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Posted by on Jan 30, 2007 in At TMV | 23 comments

White House Accused Of Interfering On Global Warming

It’s mind boggling to think that we would come to a time in our history where an administration and some of its supporters would be accused of trying to paint global warming as a mere myth — and at the same time suppress information about it.

But isn’t this kind of accusation now getting to be a trend in several areas? The Christian Science Monitor:

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.

Can all of this be mere concidence? Or are all of these people Democratic partisans or somehow paranoid? MORE:

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.”

Sound like it’s a misinterpretation?

Global-warming science must be accurately represented to enable lawmakers to craft adequate policies to control the problem and adapt to climate change, Dr. Grifo says. Scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and other agencies working on climate-related issues are doing excellent work. “But it’s under threat, and they are struggling to get their results out” to the general public, she says.

Grifo described some of the report’s findings during hearings Tuesday before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and during a press briefing afterward. The two groups say they will release additional material next week, when the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation holds similar hearing.

There is a pattern to this kind of accusation, one made in other policy areas as well.

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  • Sam

    Color me surprised. I think the steady stream of BS flowing from the White House has finally got me so jaded I am totally willing to take this information on face value. In fact, I’d bet my house on it.

  • Upinsmoke

    While I am a supporter of the reality of Global warming and a supporter of our government doing what it can to prevent global warming.

    Show me the proof.

    Anyone ever wonder gee our government is full of BOTH democrats and republicans. Mabey these folks have an axe to grind and will do what they can to make the Administration look bad. I remember these tactics during Clintons Admin. Think mabey it might be going on under this Admin?

  • SteveK

    Upinsmoke said: While I am a supporter of the reality of Global warming and a supporter of our government doing what it can to prevent global warming.

    If, as you say, you believe that Global Warming is a fact AND you believe our government should be doing what it can to prevent it… What proof do you need?

    Your “our government is full of BOTH democrats and republicans” is just plain silly… Until twenty-six days ago the Democrats had absolutely no say in what was and was not discussed in congress. Blowing smoke to cover Republican failure to address important issues doesn’t carry much weight on a website where the participants are paying attention to the politics being played.

  • kritter

    I would be really outraged about this if global warming really existed. In reality our whole solar system is getting hotter, due to the sun burning brighter. Its a totally normal phenomena- not related at all to greenhouse gases.

    Just kidding!

  • Rudi

    The Bush administration has done this before. Look up George Deutsh, he squelched scientists at NASA with ZERO technical backround.

    However, John Dean made a point on Olberman tonight. Dean stated that Bush isn’t the first to do this. This started with Reagan and continued with Clinton. Dean states that Bush just takes things to a new level. But I do believe W is the first to embrase Creationism. Who knows if he believes or is just PANDERING to the Religious Right.

  • Rudi

    KR Maybe the end of time will be a SUPERNOVA – LOL.

  • blc303

    This is getting so confusing. The UCS is back up in front of the House, Bush actually mentioned “global climate change” in the SOTU and the Washingtion Post is reporting the Democrats in disarray.


    I wrote a rather long reaction to this news here.

  • Upinsmoke

    STeve are you and I reading the same article. Im responding to the scientists who supposedly were pressured into saying it aint so.

    Im not saying show me the global warming evidence. Im saying let these 120 scientist step forward with their secret taped evidence that they were pressured to do this considering all the reports coming out of their offices contain all these supposedly bad words.

    I reckon it went down like this.

    “Hey bub, think you could tone down the Global warming thing?”

    “What!!! Are you insane we are all gonna die.!!! Im stocking up on insure and sunblock as we speak!!!”

    “Well we just dont want to scare the people.”

    “Die commie Pinkos!! The truth must be told!!”

    “Well okay, have a nice day then.”

  • Would it kill folks to be a little skeptical when they read such things? The story itself admits that the admin has in NO WAY interfered with folks publishing exactly what they want to publish. Now, they are curtailed as to what they can do as “political advocates,” but is that really horrible? We don’t allow state employees or teachers to engage in political activity on the public dime. Why should folks at NOAA, for example, be treated any differently? I for one would rather have research scientists doing, well, research, as opposed to engaging in this or that PR campaign in an effort to influence public policy.

