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Chilling Climate Dissent:

Roger Pielke Jr. suggests comparing allegations against the Bush Administration made by James Hansen and other cliamte scientists who work in the Bush Administration with moves by state governors to oust state climatologists for expressing heterodox views on climate change.

UPDATE: The above link discusses the controversy in Orgeon. For information on the brewing controversy in Delaware, see here and here.

J. F. Thomas (mail):
Shouldn't "by state governors to oust state climatologists" read "by a state governors to oust strip the honorary title of state climatologists". Because the way I read the overblown link and your post, this is what this is all about.

Oregon is pursuing a certain policy. The title of "state climatologist" is apparently an honorary one given to some professor at the University of Oregon and carries with it no duties (other than being the go-to guy when one of the Portland TV stations does a fluff piece on why it rains so damn much there) or pay. So if the state climatologist's views on global warming are in conflict with the state's position on the subject, why shouldn't the governor be able to pick another one?

And how is this "Chilling Climate Dissent"? I didn't see anywhere where the guy was losing his tenure or had been told not to comment on the subject.
2.8.2007 10:02am
Steve:
The same analogue had occurred to me, but in the opposite direction, I guess. It was amazing to see the same people who had argued "of COURSE the President gets to set policy for the Executive Branch" and "of COURSE the President is entitled to have underlings who support his policies" get all up in arms about this rather trivial Oregon situation.
2.8.2007 10:11am
Eli Rabett (www):
The interesting thing here is that the same tactic is being used as was in Virginia, when it was discovered that Pat Michaels who was functioning as the State Climatologist may not have been properly appointed. The governor said that if UVa wanted to retain Michaels as UVa climatologist that was fine, but the state would not provide further funds for the position.

The legal issue is that State Climatologist has a very particular meaning to NOAA in terms of cooperative agreements, and it is not clear that the UVa State Climatologist qualifies. See the link for more links.
2.8.2007 10:50am
Colin (mail):
I agree with J.F. Thomas that the consequences to this guy's career are being exaggerated, but even so, it seems inappropriate. Even being stripped of an honorary title can be chilling, if the honor is something desireable.
2.8.2007 11:03am
lucia (mail) (www):
J.F. Thomas:
Nonsense. The title of "State Climatologist" is not an honorary title conferred on someone who has no official responsibilities. George Taylor is the head of the Oregon Climate Service. The title of "State Climatologist" has been used to describe the person who heads this office which exists to provide climate services for the state of Oregon. Right now, he has the job; he has that title.

Many states locate their state climate services at major landgrant institutions where the climate service is affiliated with a particular academic department. Many climate services are headed by faculty members with a joint appointment at the service and an academic department. This affiliations doesn't transform the job or the title into an honorary distinction.

The Governor can probably change George Taylor's internal title to something else. But unless he fires Taylor or dissolves the Oregon Climate Service, Taylor will then be referred to as "The head of the Oregon Climate Service."

The slight change in title may make the Governor happy, but it's not going to make Taylor sound less authoritative in news articles.
2.8.2007 11:15am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
The Governor can probably change George Taylor's internal title to something else.

Oh, so sorry, the title is associated with a position and not honorary. The Governor wants him to stop using the title. That is still a far cry from saying the Governor (or multiple Governors) is trying to oust the guy.
2.8.2007 11:26am
Steven Plunk (mail):
The Governor wants to strip the title so he can create a new (official) position of state climatologist that he appoints. That's the key, he wants to make it a position he controls. He even admits that he wants control over the position so the state climatologist presents a view consistent with his own. No competing science allowed.
2.8.2007 11:33am
lucia (mail) (www):
J.F. Thomas,
Yes. In Oregon, it appears the Governor wants to strip the job title 'state climatologist', and then grant the title to a political appointee. This will all end up a bit muddled because the Association of State Climatologists (ASSC) and NOAA both recognize a specific person as the "State Climatologist". Their process involves making the candicate show they actually head the state climatology office and that the office is actually provides climatology services.

How news reporters end up describing Taylor and whomever the Governor appoints as his mouth-piece or advisor remains to be seen. If they mention that Taylor is recognized by NOAA and ASCC as "the state climatologist" and the Governor's appointment is not, that might not fulfill the Governor's hopes and dreams.

But no, for now, the Governor or Oregon doesn't seem to be trying to take Taylor's job away from him.
2.8.2007 11:48am
dearieme:
The Governor could soften the blow by appointing him Lord High Admiral of Oregon.
2.8.2007 12:15pm
Houston Lawyer:
The new guy should get the title Grand Inquisitor since he will apparently be in charge of eradicating heresy.
2.8.2007 12:18pm
Eli Rabett (www):
Voting membership in the American Association of State Climatologists is limited to

Any person who is currently recognized by the Director of the National Climatic Data Center and a state agency or institution as an official State/Territorial Climatologist, or is currently the Director or designated representative of a Regional Climate Center, shall become a Voting Member upon voluntary registration of his or her name and address with the Secretary of the Association, and timely payment of dues.
2.8.2007 12:28pm
PaddyL (mail):
Read Dr Pielke's article. He cites the flip side of the issue regarding James Hansen of NOAA who complains that the Bush administration is interfering with his work. Also, Washington State is about to enact a law that makes the state climatologist an official position. The person holding that spot now is a U of W scientist and Al Gore advocate.

