Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Empire Strikes Back! Disputing Global Warming

The Guardian reports that ExxonMobile and a think tank (American Enterprise Institute) closely affiliated with the Bush (W) administration has been offering cash to scientists to dispute the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The AEI has received more than $1.6m from ExxonMobil and more than 20 of its staff have worked as consultants to the Bush administration. Lee Raymond, a former head of ExxonMobil, is the vice-chairman of AEI's board of trustees.

The letters, sent to scientists in Britain, the US and elsewhere, attack the UN's panel as "resistant to reasonable criticism and dissent and prone to summary conclusions that are poorly supported by the analytical work" and ask for essays that "thoughtfully explore the limitations of climate model outputs".

Climate scientists described the move yesterday as an attempt to cast doubt over the "overwhelming scientific evidence" on global warming. "It's a desperate attempt by an organisation who wants to distort science for their own political aims," said David Viner of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

"The IPCC process is probably the most thorough and open review undertaken in any discipline. This undermines the confidence of the public in the scientific community and the ability of governments to take on sound scientific advice," he said. [snip]

Ben Stewart of Greenpeace said: "The AEI is more than just a thinktank, it functions as the Bush administration's intellectual Cosa Nostra. They are White House surrogates in the last throes of their campaign of climate change denial. They lost on the science; they lost on the moral case for action. All they've got left is a suitcase full of cash."

On Monday, another Exxon-funded organisation based in Canada will launch a review in London which casts doubt on the IPCC report. Among its authors are Tad Murty, a former scientist who believes human activity makes no contribution to global warming. Confirmed VIPs attending include Nigel Lawson and David Bellamy, who believes there is no link between burning fossil fuels and global warming.

ick. Meanwhile, The Christian Science Monitor published a report Jan. 31 headlined: "Has the White House interfered on global warming reports? A new report claims that the Bush administration has suppressed scientists' climate-change work."
More than 120 scientists across seven federal agencies say they have been pressured to remove references to "climate change" and "global warming" from a range of documents, including press releases and communications with Congress. Roughly the same number say appointees altered the meaning of scientific findings on climate contained in communications related to their research.

These findings, part of a new report compiled by two watchdog groups, shed new light on complaints by a scattering of scientists over the past year who have publicly complained that Bush administration appointees have tried to mute or muzzle what researchers have to say about global warming.

"We are beyond the anecdotal," says Francesca Grifo, director of the scientific integrity program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), one of the two groups, referring to press reports of a dozen instances of interference that have emerged over the past 12 months. "We now have evidence to support the view that this problem goes deeper than just these few high-profile cases." [snip]

Meanwhile, Congress is considering several pieces of legislation that would impose controls on industrial carbon-dioxide emissions – blamed for trapping heat in the atmosphere and contributing to the noticeable warming effect on the earth's climate.

The question is not so much about federal scientists' ability to publish their results in specialized journals that few but their colleagues read, the report's authors say. Instead, the trouble arises when agencies translate "journalese" into language the general public or lawmakers can grasp for use in official government reports or media releases. [snip]

Sometimes scientists and career public-affairs officers would send press releases related to global warming up the ladder for review, then never hear back. Or appointees changed the wording in ways that scientists felt distorted the results or their implications, and the researchers weren't given a chance to argue their case. One of the most blatant examples focuses on the issue of hurricanes and global warming. According to the report, in 2005, the White House stepped in to block an interview MSNBC sought with NOAA scientist Thomas Knutson, who a year earlier had published a modeling study on the potential link between hurricanes and global warming. The interview was to focus on new research by other scientists that suggested global warming has contributed to trends toward stronger hurricanes.

Documents GAP obtained showed that instead of approving subsequent interviews with Dr. Knutson, high-level public-affairs officers routed interview requests to NOAA scientist Chris Landsea in Miami, who argued, in part, that the quality of global hurricane data was too poor and inconsistent to draw meaningful conclusions. In another instance, reporters interested in interviewing a NOAA scientist who had coauthored a new research paper concluding that modern warming "is dominated by human influences" were sent instead to then-deputy administrator Jim Mahoney.

Details of interference

In all, 150 scientists reported a combined 435 instances of real or perceived "interference" related to global-warming research within the past five years. This has led to self-censorship, Mr. Maassari says,

Link here for the Executive summary from the joint report.

Link to Government Accountability Project, the second group that sponsored the investigation and report. This site, like the UCS link above, has excellent links and lots of reports and information on environmental issues, as well as lots of other topics.

Link to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman. They held hearings (link) on governmental interference with environmental scientists. Visit this last link for a nice collection of the hearings' testimony, list of witnesses and various statements.

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