    There is a name for that…oh yeah, its called politicizing science. We are supposed to be against that, right? Or does it depend on who is doing the politicizing? Evidently the answer is “Yes”, at least for some in the press. How the Union of Concerned Scientists could possibly be construed as a group that wants to keep politics seperate from science is beyond me. Their very, self-proclaimed, reason for existing is to do the opposite.

    But hey, if you already have a negative view of the administration, why bother looking to see if there is another side to the story.

  • kritter

    Rudi-Actually, I’m counting on the rapture to take us down the road to Armegeddon. Only the true believers like me, GW, Harriet Miers and Pat Robertson will be able to make the trip.

  • And here is a suggestion that all of this has more to do with money than anything else:

    The UCS survey does have its own problems. For instance it lumped in budget issues as political interference. Dr. Shindell also did this at the end of the hearing. If not giving scientists enough money is evidence of political interference then what isn’t? Here are some representative examples cited in the UCS report about how to improve climate science “integrity� (p. 22):

    �I believe that climate research at NASA is being undermined by the current administration. This is accomplished not through direct threats of intimidation, but through lack of funding. . .�
    “The U.S. Climate Change Science Program has not received sufficient funding . . .�

    “Problems with climate research in the federal government mainly have to do with funding . . .�

    “I have not worked directly on climate change since funding was eliminated in my area. Other areas of much less importance have been emphasized as a result.�

    “Funding for climate research is a factor of 5-10 below critical mass to develop a designed climate observing system.�

    [This last one is my favorite – $10-$20 billion, right!]

    By adding the politics of the budget process into the mix the UCS has revealed that climate science is indeed very political indeed.

  • Oh, and one has to wonder where the UCS is when researchers report the following:

    Consider the following recent experiences:

    *On several occasions, one in a public forum, a very prominent scientist whose name you would all recognize all but accused me of falsifying my research results in order to hide the global warming signal in disaster losses that he believes must certainly be there. The alternative, that our work is solid, apparently is not a possibility.
    *Another prominent scientist whose name you would all recognize quite angrily and nastily accused me in an email of being a climate change denier who refuses to see the truth. I replied with an explanation that I was no denier and I provided a list of a few dozen peer-reviewed papers to support my perspective on climate change and disasters, with no response.

    *After giving a lecture at a major U.S. university I had a chance to talk one-on-one with the head of the unit that had invited me (a major unit on campus), who was another big-name-you-would-recognize. His first question for me was to ask my political orientation, stating that it was hard to discern from my talk. I thought it an odd question but I answered him anyway. He had no substantive questions about my talk, so I hope my answer to his political orientation question clarified everything.

    *Perhaps most troubling, the editor of a leading scientific journal asked me to “dampen� the message of a peer-reviewed publication for fear that it would be “seized upon� by those seeking to defend their interests in business-as-usual energy policies. I found this incredible – was I really being asked to change scientifically well-supported arguments based on some editorial concerns about politics?!

    This is exactly what we are all supposed to be outraged about, right? sure is a quiet (i.e. dead silent) kind of outrage.

  • Rudi

    Iconic – Secondary teachers (and non-technical government employees)are paid to teach, they typically don’t do research. Government scientists and university professors are paid for their knowlege and expertise. It is Bush and appointments like Geogre Deutsch that are politizing science.

  • And before anybody says I am pulling obscure information into this discussion, let me point out that the researcher who expereinced the above also testified before Congress the other day.

  • Rudi: I dont have any problem with scientists and researchers publishing their research. THAT is what they are being paid to do. They are NOT being paid to push this or that policy proposal. The moment you become an advocate in a political process you are politicizing science.

    In effect your argument is, “It isn’t Politics when WE do it, its only politics when THEY do it.”

    It’s not very convincing.

  • angliss

    The moment you become an advocate in a political process you are politicizing science.

    Doesn’t this imply that any scientist who advocates for a policy that is based on his/her scientific conclusions automatically qualifies as “politicizing science”?

  • Doesn’t this imply that any scientist who advocates for a policy that is based on his/her scientific conclusions automatically qualifies as “politicizing scienceâ€??

    Absolutely. The idea that a public policy can be constructed that perfectly encapsulates “science” is a myth. Public policy IS politics. 100% of public policy is political. Scientists do not help their own cause by becoming a partisan in the debate. The journal editor who asked Roger Pielke to fudge his research findings was NOT acting as a scientist, but as someone looking to further a particular political cause at any cost. But that is what politics does to people. All people. Even scientists.

