‘It’s not data-driven’: Sarah Huckabee Sanders disputes results of government study on climate change

Like her boss, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes in — even if that means alienating mainstream Democrats who believe “the science is settled” when it comes to climate change.

During a Tuesday press conference, Sanders echoed the president in disputing the conclusions of an annual federal government study that looked at the consequences of climate change, claiming that it’s “not based on facts.”

Doomsday report

Sanders was referring to the 468-page doomsday report released by the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). Published every four years by an advisory committee  of multiple federal agencies, the Climate Science Special Report “is designed to be an authoritative assessment of the science of climate change, with a focus on the United States, to serve as the foundation for efforts to assess climate-related risks and inform decision-making about responses.”

“We think that this is the most extreme version and it’s not based on facts,” Sanders said of the report. “It’s not data-driven. We’d like to see something that is more data-driven. It’s based on modeling, which is extremely hard to do when you’re talking about the climate.”

The report speculated that unless Americans drastically curtail greenhouse gas emissions, costs will exceed billions of dollars annually and the nation will be devastated by increasing floods, wildfires, and other natural disasters.

Facts first?

No longer content with allowing their viewers to independently reach their own conclusions, CNN ran an on-screen “Facts First” graphic that succeeded in naysaying the press secretary throughout her presentation. But instead of addressing the weaknesses of a report that relies upon a wildly disparate range of models, CNN resorted to an ad hominem defense.

“Climate change report involved 300 scientists, 12 federal agencies,” the graphic read. “Co-author: not paid for report.”

Another CNN graphic touted the peer-review nature of the study. “Open for review and transparency before publishing,” it read.

But Norman Rogers, a policy advisor for a free market think tank called The Heartland Institute, attended USGCRP meetings in 2011 and said that group “consisted of supposed experts with only one point of view, that we are threatened by doomsday global warming.” He agrees with Sanders’ assessment of the USGCRP’s use of arbitrary climate models.

“The trouble with climate models is that their output is not a plausible representation of the climate of the Earth,” Rogers said. “In the words of distinguished climate scientist Kevin Trenberth, no climate skeptic: ‘ …none of the climate states in the models corresponds even remotely to the current observed climate.’”

Unscientific approach

Still, CNN host Brooke Baldwin attacked Sanders’ informed assessment, saying it was “false” for the press secretary to state that the climate report was based on only extreme scenarios, arguing that the models included a range of best to worst climate scenarios. But Rogers explained why this is misleading, writing:

The climate models are very large black boxes. They are far too complicated to make sense of what is going on. The way the models are used to create predictions or projections of future climate is determined by political, not scientific considerations. The results of the many models are simply averaged together to create an ensemble of climate models that is used to make the doomsday predictions. Instead of using the best model to make predictions, all the models are used as if every model is as good as every other model.

Rogers also touched on the inaccuracies resulting from a scientific echo chamber, noting: “People mutually looting the government treasury stick together. If they fight with each other, they all lose.”

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Meanwhile, the Trump administration would rather support environmental causes that are not attached to any political crusades. The president believes in privatizing resource management in many cases, which he believes will lead to improved efficiency and pragmatism.

“The president’s certainly leading on what matters most in this process, and that’s on having clean air, clean water,” Sanders told reporters at the press briefing. “In fact, the United States continues to be a leader on that front.”

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