Senate Commerce climate science hearing follow-up: News reports

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Environment News Service (“Effects of Bush Climate Science Censorship Linger”) and Wired News (“Bush Ripped on Global Warming”) covered the February 7 Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing on “Climate Change Research and Scientific Integrity” with some reporting that we liked.

Excerpts (see the full articles):

Environment News Service
February 7, 2007

Effects of Bush Climate Science Censorship Linger

By J.R. Pegg

WASHINGTON, DC, February 7, 2007 (ENS) - The Bush administration’s political interference with climate scientists has done lasting damage to the nation’s ability to prepare for the challenges of global warming, a former senior associate with the federal climate research program told a Senate panel today.

“Even if we succeed in lifting this heavy hand of censorship there is still the problem of getting the political leadership to embrace the findings put forward by the scientists,” said Rick Piltz, who resigned his position with the Climate Change Science Program, CCSP, in 2005 in protest of White House interference with climate science.

Piltz appeared before the Senate Commerce Committee, which held the hearing to examine new allegations the Bush administration has censored federal climate scientists.

A report released last month by the Union of Concerned Scientists, UCS, and the Government Accountability Project, GAP, found that nearly half the 279 climate scientists who responded to a survey reported being pressured to delete references to “global warming” or “climate change” from scientific papers or reports and many said they were prevented from talking to the media or had their work edited.

The UCS/GAP report added to other allegations the Bush administration has repeatedly interfered with federal scientists who have tried to publish research or speak to the media about the reality and impacts of global warming and have edited climate change documents to downplay scientific consensus on the issue….

Neither [James Mahoney, the former director of the CCSP] or [Bill Brennan, acting CCSP director] touched on what Piltz called the administration’s “central climate science scandal,” namely its treatment of a national assessment on climate change impacts.

Completed in 2000, the national assessment was mandated by the 1990 Global Change Research Act. It was intended to be continually updated and to serve as a centerpiece of the government’s effort to inform the policymakers and the public in developing a national climate policy.

The administration effectively killed the program and suppressed discussion of it by participating agencies, according to Piltz, who now directs GAP’s Climate Science Watch.

That action “has done, and continues to do, the greatest damage in undermining national preparedness in dealing with the challenge of global climate change,” Piltz told the committee.

“It is clear that the reasons for this were essentially political, and not based on scientific considerations,” Piltz added. “The White House through the Council on Environmental Quality directed this suppression, which was then implemented by the CCSP leadership.”

...Senator John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, told colleagues the Bush administration’s actions were “almost criminal.”

“They take the science and tailor it to reflect their political goals,” he said. “The interference is stunning ... it is George Orwell at its best. It has to stop.”

Piltz also urged the committee to examine the state of federal spending on climate science.

“The administration has cut the climate change research budget to its lowest level since 1992 and is presiding over what appears to be a growing crisis in the global climate observing system, thus undermining a critical national intelligence gathering process,” Piltz said.

Unless funding is reinstated for the observation system, the number of U.S. satellites monitoring the Earth’s climate could drop from 29 today to seven by 2017, warned Richard Anthes, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, a nonprofit consortium of North American member universities based in Boulder, Colorado.

Anthes told the committee, “We have reached the golden age of Earth observation from space if this trend is not reversed.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS)

Wired News
February 7, 2007

Bush Ripped on Global Warming

By Luke O’Brien

WASHINGTON—Congress continued to probe allegations Wednesday that the Bush administration tried to muzzle government scientists on climate change and suppress scientific research, including a comprehensive report in 2000 on global warming’s impact on the United States.

During a Senate Commerce Committee hearing, both Democratic and Republican lawmakers weighed in with harsh words for an administration that has come under fire in the 110th Congress for its stance on climate change.

“One incidence of political tampering with science is too many,” said Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), the committee chairman, referring to a survey released last week by two advocacy groups that showed widespread political interference in research related to global warming.

“For years we have been frustrated by the lack of recognition and cooperation on the part of the administration on addressing this issue,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona).

Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) blasted the alleged political meddling, calling it “George Orwell at its best.”

At the hearing, several witnesses testified that they had experienced or seen political interference by the Bush administration in climate-change science. Witnesses said press officers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other agencies had manipulated or obstructed media interviews with government scientists. Witnesses also said that important research on global warming had been downplayed, edited or suppressed by a system of “minders” and “gatekeepers.”

Rick Piltz, the director of the climate science watch program at watchdog group the Government Accountability Project, said the Bush administration effectively quashed official use of the 2000 National Assessment report on global warming in the United States.

According to Piltz, who worked for White House climate-change programs from 1995 to 2005, the report remains “the most comprehensive, scientifically based assessment of the potential consequences of climate change for the United States.” In his written statement, he called the suppression of the report “the central climate science scandal of the (Bush) administration.”

...Other witnesses bemoaned cuts in areas of funding at NOAA and NASA that would reduce the number of satellites and Earth-observing instruments in space by 35 percent by 2010, making it harder to study climate change and predict natural disasters.

The committee hoped to hear from representatives from the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy, which advises the White House on science issues, but none showed up, leaving William Brennan, acting director of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, to defend the administration.

Kerry saved his most withering comments for Brennan, expressing outrage over the amount of progress on climate change achieved by Brennan’s program, which seeks to integrate research on climate change from 13 federal agencies.

“I think this is the most serious dereliction of public responsibility that I’ve ever seen,” Kerry said. “This is a disgrace. You’re turning your backs on future generations in this country and potentially inviting a global catastrophe.”

Copyright 2007 CondeNet Inc.

Also see the good commentary on Chris Mooney’s “The Intersection” blog (“Senate Fireworks on Climate and Scientific Integrity”) and on the Pacific Institute’s Integrity of Science blog (“Administration Testimony: One + One Still = Three”)

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