    Science research can influence public policy debates without scientists directly becoming advocates. They can help the causes that they believe in most strongly by being irreproachable and unimpeachable. You cannot be that by being beholden to this or that special interest.

  • Anybody who is really interested in the intersection of science with public policy should make a habit of reading Prometheus, the blog run by the folks at the Center for Science & Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado. Joe, they would be a nice addition to the Other Voices section imo.

  • Dr. Pielke admits that it’s entirely likely that he’s just encountered a few people who basically were just too passionate on the subject. These were all incidents reported by one researcher, not more than one and not multiple incidents. Pielke admits that it’s the words of just a few people. The truth is that Pielke is sloppy in his public pronouncements and even though he repeatedly denies being a skeptic about AGW he constantly makes statements that can readily be taken as reason to take no action on the issue.

    At this time the research of the scientists at NOAA in the field of climatology or ocean science that directly influences climate will inevitably intersect public policy. IM is basically saying that it’s OK for the scientists to publish in specialized journals that no one in the general public reads but they shouldn’t try to communicate their results to anyone outside that community. They shouldn’t make any statements about obvious implications of their research. If they do so the Bush administration is perfectly correct to stop them. Does anyone else really buy that argument?

  • Jim,

    No. My point is as soon as you enter nto the political arena you become a partisan. Advocating on position on a public policy question is NEVER a simple question of presenting the holy scientific “truth” to the great unwashed masses. Its politics. There will be competing interests, there will be conflicting priorities, there will be deals cut, etc. The notion that a public policy can encapsulate and ONLY encapsulate “science” is simply false. Political people will always seize upon such thngs to advance their own political preferences. (Or is it an accident that Republicans often feel the “free market” will solve any public policy concern, while Democrats find that, miraculously, every problem is amenable to bureaucratic control. Boy, the world is damn convenient for both of them.)

    And the idea that if scientists didn’t become policy partisans no one would ever hear of their work is a fantasy argument. Last time I checked there were journalists covering scientific work. There are magazines devoted to coverning the various scientific fields and presenting them to general audiences. And the individual interest groups cover the fields looking for information that will back up their pet cause. To ignore all of this is not credible.

    As for Dr. Pielke’s experiences, if you really think he is only person that has ever happened to I fear you are terribly naive about politics.

    “If they do so the Bush administration is perfectly correct to stop them.”

    Stop them from what? I’ve yet to be shown a single instance of someone not being able to present their work. I haven’t heard of a single report that has been quashed by the Bush admin. So, they are not able to use their offices to lobby for specific public policies, big deal. If their work is any good there are plenty of people who can take it and run with it. (And besides, what credentials does the average climate scientist have to be crafting public policy anyway? We do have people especially trained in such things.) I’d rather have scientists doing, well, science.

    I’ll hazard a guess here. I would say your personal political beliefs are very comfortable with the soft squishy leftism presented by the UCS. So if THOSE are the folks politicizing politics you are fine with it. Of course, if some other group of scientists were funded by say, Exxon, that would be PROOF that everyhting they said could be discounted.

    Forget the fact that science shouldn’t care about what poeples motivations are.

  • IM,

    Don’t take my statements out of context to attempt to prove some point. What I said was:

    At this time the research of the scientists at NOAA in the field of climatology or ocean science that directly influences climate will inevitably intersect public policy. IM is basically saying that it’s OK for the scientists to publish in specialized journals that no one in the general public reads but they shouldn’t try to communicate their results to anyone outside that community. They shouldn’t make any statements about obvious implications of their research. If they do so the Bush administration is perfectly correct to stop them. Does anyone else really buy that argument?

    My argument was simply that it was obvious from your postings that you would have no problem with Bush administration suppressing anything they care to. Your political inclinations are at least as obvious as what you ascribe to me. While you claim to have never heard of a report the Bush administration has suppressed the only way you can say that they haven’t tried is to completely discount the testimony of every scientist who testified. Why? Solely because of your political allegiances. That much is obvious. And this is the nicest way I can say it. Many other things occurred to me much less polite though accurate given how disingenuous your posts on this subject have been.

