Sen. Inhofe inquisition seeking ways to criminalize and prosecute 17 leading climate scientists

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Senator James Inhofe, ranking Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, has gone a step beyond promoting his long-notorious global warming denialist propaganda. He is now using the resources of the Senate committee to seek opportunities to criminalize the actions of 17 leading scientists who have been associated with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment reports. A report released by Inhofe’s staff on February 23 outlines this classic Joe McCarthyite witch-hunt: page after page of incorrect and misleading statements, a list of federal laws that allegedly may make scientists subject to prosecution by the U.S. Justice Department, and a list of names and affiliations of 17 “key players” in the “CRU Controversy” over stolen e-mails and their connections with IPCC reports.

Post by Rick Piltz

See our February 23 post: Scientists ill-equipped to deal with all-out war on climate science community

Inhofe’s committee minority report: ‘Consensus’ Exposed: The CRU Controversy (United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Minority Staff, February 2010)

Inhofe press release: “Senate EPW Minority Releases Report On CRU Controversy—Shows Scientists Violated Ethics, Reveals Major Disagreements On Climate Science”

From the Executive Summary of Inhofe’s report:

In this report, Minority Staff of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works examine key documents and emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU). We have concluded:

•  The emails were written by the world’s top climate scientists, who work at the most prestigious and influential climate research institutions in the world.

•  Many of them were lead authors and coordinating lead authors of UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, meaning that they had been intimately involved in writing and editing the IPCC’s science assessments. They also helped write reports by the United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP).

•  The CRU controversy and recent revelations about errors in the IPCC’s most recent science assessment cast serious doubt on the validity of EPA’s endangerment finding for greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The IPCC serves as the primary basis for EPA’s endangerment finding for greenhouse gases.

•  Instead of moving forward on greenhouse gas regulation, the Agency should fully address the CRU controversy and the IPCC’s flawed science.

The scientists involved in the CRU controversy violated fundamental ethical principles governing taxpayer-funded research and, in some cases, may have violated federal laws.

In our view, the CRU documents and emails reveal, among other things, unethical and potentially illegal behavior by some of the world’s preeminent climate scientists.  [boldface added]

In a section titled “The CRU-IPCC Connection” (pages 25-26; also see pages 35-37), Inhofe names the targets of his witch-hunt to be investigated for possible referral to the U.S. Justice Department for prosecution. Inhofe’s targets include, in alphabetical order:

Raymond Bradley
Keith Briffa
Timothy Carter
Edward Cook
Malcolm Hughes
Phil Jones
Thomas Karl
Michael Mann
Michael Oppenheimer
Jonathan Overpeck
Benjamin Santer
Gavin Schmidt
Stephen Schneider
Susan Solomon
Peter Stott
Kevin Trenberth
Thomas Wigley

Those of you who know the climate science community will note that the list includes some of the very best—individuals whose contribution to scientific understanding and science communication would be lionized in a society that was seeing things clearly.

In a section titled “Legal and Policy Issues in the CRU Controversy” (pages 29-31), Inhofe’s report says:

These and other issues raise questions about the lawful use of federal funds and potential ethical misconduct. Discussed below are brief descriptions of the statutes and regulations that the Minority Staff believe are implicated in this scandal. In our investigation, we are examining the emails and documents and determining whether any violations of these federal laws and policies occurred.

The rest of the section discusses each of the following:

Freedom of Information Act …

Shelby Amendment …

OSTP Policy Directive …

President Obama’s Transparency and Open Government Policy …

Federal False Statements Act …

The False Claims Act (Criminal)

Obstruction of Justice: Interference with Congressional Proceedings …

Inhofe’s allegations were raised at a February 23 hearing of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, on the President’s Proposed EPA Budget for FY 2011. (The link to the hearing page includes opening statements by committee chair Sen. Barbara Boxer and Inhofe, written testimony by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, and an archived webcast.)

RealClimate, an invaluable website for clarifying current climate science issues in more-or-less plain English, has a February 14 post (“IPCC errors: facts and spin”) that looks at the various allegations about errors in the IPCC 2007 report, sorts the wheat from the chaff, and asks “what does it all mean, for the IPCC in particular, and for climate science more broadly?”  Of course, Inhofe and whoever writes his material are not into setting the record straight, they are waging political war, and thus can be presumed to be essentially uneducable on science issues.

Inhofe’s witch-hunt against a named list of climate scientists echoes Rep. James Sensenbrenner’s demand that scientists whose names appear in the stolen Climatic Research Unit e-mail file be blacklisted from the IPCC, on which we posted earlier:

CSW post December 9, 2009: Sensenbrenner IPCC witch-hunt: Attempt to blacklist climate scientists must be rejected

Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin), ranking Republican on the House global warming committee, has sent a letter to Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, calling for scientists whose names appear in the e-mails stolen from the U.K. Climatic Research Unit to be blacklisted from participating as contributors or reviewers of the forthcoming IPCC Fifth Assessment Report. ... Denialists are throwing up a smokescreen of propaganda in an attempt to legitimize their refusal to come to grips with scientific evidence on global climatic disruption and its implications. This is a power play. ...

We call on the Obama Administration and in particular the President’s science adviser John Holdren to fully support the U.S. climate science community in this matter. ... Seeking an IPCC purge is just the next step. This attack, using guilt-by-association and demagogy, will go as far as it can to delegitimize the entire climate science and assessment enterprise if it is not exposed and thwarted. ...

Additional earlier CSW posts:

January 22: Richard Somerville: A Response to Climate Change Denialism

December 15, 2009:: Setting the record straight on stolen e-mail: Associated Press, FactCheck.org, and other sources

December 15, 2009:: Setting the record straight on stolen e-mail:  Nature, AAAS, AMS, Union of Concerned Scientists

December 8, 2009:: Rep. Sensenbrenner projects “fascism” and “fraud” onto scientists, is rebutted at hearing

December 7, 2009:: Open Letter to Congress from U.S. Scientists on Climate Change and Recently Stolen Emails

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