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Zimmerman proposes funding for climate change skeptics

Thursday, April 21, 2016 by Jack Craver

City Council Member Don Zimmerman, a self-described advocate for taxpayers, is not proposing that the city nix spending $116,000 to assess the impact of climate change on local water systems.

But he is unhappy that all of the money in the proposed 36-month contract would go to ATMOS Research & Consulting, a firm led by Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University. He is thus proposing that half of the money be set aside to contract with one or more scientists who do not believe that human activity is causing global warming.

Zimmerman clashed with Hayhoe when she testified before Council last year. He flatly denied that carbon emissions play a role in warming the climate.

Just as many skeptics of man-made climate change allege that flawed science is being used to advance draconian restrictions on energy use, Zimmerman contends that Hayhoe’s models will be used to justify continuation of city water restrictions that he believes should be lifted.

In an amendment posted to the City Council Message Board on Wednesday afternoon, Zimmerman suggests two prominent critics of the climate change consensus as worthy contractors. One of them could assess the climate model presented by Hayhoe, he wrote.

“The models are extremely complicated,” Zimmerman told the Austin Monitor. “The average city bureaucrat and the average City Council member has absolutely no clue how to evaluate from a scientific point of view the accuracy of these models.”

As he is wont to do, Zimmerman highlighted his background as an engineer, saying that he had far more technical experience than his colleagues on the dais.

“How do you know if your model is not a ridiculous piece of crap that is utterly meaningless?” he asked.

He answered: “You need a world-class climate scientist to understand how to do those kinds of tests.”

But more specifically, that scientist must be somebody who does not subscribe to Hayhoe’s beliefs on the issue. To not include a skeptic, said Zimmerman, would not be “fair or objective.”

Zimmerman also disputed the notion that there is a scientific consensus on global warming, arguing that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is advancing a political view rather than a balanced, scientific one. Polls of climate scientists have shown that the overwhelming majority of them believe that global warming linked to greenhouse gas emissions is a serious problem.

The two scientists Zimmerman proposes hiring, Richard Lindzen of MIT and John Christy of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, are viewed as outliers in the scientific community.

Christy does not necessarily dispute the view held by the majority of climate experts that human activity is linked to a rise in the planet’s temperature. Rather, he has argued that climate models likely overstate the temperature hikes caused by greenhouse gases. Christy even refers to the view he criticizes as “the consensus.”

Lindzen has argued that changes in cloud patterns in the coming years will counteract the warming effect of greenhouse gases.

“I can say with great confidence I’m not going to support the amendment,” Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo told the Monitor, adding that she wants the city’s water policies to be “grounded in the best science.”

Tovo said that she is sympathetic to concerns about water prices and laments what she described as the unnecessary construction of a new $300 million water treatment plant in 2010. But she believes the current water restrictions the city has in place are necessary.

“We need to have conservation measures,” she said. “It’s a scarce resource.”

Photo by NASA Scientific Visualization Studio.

Photo by NASA Scientific Visualization Studio/Goddard Space Flight Center, Public Domain.

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