  • *I’m* being disingenuous? The question remains What have they supressed? You are claiming the Bush admin is supressing information. WHERE? WHEN? Not even the UCS report claims that. As reported by the CSM:

    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.

    So nothing is being supressed. They don’t like the public relations campaign. That is suppresion?

    If they Bush admin was squashing scientific studies I’d be right there blasting them, as I did the Clinton admin for destroying archeological sites to appease Native American groups. But garbage like this is taken hook, line and sinker without a MOMENT of skepticism. Too often this site is turning the Bush admin into the villians of a passion play. Folks are so weded to their prejudices that they dont even attempt to see if there is another side to the story.

    It is a common sense requirement that we do not allow folks to be the Judge of their own case…well maybe, using this axiom, we might be able to see that the scientists whining might not be all that justified. Maybe we are seeing a temper tantrum of folks who have carved out their own little fiefdoms who dont want to be evaluated in any way shape or form. Maybe, in order for the scientific part of the executive branch to function properly, these guys DO need to be less free agents and more team players.

    You don’t believe me when I claim there might be whining going on? Look at one of the focal points of the UCS case, the so-called “censoring” of James Hansen. Read the UCS report here. Notice anything strange about it? Look at the footnotes. Usually footnotes point to an independant source of information that you use to back up your case. In every single one of these footnotes the references are to either Hansen himself or articles ABOUT what Hansen has stated. On what planet could that be considered evidence? The only “proof” we are given is Hansen’s bitching either directly or indirectly. You know what? That is not good enough.

    As for my politics, I’m consider myself a little right of center, but I can proudly say I never voted for Bush. After he kow-towed to those bigots and racists at Bob Jones University back before the 2000 election I vowed to have nothing to do with him. The only time I ever gave money to a poltical campaign it was $20 to Paul Tsongas back in 1992. (The worst thing to happen to the Democratic party in the 90’s was his early passing.)

    I’m assuming, by your silence, that I got your politics pretty close on the first attempt.

    I did use your sentence in an improper context there. Sorry. But I could have just easily asked, after the week of statements given in Congressional hearing, interviews on television, comments in the blogosphere, in magazines, on the radio….who is the Bush adminitration supposedly keeping for talking?? Oh yeah, all the people doing the talking.

    Just as they stopped James Hansen:

    1. “Rewriting the Science,� 60 Minutes, March 19, 2006, transcript accessed December 7, 2006.
    2. James E. Hansen, “Is There Still Time to Avoid ‘Dangerous Anthropogenic Interference’ with Global Climate? A Tribute to Charles David Keeling,� December 6, 2005, talk at the American Geophysical Union meeting, accessed December 7, 2006.
    3. NASA, “2005 Warmest Year in Over a Century,� January 24, 2006, accessed December 7, 2006.
    4. Revkin, Andrew C. “Climate Expert Says NASA Tried to Silence Him.� New York Times, January 29, 2006, accessed December 7, 2006.
    5. Revkin, Andrew C. “A Young Bush Appointee Resigns His Post at NASA,� New York Times, February 8, 2006, accessed December 7, 2006.
    6. Revkin, January 29, 2006.
    7. Griffin, Michael “Statement on Scientific Openness,� February 4, 2006, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, accessed December 7, 2006.
    8. “NASA Policy on the Release of Information to News and Information Media,� March 30, 2006, accessed December 7, 2006.
    9. Revkin, Andrew C., “NASA’s Goals Delete Mention of Home Planet,� New York Times, July 22, 2006, accessed December 7, 2006.
    10. Farrell, Bryan, “Political Science,� The Nation, February 13, 2006, accessed December 7, 2006.
    11. “A Conversation With Dr. James Hansen,� New York Times video interview, accessed December 7, 2006.

    I know the Bush admin is pretty incompetent, but this has to be the worst supression job ever.

  • Jim,

    If you are interested in doing a little bit of reading (and I’m seriously not trying to be an ass here) do me a quick favor:

    #1 Read this statement from UCS: Hurricane Science Becomes a Matter of Policy as NOAA Takes Sides

    and then read 2 items:
    #2 This page on NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory page on Hurricanes and Global Warming

    #3 this (pdf) overview of NOAA’s positions on the matter

    Now, read #1 again, doesn’t it seem like a lot of BS?

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