Climate Change and a Few Simple Questions

Rep Mike Nearman_thb

by Rep. Mike Nearman

I’m running for re-election to the statehouse, and I was at a League of Women’s Voters candidate forum the other night. One of their questions was, “What environmental programs would you implement to help Oregon do its part to stem the local impacts and the increasing pace of climate change?”

I answered by saying that I did not accept the premise of the question and that I wasn’t sure the planet is warming and even if it is, I’m not sure that humans can do anything about it, and even if we can, Oregon is kind of a small player, but if you wanted to cut greenhouse emissions, I think that the best thing to do would be to return federal lands to the state and let us manage them so that we have fewer acres burned.

For this I was booed.

I challenged the audience to provide me with annual average global temperatures as measured by satellites from outer space for the last 20 or so years. I’m skeptical of local temperature measuring because of human and instrumentation errors, as well as local climate effects.

That challenge produced this email conversation:

Dear Representative Nearman:

I was in the audience in Corvallis at the Thursday League of Women Voters meeting. Your response to a question about climate change was that you had never seen data supporting a change, and asked someone to prove it to you with a graph. I’m not going to do that because anyone who is curious about reported changes to world’s climate system would have sought that out himself. Since you have chosen not to do so, something from me will not change your mind. But as the years go by and the direct experience of weather changes becomes increasingly obvious, I expect even you will come to understand what is going on. It’s unfortunate that you don’t understand what is going on now because you are doing your constituents a disservice by being uninformed.

Thanks for coming to Corvallis to share your views.

[name redacted]

MS Atmospheric Sciences

Fair enough. I responded:

Thanks for your feedback.

I have sought that data. You saw me do it again last night. You’d think that the data that I asked for would be easy to get. You’d think that NASA would just put it in a graph and put it on the internet. You’d think that a person who has a Master’s Degree in Atmospheric Science would have that data at their fingertips and could just give it to me.

Again, I want to see the average annual temperature of the planet as measured by satellites going back as far as data is available. NASA has a very flashy site, but I can’t find this data there:

I asked for information and instead of information, I get chided for being uninformed by the same people who want me to act legislatively and yet refuse to provide me with the most basic data. Again. What am I to think when I repeatedly ask the scientific community for data and am constantly denied?

You’re a scientist. Let me ask you a question.

The scientific method requires that we come up with a theory and then test it through experimentation to prove it (or at least provide evidence) that it is right or wrong.

So, if we had a theory that bacon causes cancer, you can imagine some experiments would be like get a bunch of guys and give them a lot of bacon to eat and if they tend to get cancer more than the general population, we were right. Maybe it’s not ethical to do medical experiments, so maybe we use lab rats, or maybe we just observe guys who eat a lot of bacon voluntarily, but you get the idea.

Can you devise an experiment that would have a chance to prove (or provide evidence) that the theory of Climate Change is wrong?


Now, climate change is not my issue, so I don’t have access to scholarly information. I can, and have, googled things, including this, without success. I don’t think I’m being lazy when someone – especially someone who claims to have academic credentials – confronts me on an issue that is important to them and I ask them for simple data.

But no. Again I get a lecture and the implication that I am lazy. And no data. He writes:

I would think that someone in the legislature would have the intelligence and initiative to find the information themselves, not wait for someone else to spoon feed them. There are MANY books, magazine articles, websites there if you would take the time to look. You’re not in session. Spend some time learning. Do your homework for Christ’s sake!

[name redacted]

I’m not going to get any data, nor even an acknowledgement of my question about the Scientific Method, so I’m not putting a lot of effort into further correspondence:

So, you don’t have it. Do you?


ps. What about my challenge on the Scientific Method?

I got one last shot from him and had to endure the indignity of being compared to his in-laws:

I went through this same hopeless back-and-forth with my father-in-law and finally gave up. As I said in the first email it will become obvious to you eventually that climate change is happening. Until then there is nothing I could say that would change your mind.

[name redacted]

I’m glad he was civil, but I’m a little surprised and even more hurt that as an academic professional, he would refuse to provide data to back up his pet theory. As a taxpayer, I almost certainly subsidized his education. As a legislator, it’s hard for me to have respect for “go look it up yourself”.

I don’t know where he went to school, but I hope the Oregon educational establishments that I oversee as a member of the House Higher Education, Innovation and Workforce Development Committee aren’t producing arrogant, unhelpful and uncurious scientists, trained, it seems, only to badger elected officials with whom they disagree.

State Representative Mike Nearman (R-Independence) is still seeking this data. If you have it, send a link to [email protected].