Climate Skeptics: Myron Ebell

Myron Ebell is a climate denialist who was recently appointed as an advisor to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Ebell’s background is in economics, which explains why most of his thoughts about global warming are about economic policy and not science. But Ebell still claims that the science behind global warming is a hoax perpetrated to harm the US economy. How does a non-scientist get so much credit for trying to dis-credit actual science?

Ebell and his colleagues at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) are the people that journalists call on to get the obligatory “opposing viewpoint”, which continually propagates the myth that “science is never settled”. Allowing these comments on every scientific study gives the community of denialists an unfair advantage in the fight to educate the public.

Ebell’s arguments span the typical range of skeptic tactics such as,

  • casting doubt on a small subset of thermometers
  • misunderstanding the magnitude of the “little ice age”
  • highlighting the “hiatus” while ignoring ocean heat uptake

Trump plans to massively restructure the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), back out of the Paris Agreement, and dismantle the Clean Power Plan for power plants. Ebell was selected to lead these efforts.

The job of the EPA is to enforce national laws that relate to the environment, like the clean air act. Abolishing the EPA or diminishing it’s authority is essentially the same as repealing these laws and removing basic protections of shared resources. It’s infinitely harder to repeal all the laws and regulations that you might not like, so the quick and dirty alternative is to simply prevent such laws from being enforced.

Denialist like Ebell are really only interested in issues of regulation (and removing them at all costs), not issues of science. Casting doubt on climate science is just a tool to give their voices a platform. Giving someone like this the power to shape environmental protections at the federal level is dangerous, like the proverbial “fox guarding the henhouse”.

I wish there was a way for journalists to give “the other side of the story” in a way that indicates the proportion of consensus around an issue. Using smaller fonts for their quotes probably won’t help. Although, if skeptics could only comment on 1 out of every 100 articles on global warming, people might appreciate how widespread the scientific consensus really is.

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