Climate Science Watch Weekly Update, June 22


A brief summary of some of the things we are tracking and writing about this week—UPDATED 6/23

Global warming denialist watch

According to the Charlottesville Daily Progress (see here), Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is “fighting back against the University of Virginia’s request that a judge ‘set aside’ the attorney general’s subpoena for documents related to the research activities of a former climate scientist.”

Cuccinelli’s office filed its own court documents this week in response, “saying that the attorney general’s inquiry is solely focused on rooting out possible fraud” related to research grants awarded to climate scientist Michael Mann during his professorship at the University of Virginia.

See our earlier posts (here, here, and here) for more info on Cuccinelli’s attack on climate science disguised as an “investigative demand.”

UPDATE: A judge on Virginia’s Ablemarle Circuit Court has stayed Cuccinelli’s subpoena, pending the outcome of the University of Virginia’s legal challenge to the request.  The circuit court will hear oral arguments on August 20 (Washington Post).


Senate Democrats met last week to discuss strategy for moving climate and energy legislation to the floor before the August recess, but emerged with no clear consensus, according to Darren Samuelsohn writing for POLITICO (see here).  During the meeting, Senators John Kerry (MA) and Joe Lieberman (CT), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), and Maria Cantwell (WA) each made a case for their respective legislative approaches to carbon regulation.  Senator Bingaman’s bill, which cleared the Energy and Natural Resources Committee last year, would create a renewable energy standard without capping emissions, while the Kerry-Lieberman American Power Act and the Cantwell-Collins CLEAR Act both establish a cap.

President Obama will meet on Wednesday, June 23 with a bipartisan group of Senators to push for movement on climate and energy legislation. Climatewire reports (by subscription) that this meeting “follows a series of signals from the White House last week that sought to redraw the legislative landscape, including a willingness to entertain calls for a slimmer carbon cap applied only on utilities.  That is seen by some as a strong assertion by the administration that a leading Senate proposal to charge emitters in the transportation, industrial and electric sectors is too broad to pass.” After the meeting, the White House will host a live chat with Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change.  The chat will take place at 3 P.M. EDT, and can be accessed at (link for ‘live chat’).

UPDATE: Due to a White House schedule change to accommodate a meeting between President Obama and General Stanley McChrystal to address McChrystal’s criticism of the President, the climate and energy meeting and live chat have been postponed until further notice.  Check back at the link above for updates on the live chat.

With the clock ticking on mid-term elections, the prospects for a comprehensive climate and energy bill look increasingly dim, and many centrist Senators are now embracing the possibility of a utilities-only cap.  White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told the Wall Street Journal that it would be on the table in the President’s discussion with Senators on Wednesday, and Senator Joe Lieberman said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he would be willing to consider that approach (see here).

Book releases

This week we are reading and will be reviewing an excellent new book by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming.  Oreskes and Conway tell the story behind the so-called contrarian scientists that have collaborated in manufacturing uncertainty about a number of science-based public policy issues in the past decades: acid rain, the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke, the ozone hole, global warming, the Strategic Defense Initiative, and the banning of DDT.  The global warming denial machine is a classic example of these weapons of mass confusion in action, and Oreskes and Conway provide important insight into the methods and motivations behind the manufacturing of doubt.

Also be sure to check out Eric Pooley’s The Climate War, an extensive history of the political battle over action on climate change.  Pooley’s website has the details.

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