John Tierney has some useful thoughts on the politicization of science in the new administration:
Most researchers, Dr. Pielke writes, like to think of themselves in one of two roles: as a pure researcher who remains aloof from messy politics, or an impartial arbiter offering expert answers to politicians’ questions. Either way, they believe their research can point the way to correct public policies, and sometimes it does — when the science is clear and people’s values aren’t in conflict.
But climate change, like most political issues, isn’t so simple. While most scientists agree that anthropogenic global warming is a threat, they’re not certain about its scale or its timing or its precise consequences (like the condition of California’s water supply in 2090). And while most members of the public want to avoid future harm from climate change, they have conflicting values about which sacrifices are worthwhile today.
A scientist can enter the fray by becoming an advocate for certain policies, like limits on carbon emissions or subsidies for wind power. That’s a perfectly legitimate role for scientists, as long as they acknowledge that they’re promoting their own agendas.
But too often, Dr. Pielke says, they pose as impartial experts pointing politicians to the only option that makes scientific sense. To bolster their case, they’re prone to exaggerate their expertise (like enumerating the catastrophes that would occur if their policies aren’t adopted), while denigrating their political opponents as “unqualified” or “unscientific.”
“Some scientists want to influence policy in a certain direction and still be able to claim to be above politics,” Dr. Pielke says. “So they engage in what I call ‘stealth issue advocacy’ by smuggling political arguments into putative scientific ones.”
My concern with Chu and Holdren is that they are Club of Rome types who seem to be anti-technology. I’m sure that they would say that they are in favor of “appropriate” technology (yet another leftist theft of an intellectual base, like “progressive”), but it amounts to having no faith in our descendants to come up with technological solutions to today’s burgeoning problems. That inability to account for technological improvement is at the heart of apocalyptic predictions like world-wide famine and California agriculture drying up from lack of water. It’s that same blindness (and ignorance of basic economics) that resulted in Holdren and Ehrlich losing their bet with Julian Simon
Not to say, of course, that famines and droughts can’t occur, but if they do, it will be a result of foolish (or evil) government policies, not an overabundance of carbon in the atmosphere.