The high-temperature battle over climate change science got even hotter this week. A group of scientists who wrote a landmark, federally commissioned 2009 report are ticked off at the Cato Institute, which recently issued what they say is a flimsy report that the libertarian think tank attempted to make look like it was an extension of the scientists’ original work.
But the author of the Cato report says the apparent copycat style was meant to be a “tongue-in-cheek” reference to what the think tank believes was left out of the original report.
There’s no intrigue in Washington — or in scientific circles — like a scandal over a report!
The original report was called “Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States,” and it was printed with a blue cover that featured an image of North America. The Cato report, now in draft form, is called “ADDENDUM: Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States,” and its cover is nearly identical to the original report. (Check out the side-by-side images here.)
Hey, they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Nevertheless, the scientists, whose work was done under the auspices of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, are irked. Pocket protectors are flying. “We are dismayed that the report of the Cato Institute...expropriates the title and style of our report in such a deceptive and misleading way,” they wrote in a joint statement. “The Cato report is in no way an addendum to our 2009 report. It is not an update, explanation, or supplement by the authors of the original report. Rather, it is a completely separate document lacking rigorous scientific analysis and review.”
They go on to savage the new Cato report, noting that, unlike their report, it wasn’t peer-reviewed or made available for comment. Oh, and its conclusions are way off base, the scientists say. The Cato report paints climate change as no biggie — hey, who likes wearing a coat anyway?
“Their conclusions that future climate change will be benign, if not beneficial, and easily adapted to, diverge markedly from our Committee’s view regarding the seriousness of the risks,” the scientists say.
Cato maintains that there’s no conspiracy or attempt to mislead readers afoot. The similarities (and calling the report an “addendum”) were meant to illustrate that they believed the 2009 document was incomplete, says Patrick Michaels, the report’s principal author.
“I’m amused that the authors feel the need to state the obvious, and that many of my colleagues on climate issues are casting this as some kind of attempt at counterfeit,” Michaels says. “The use of the Cato Institute name and logo throughout the product ought to have been a clue.”
Still, it doesn’t look like this controversy’s going to cool down anytime soon.