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My judgment is based on numbers, on data, and not on consensus


Watch Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz – part scientist, part politician – as he deftly answers a question about mankind's role in climate change without stepping on political landmines. The question came from Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) in a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee meeting about the Energy Department’s budget.

I find his answer more educational than confrontational (although others on the Internet had a different reaction). I think Congress and the public would benefit by taking Secretary Moniz up on his offer for a longer, detailed discussion of climate change.

Here’s the transcript:

MONIZ: I believe, in my view, there is no question that a major component is anthropogenic. And that comes from–

MCKINLEY: Interesting. Is that from a consensus?

MONIZ: It is practically, I would say 98 percent of scientists involved in this area–

MCKINLEY: But you’re well aware the petition project has 32,000 scientists and physicists who’ve disagreed!

MONIZ: But sir–

MCKINLEY: They say it’s contributing, I think it would be irresponsible to say we don’t contribute, but is it primarily…?

MONIZ: If I may say — and I’d be happy to have a longer discussion — but a few facts: first of all the rise in CO2 emissions in the last half century is clearly tracked to our global increased energy use. Secondly, I know how to count. I can count how many CO2 molecules have gone out from fossil fuel combustion and I know how many additional CO2 molecules are in the atmosphere–

MCKINLEY: Let me just close with saying, in terms of consensus, I think consensus has a place in politics, but consensus doesn’t have a place in science.

MONIZ: …Again, sir, I just want to clarify: my judgment is based on numbers, on data, and not on the consensus, and I would be really delighted if we could have a discussion.

MCKINLEY: We could have that, I liked that.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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