Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Are climate "experts" really muffled by the White House?

Yesterday, a House Committee held a hearing on political interference into global warming, led by Henry Waxman (D, Calif.) As you probably heard from the media, it produced irrefutable evidence that the White House is censoring honest climate scientists. Let's see who the three star witnesses were: Francesca Griffo os UCS released the results of a questionnaire sent to 1,600 climate scientists at 7 federal agencies. Some 150 scientists — 58 percent of those responding — reported at least one incident of political interference with their work during the past 5 years. But only 19 percent of the 1,600 scientists responded to the questionnaire, which means the report draws inferences from a self-selected minority rather than from an unbiased sample. Then Drew Shindell of NASA, recounted what happened when he published a paper forecasting a warming trend in Antarctica. The Bush White House did not try to stop him from publishing the paper, nor did it try to stop NASA from putting out a press release on it. White House officials committed the crime of twice rejecting the titles he and the NASA press corps proposed for the press release, and eventually told them what title to use.

But the biggest testimony came from self-styled whistleblower Rick Piltz, who resigned in a huff from the US Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) in March 2005. First of all, as Piltz acknowledged at the hearing, he is himself not a climatologist but a political scientist, and his job at the CCSP was to produce reports by editing the contributions of agency scientists. You can read everything about the hearing in Marlo Lewis' article Waxman’s Kyoto Strategy but here are a few things to be considered:

It is worth noting that the two CCSP reports cited by Piltz were not strictly speaking science studies but policy documents. For example, the latest edition of Our Changing Planet, says as part of its subtitle, “A Supplement to the President’s Fiscal Year 2004 and 2005 Budgets.” One would think that is exactly the sort of document the White House has a legitimate interest in reviewing before publishing and sending to the Hill. In one of the drafts, Phil Cooney of CEQ crossed out several lines predicting “reductions” in mountain glaciers and snow pack in “polar regions” and “serious impacts on native populations that rely on fishing and hunting.” His marginal note says the deleted material was “straying from research strategy into speculative findings/musings.” True or false? A team of researchers led by Curt Davis of the University of Missouri-Columbia found that Antarctica’s snow pack is thickening. Similarly, a team led by Ola Johannessen of the University of Bergen found that the interior of Greenland’s ice sheet is thickening. So in the case of these polar areas, the draft report’s prediction appears to be not only speculative but wrong. As for impacts on native peoples, there is evidence that Inuit culture flourished during previous periods when the Arctic was as warm as or warmer than it is today. In short, Cooney’s description of the deleted material as “speculative findings/musings” is correct.

Cooney also inserted in a draft of Our Changing Planet the word “extremely” before the word “difficult,” in this sentence: “The attribution of the causes of biological and ecological changes to climate change or variability is extremely difficult.” As proof, Virginia State Climatologist Patrick Michaels points out that in Arctic areas where it is warming, polar bear populations are increasing, and in areas where it is cooling, bear populations are declining.

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