Scientists Fire Back At House Hearing Devoted To Climate ‘Flaws’

A leading organization of U.S. scientists is firing back at a parade of climate skeptics who appeared before Congress Thursday.

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee held a hearing called “Climate Change: Examining the Processes Used to Create Science and Policy.” The session was dominated by skeptics who attempted to throw cold water on the science behind climate change and the policy process to mitigate it.

After the hearing, the committee released a statement titled, “Witnesses Highlight Flawed Processes Used to Generate Climate Change Science, Inform Policy.”

Lawmakers and witnesses discussed the so-called “Climategate” emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit in November of 2009.

“For many of us here, these emails were evidence that the trust in the underlying process was misplaced,” says Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas), the chairman of the House science panel. “I may not be a scientist, but as a politician, I can tell when someone is trying to pull the wool over my eyes.”

Also discussed at length was the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2009 “endangerment finding,” paving the way under the Clean Air Act for EPA to regulate greenhouse gases (GHGs), and particularly, carbon dioxide.

A majority of the scientific basis that the agency used for its determination came from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) or from government reports that relied heavily on the IPCC as a resource.

John Christy, director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, told the committee that it “should understand that the IPCC presents one version of climate change science generated by an establishment that has evolved to largely reflect a particular point of view…this point of view attempts to dismiss information that questions the belief that greenhouse gases are the dominant cause of observed climate change.”

Michael McPhaden, president of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), was not among those called to testify but nonetheless refuted the skeptics’ arguments in a statement released immediately after the hearing.

“Despite the fact that there is overwhelming agreement across disciplines within the scientific community that climate change exists and that human activity is the primary driver, what was clear during today’s hearing is that the political debate on the subject is far from over,” says McPhaden, whose organization represents more than 60,000 members representing over 148 countries. “That echoes what we have seen in many of the proposals for [fiscal year 2011] budget cuts, which will, among other things, limit access to data and information, including leveraging international knowledge and research.

“This is particularly concerning, given the impact climate science, and its influence on extreme weather events, can have on global competitiveness, national security, and public health and safety,” McPhaden adds. “Allowing political pressure to squelch scientific research will not make climate change and its impacts go away. It will, however, damage the objective knowledge base we need to inform good decisions that protect and enhance the public good.”


Scott Nance is the publisher of the news site The Washington Current, formerly known as On The Hill. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.


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