The witch hunt has begun. All scientists who do not conform to "the" perceived orthodoxy that CO2 emissions are the main cause of warming will be the victims. Availability of research grant money will one of the whips used to achieve conversions. This occurred during the Clinton years and is starting again.

There is no orthodoxy in science, only in religion. Global warming is the surrogate for a global energy policy presided over by UN and NGO bureaucrats.
2.8.2007 3:19pm
GregC (mail):

"A bill will be introduced in Salem soon on the matter."


What better venue in which to hold a witch trial?
2.8.2007 3:58pm
lucia (mail) (www):
The person holding that spot now is a U of W scientist and Al Gore advocate.

So what if he's a Gore advocate?

Phil Mote assumed the pesky task of state climatologist for Washington State in 2003. These state climatological services are necessary but poorly funded-- and they are not primarily research operations. While often headed by someone who also does research, the services have a lot in common with extension offices.

Mote is doing the job; he deserves the title. I hope Washington State gives him the title regardless of political leanings; I hope Oregon comes to its senses and realizes that George Taylor should also hold the title which has historically meant something like "the head of the state climate service."
2.8.2007 4:47pm
markm (mail):
What exactly does a State Climatology Service do? It can't change the climate, and I can't see how one would usefully spend more than a few hours a year describing it.
2.8.2007 5:01pm
lucia (mail) (www):
markm,
Jobs other people do always seem easy, don't they?

You can learn what the Oregon Climate Service does here:
http://www.ocs.oregonstate.edu/index.html

You can learn what the Illinois Climate Service does here:
http://www.sws.uiuc.edu/atmos/statecli/General/illinois.htm

Farmers, engineers, city planners and architects can find local climate information useful for a variety of reasons. After all, an engineers trying to estimate a windload on a building doens't want to undertake a major reasearch project to collect wind data for a site. Housing developers often want to know how much rainfall to expect. People sizing furnaces and air conditioners want to estimate the likely heat loads for buildings. To do the calculations, you need climate data.

The climate data doesn't just automatically jump into archives and self organize into a convenient usable format. Someone needs to spend time to collect the data together and organize it in a way that's useful to users.

The people who compile all this data and make sense of it have traditionally been called "climatologists". Based on the amount of information available to end users, I'd say it takes more than a few hours a year to run a useful state climate office. (Some states don't have useful state climate offices. Presumbably, their engineers, farmers and planners get data some other way.)
2.8.2007 5:57pm
JohnAnnArbor (www):
Wait until one of these climatologists wants to be called a "planetologist."
2.8.2007 6:53pm
markm (mail):
lucia:

1) That information had to be compiled once, which
was a pretty big job - but then it doesn't change significantly for decades. So what does a climatologist do as a continuing job, aside from seeing that the publications remain available?

2) Where I live, if you go over a hill you'll find significant climate differences on the other side. For most of the winter, outside my house it is five degrees colder than the weather station at the airport seven miles away reports. A friend that lives five miles from me gets twice as much snow, pretty consistently. Hills, trees, and buildings block and funnel the wind, so if you're putting up a wind generator, you'd better collect data at the proposed site rather than relying on measurements from the airport that might be quite different from where you will build. In most other cases, farmers, engineers, city planners and architects will probably get at least as good data by talking to people who have lived in the area of interest a long time than by going to the state office and getting a collection of data from elsewhere.
2.10.2007 9:41am
lucia (mail) (www):
Markm:

There are no periods when the climate has been static. The data are continually compiled. Where I live (Illinois) the state climatologist collects data fairly regularly.

I'm an engineer. So's my husband. So are my two brother-in-laws. So's my father-in-law. Engineers would not collect climate data by talking to people who have lived in the area for a long time! Suggesting they would is like suggesting that a lawyer would find out what a statute says by knocking on a few locals doors and asking them what they think the law on a particular matter is.

Seriously, do you know the average rainfall for your area? Do you know it for the month of June? Do you know the standard deviation? Do you know the maximum wind speed in the last 20 years? The average wind velocities in your town? Do you know the direction the wind blows in? Do you know what the range of soil moisture is?

Yes, if you want to build a wind generator, the engineers designing the facility will actually set out instruments at a proposed site. But are you aware that windloads can matter on other things, like pavillions, street lights, houses, garage doors, roofs etc. It's very efficient to have a resource that collect a sizeable amount of data in appropriate geographical locations and provides it to others.
2.12.2007 4:36pm