In Austin: Climate Denier Assails Katharine Hayhoe

April 28, 2015

Having met and interviewed Dr. Katharine Hayhoe a number of times, I gotta say, if you don’t like Katharine Hayhoe, you don’t like people. She handles herself flawlessly here, at a special convening of the Austin, Texas, City Council, devoted to Resilience and Disaster planning.
Dr. Hayhoe gave a nice short synopsis of what we know about weather extreme trends, and possible impacts on the Texas area – and a science denying Council member took strong exception.
I may post Dr. Hayhoe’s presentation later in the week, – it is short and worthwhile.  For today, I’ve posted her “Climate Change Elevator Pitch” below the fold.

Austin Monitor:

Our climate is changing because of human activity. Most scientists, including Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist who studies climate change, agree with that statement, although some do not. Hayhoe, a professor and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, was one of several speakers at Monday’s City Council briefing on resilience.

After Hayhoe’s presentation on global warming as it affects Austin, District 6 Council Member Don Zimmerman took out his anger on the scientist over government involvement in trying to control climate change.

“The worst thing that can be done to humanity is to put government bureaucrats in charge of carbon dioxide emissions or whatever it would be,” Zimmerman said. “I’m really, really upset about this political move of saying climate change — now we have to have government in charge of climate. It angers me and I think it should.”

After the briefing was over, observers reported that Zimmerman berated Hayhoe about her views as she was leaving the Council chambers.

While acknowledging that Time magazine recognized Hayhoe as one of the 100 Most Influential People of 2014, Zimmerman let Hayhoe know that he strongly disagrees with the idea that humans are causing global warming.

Zimmerman said the sun is the greatest source of heat and that carbon dioxide does not cause global warming. “You don’t have to be as smart as a fifth-grader to know that the sun causes climate change — the sun,” he said. “People tell me carbon dioxide warms the earth. No, it doesn’t. The sun warms the earth.”

Hayhoe referred him to a website called skepticalscience.com, saying that it has answered every major question about climate science. She said one of the main reasons some object to the solutions is because they are big government solutions.

“So that’s one of the reasons that I think it is so important to give free market solutions (a chance),” Hayhoe said. “Because, as my husband says, a thermometer is not Democrat or Republican. It’s about looking at 26 1/2 thousand indicators of a warming planet, many of which you can see in your own backyard.”

After the meeting was over, two observers noted that Zimmerman continued his argument with Hayhoe, loudly criticizing her views on climate change until some staff members took her out of the chamber.

30 Responses to “In Austin: Climate Denier Assails Katharine Hayhoe”


  1. I think this exchange is pretty positive. At least Zimmerman is talking about why the idea of climate change bothers him, rather than simply blowing it off. Then the conversation moves to how we should respond, not whether.

    If we’re honest, big government solutions ARE troubling. They can be manipulated and abused. But so can big business solutions. And climate change is a big problem that will take a big solution.

    I’m leery of cap and trade. That integrates banks into the heart of the climate solution pretty much forever. Their incentive will be to perpetuate the problem to continue the cash stream, even if the individuals in the bank personally feel otherwise.

    A carbon fee and dividend is the only idea I’ve run across that can address the problem at scale while minimizing the threat of manipulation and abuse by big government or big business. It drives the profit motive to the individual level, while driving the efficiency motive into corporations, and bypasses big organizations except as functionaries, which is a proper role for government. Collect the money and distribute it to the citizens in equal shares, the way the state of Alaska does with its oil and gas royalties.

  2. Jim White Says:

    A ‘visceral reaction’? I prefer government leaders who use evidence based reasoning, instead of gut based reasoning.

  3. ubrew12 Says:

    The cost of fixing climate change is 1 to 2% of GDP. Half of that cost is due to denial of the last ten years. I believe this Zimmerman guy could be correct. What is the cost of his being wrong? I mean: what is the cost TO HIM? Because if there’s no downside, why wouldn’t he enjoy a little grandstanding, if ‘crusty independent’ is his ‘Batman’?
    Carbon taxes are coming. I sure wish there were a mechanism by which they could be differentially applied to deniers, FOR their denial, as in all fairness they should be. If half the cost of treating climate change is the cost of Heartland Institute denial, why not bill the Koch’s for that? Why should the rest of us have to pay that bill? This is an issue of ‘perverse incentives’, just as it is in Banking.

  4. jsam Says:

    On behalf of all engineers everywhere, as an engineer myself, I deeply apologise.

    We’re not all idiots.

  5. indy222 Says:

    Truly the patience of Job…. but she didn’t mention the key fact which kills this blowhard’s BS argument – that past climate changes have been glacially slow compared to this one, and this one is CAUSED by our CO2 and only we can stop it (maybe). It’s Richard Lindzen all over again. Blah blah, climate’s always changed blah blah… one wonders if Lindzen and this moron were told a large asteroid had just been discovered to be on a collision course with Earth, and if we made a quick, expensive effort to launch a nuclear tipped missile at it, we could deflect it enough to avoid hitting, but only if we acted quickly, whether he’d give the same breezy answer, that asteroids have been hitting Earth for eons, so stop getting all worked up over it.


  6. […] off her quietly dazzlling presentation to the Austin City Council, Hayhoe gives another seminar on climate […]


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