harris are not representative of Alaskans. From a 2006 report on polling Alaskans about Global Warming (31 page pdf):

  • Over 81% of Alaskans are convinced that global warming is happening.
  • A majority (55%) believe it is caused primarily by human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels, as opposed to normal cycles in the earth’s environment (37%).
  • Most Alaskans believe global warming is already causing or accelerating the loss of sea ice (83%) melting permafrost (82%), coastal erosion (74%), and forest fires (72%) in Alaska, among other impacts.
  • A large majority (67%) report that their local temperatures have increased, while 93% of people who have noticed local temperature changes say that global warming is at least partly responsible.
  • Two out of three Alaskans (67%) say that global warming will be bad for Alaska, while 26% say it will be good.
  • Majorities of Alaskans believe that global warming is a serious threat to themselves and their family (55%), their local community (59%), other countries (68%), Alaska as a whole (71%), the United States (71%), and plants and animals (76%).
  • Looking at those polls, it looks like the Republican legislators represent minority opinion … sort of like Republicans nationwide.


    3 responses to “Alaska as a State in Denial?

    1. I wonder if it’s because Alaskans hate the bitter winter and want to drill oil to, you know, like put food on the table and stuff.

      Not everyone works for a Green nonprofit…

    2. Wow. I had read about the conference but you did a good rundown of it. I wish people would realize that if global warming continues, the food needed to put on the table will be tons more expensive. The salmon will die off as well as a lot of the other species that thrive in Alaska. But, who cares. Republicans need more money and too many people don’t give a shit about anything.

    3. Pingback: Wonk Room » Global Boiling: Palin In Denial About The Greatest Threat To Alaska

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