Conversation Audit, the latest in groundbreaking climate science

Say you’re at a cocktail party. Over the course of the evening some of the guests have found out that you’re a fairly accomplished physicist who oversees energy research at a respected lab.This is “all Greek” to a certain portion of the guests, is mildly intriguing trivia to others, and sparks a few curious questions from still others. You look at your watch and realize that you don’t have much time to leave, flag down a cab, and still be on time for your evening plans.

Someone corners you as you’re walking out the door, saying, “Hey, I know you don’t have much time, but I just had to ask you- how did oil get to Alaska?” Put on the spot, trying to give as direct but simple an answer as possible within the time constraints, speaking to someone who professes to be in the dark about the basics, you might give an answer somewhat like this:

Obviously this isn’t the whole story. Obviously it has been simplified and condensed. Obviously this was done because of the time constraints and anticipated audience base knowledge (that in this case, the Discovery Channel was working with). Given these factors, would anyone characterize Mark Rivera as “ignorant”? That his explanation was as “bad or worse than some of the Bush malapropisms”?

Say instead of a cocktail party, you’re Steven Chu and you’re just been ambushed with pretty much the same question by a hostile politician with an agenda. You actually have an even more explicit time constraint (a mere “six seconds”). But hey, you’re a nice enough guy, and you try your best to squeeze in an answer:

Does anyone seriously believe that Chu’s answer is ignorant? That his explanation was as bad or worse than some of the Bush malapropisms? That he should be derided in scare quotes as a phony “scientist”?

What kind of frothing partisan would you have to be to reach such a conclusion?

Here is how CA characterizes the conversation [emphasis mine]:

Barton asked Chu how the oil and gas got to the Alaska North- wasn’t it warmer when the organics were laid down?

Chu rose to the bait, foolishly denying that it was warmer up north in the Cretaceous, attributing the presence of oil and gas in Alaska to continental drift. It “drifted up there”.

You can be forgiven for expecting to hear Barton mention organic material and/or temperature at the “Alaska North”. You can also be forgiven for expecting to hear Chu deny that temperatures were warmer during the Cretaceous. That is, after all what CA claims. You can be forgiven for expecting something resembling the actual discussion, rather than blatant invention by CA. But you will be disabused of that fantasy fairly quickly. Here’s the actual transcript:

BARTON: Dr. Chu, I don’t want to leave you out. You’re our scientist. I have one simple question for you in the last six seconds. How did all the oil and gas get to Alaska and under the Arctic Ocean?

CHU: (Laughs.) This is a complicated story but oil and gas is the result of hundreds of millions of years of geology and in that time also the plates have moved around. And so, it’s a combination of where the sources of the oil and gas …

BARTON: Isn’t it obvious that at one time it was a lot warmer in Alaska and on the North Pole? It wasn’t a big pipeline that we’ve created in Texas and shipped it up there and put it under ground so we can now pump it up and ship it back?

CHU: No, there are continental plates that have been drifting around throughout the geological ages.

BARTON: So it just drifted up there.

CHU: Uh…. That’s certainly what happened. It’s a result of things like that.

WAXMAN: The gentleman’s time has expired.

But remember boys and girls, it’s all about serious science and auditing over at CA, not partisan axe-grinding. And did I mention that I have a lovely bridge for sale?

[UPDATE: When Climate Audit tells Revkin to jump, he asks, “How high?”]

[LATE UPDATE: The Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska Fairbanks joins the crowd of the “ignorant”, scientifically illiterate, purveyors of language as “bad or worse than some of the Bush malapropisms” like Chu:

The critters and algae that are now crude oil lived hundreds of millions of years ago when a shallow ocean covered what is now Alaska’s North Slope. The gradual rise of the Brooks Range, caused by the Pacific plate shoving over the top of the North American plate, pushed out the ocean and eventually buried enormous amounts of ocean plants and animals.

Clearly, because the words “Cretaceous”, “organics”, and “warm and/or temperature” weren’t mentioned, the UAF’s entire Geophysical Institute should be considered completely discredited on the topic of Alaskan petroleum geology.]

5 responses to “Conversation Audit, the latest in groundbreaking climate science

  1. Thanks for the nice post. I can’t wait for a rematch, but with Chu asking Barton the questions.

  2. McIntyre changed the text on his post adding the “in effect”.

    “Chu rose to the bait, in effect foolishly denying that it was warmer up north in the Cretaceous”

    As per usual he makes no note of the edit.

  3. Pingback: What I did May 6th - Eddie Current

  4. Pingback: Joe Barton apologizes to BP CEO for getting our Gulf in the way of his oil « The Way Things Break

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