Wednesday, August 31, 2005

"Republicans accused of witch-hunt against climate change scientists"

With all these stories to fill the infotainment new stations: The War on Terror, President Bush enjoying his vacation, Hurricane Katrina, North Korean nuclear arm production, Iranian nuclear ambitions, Pat Robertson, and missing white women is it any wonder that there is no time for serious news about science and the environment?

Amazingly, British news finds the time to report in depth not only on science and the environment, but even the US politics to undermine science and the environment. Republicans accused of witch-hunt against climate change scientists is an article, which appeared in Tuesday’s The Guardian that highlights Joe Barton, the chairman of the House of Representatives committee on energy and commerce.
Mr. Barton, a Texan closely associated with the fossil-fuel lobby, has spent his 11 years as chairman opposing every piece of legislation designed to combat climate change.
Barton is following example of his fellow Republicans from Texas on how to address anyone bearing information that opposes their agenda: revenge through attack and intimidation.
Some of America's leading scientists have accused Republican politicians of intimidating climate-change experts by placing them under unprecedented scrutiny.

A far-reaching inquiry into the careers of three of the US's most senior climate specialists has been launched by Joe Barton, the chairman of the House of Representatives committee on energy and commerce. He has demanded details of all their sources of funding, methods and everything they have ever published.
Barton’s committee has demanded information from the director of the NSF, Arden Bement, and the three scientists, Michael Mann, the director of the Earth System Science Centre at Pennsylvania State University; Raymond Bradley, the director of the Climate System Research Centre at the University of Massachusetts; and Malcolm Hughes, the former director of the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona involving their work. Perhaps this is prelude of an attack against the NSF, too. The extent of the demand is truly astounding.
There followed a demand for details of everything they had done since their careers began, funding received and procedures for data disclosure.
Representative Henry Waxman addressed his concerns in a letter addressed to Barton, on July 1, expressing that "some may interpret ... as a transparent effort to bully and harass" the scientists.
On June 23, 2005, your wrote to three of the world’s most respected experts on global warming to demand information about “all financial support” they ever received during their long and distinguished careers, “the source of funding” for every study they ever conducted, “all data archives” for every published study they ever wrote, and multiple other burdensome and intrusive subjects.

Your letters also raised issues about alleged “methodological flaws,” “data errors,” “problems with underlying data,” and lack of “transparency” in their highly regarded research.

Although you have failed to hold a single hearing on the subject of global warming in the eleven years that you have been chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce and its Energy and Oversight Subcommittees – and have vociferously opposed all legislative efforts in the Committee to address global warming – your June 23 letters justify you extraordinary demands of these scientists on the grounds that “the Committee must have full and accurate information when considering matters relating to climate change policy.”

These letters do not appear to be a serious attempt to understand the science of global warming. Some might interpret them as a transparent effort to bully and harass climate change experts who have reached conclusions with which you disagree.
This appears to be yet another front of the Bush administration and GOP assault on science. It has sparked a response from several US scientific institutions and a letter to Barton (.pdf) from 18 of the top scientists in environmental, geophysical, earth and planetary sciences, which addresses the issue of intimidation.
We also not that much of the information that you have requested from the scientists involved is unrealted to the stated purpose of your investigation. Requests to provide all working materials related to hundreds of publications stretching back decades can be seen as intimidation - intentional or not - and thereby risks compromising the independence of scientific opinion that is vital to the pre-eminence of American science as well as to the flow of objective science to the government.
The Guardian article notes, "The inquiry has sent shockwaves through the US scientific establishment, already under pressure from the Bush administration, which links funding to policy objectives."

I encourage anyone interested in more information to visit RealClimate and their post on Scientists respond to Barton
RealClimate is a commentary site on climate science by working climate scientists for the interested public and journalists. We aim to provide a quick response to developing stories and provide the context sometimes missing in mainstream commentary. The discussion here is restricted to scientific topics and will not get involved in any political or economic implications of the science.


Post a Comment

<< Home