Ron Roberts has joined California Air Resources Board colleague John Telles in asking CARB to suspend the diesel “truck rule” because of ethical and legal implications arising from the false credentials of the lead researcher in a study crucial to that regulation’s existence.
Roberts says, “Much of the justification” for efforts to further reduce diesel pollution in California came from a statistical study titled “Methodology for Estimating Premature Death Associated with Long-Term Exposure to Fine Airborne Particulate Matter in California.”
“Overseeing this report was Hien Tran, a longtime CARB staff member who claimed to have a doctorate in statistics from the University of California Davis. He did not, a fact known only to a few board members and staff, and not properly disclosed,” writes Roberts, in a statement for the San Diego Union-Tribune, “Had the full board been informed, we could have delayed the public hearing process until corrective actions were taken.”
Tran confessed, days before the Dec. 12, 2008 meeting at which CARB voted to implement the truck rule, that his doctorate was purchased online for $1,000. Only six CARB staffers and “a few board members were told.”
Before you start dancing, be warned that this wicked witch is not dead. CARB board member Telles, who advanced the idea of suspending the truck rule at a November 19 Air Resources Board meeting does not intend to throw the rule out, but to suspend it while clearing up the controversy so that the rule can be implemented with confidence.
At the CARB meeting, Telles pointedly states, “The scientific validity of the report is not at issue, but rather at issue is the fundamental violation of procedure.”
Rigorous peer review suggests the study is valid, which is why the other CARB board members have been willing to gloss over Tran’s transgression and let the rule ride.
So Telles and Roberts are calling for a delay, at best, of the truck rule’s enforcement. Unless, as Telles warns in his statement, this violation of the public trust shakes the state’s confidence in the board’s ability to responsibly regulate clean air.
He doesn’t say how the public might express their misgivings, or how much negative sentiment might be necessary to unseat CARB. You might share your views early and often with elected officials closest to the CARB funding appropriations and appointments. And CARB offers a public forum at its next meeting, Wednesday, December 9, at the EPA building in Sacramento.
The coincidence between CARB’s controversy and the gathering furor over ClimateGate – hacked emails suggesting collusion among researchers at England’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) to doctor data confirming global warming theory – should not be overlooked. The first element uniting the two cases is fraud – admitted by Tran in California and possible at a much more significant level on the global climate scene – and how regulators respond to it.
It requires no stretch of the imagination to envision environmental scientists pursuing their agendas with zeal fueled by the results of their research. And that they ignited the enthusiasm and ambitions of entrepreneurs and politicians whose support is necessary to completing their research.
These charismatic personalities pushing a global health challenge like air quality must surely impart a powerful momentum to regulations aimed at solving the problem. Why else would California Air Resources Board members choose to ignore such a serious blow to the truck rule’s credibility and sentence the state’s trucking industry to spend $4.5 billion in emissions compliance even as the economy crossed the threshold of the worst recession in 90 years?
A choice on December 12, 2008, to delay voting on the truck rule while they shored up its ability to withstand challenges would not only have been correct procedure, it would have been the humane thing to do.
The unspoken twin realities, that clean air is expensive and that all of its costs will ultimately be paid by working people, were nowhere more apparent than at this week’s CARB meeting when a trucker’s wife stood up during public comment as her husband held their 6-month-old child and explained to the board that their business was already struggling and compliance with the truck rule would put them out of work.
CARB’s vote to approve that crippled truck rule last December is an arrogant snub to all the people burdened with the cost of compliance starting January 1, 2011.
The situation with global climate research is similar in timing. CRU documents were broadcast to the Internet in November, as President Obama and politicians around the globe prepared for a climate-change summit in Copenhagen. It will be the most important meeting on the subject since Kyoto, Japan. Kyoto-Protocol advocates and adherents have been campaigning that in Copenhagen, the U.S. should take the lead in greenhouse gas regulation. The carbon-emissions cap-and-trade bills currently stalled in Congress are attempts at assuming that position.
But allegations against the CRU extend beyond a researcher’s credibility to the credibility of their data. Emails between Professor Phil Jones, who heads the University of East Anglia’s CRU, and researchers explain the application of a statistical “trick” to mask declining temperatures during recent decades.
Evidence of researchers’ railroading dissenting opinions is a recurring feature of the CRU communications. One exchange between Jones and Michael Mann, at Pennsylvania State University, dealt with the subject of papers challenging the theory that global warming is man made that were submitted for a report by the United Nations’ climate-monitoring body, the IPCC.
Jones writes: “I can't see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin (Trenberth, U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research) and I will keep them out somehow — even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!”
Jones will step down from leadership of the CRU while an independent inquiry investigates the alleged misconduct.
The CRU is one of the key institutions providing data to counter the theory that global climate change is a natural occurrence evidenced by a period during medieval times when temperatures were as high if not higher than today. If CRU researchers’ prejudices are shown to have influenced presentation of their data, it could call into question whether global warming is really man made, and the mind-bogglingly expensive schemes to corral greenhouse gasses.
It seems very unlikely that any reasonable investigation will be concluded before this month’s climate-change summit in Copenhagen. Politicians there who push forward with cap-and-trade or other greenhouse gas regulations will demonstrate their disregard for the people who must pay for their ambition.