Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Reaction To The Dueling Repugs (Global Warming)

Reactions to the events giving rise to the Dueling Republicans Global Warming diary (see 7/26/05 story below) were stong, to say the least. In summary of the prior events, a 1998 climate change study by 3 researchers was the subject of an inquiry by Representative Joe Barton (R-Texas), chairman of the House Commerce Committee. Rep.Barton requested hundreds of documents from the research, a study that analyzed tree rings, glacial ice and coral layers. The scientists were given a generous 18 days to produce the documents.

The study had revealed a dramatic rise in temperatures in the last 50 years compared to the last 500 years. (A subsequent UN report utilized this study as one source and confirmed that the 1990s was the warmest decade in 1000 years.)

Representative Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), chairman of the House Science Committee, lashed out at Rep.Barton in a public letter, warning him that the inquiry was outside of his committee's jurisdiction and that the purpose seemed to be intimidation of scientists. Hence the earlier story titled Dueling Republicans.

The demands included funding information (Washington Post Op-Ed):

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Barton's letters to the scientists had a peremptory, when-did-you-stop-beating-your-wife tone. Mann was told that within less than three weeks, he must list "all financial support you have received related to your research," provide "the location of all data archives relating to each published study for which you were an author," "provide all agreements relating to . . . underlying grants or funding," and deliver similarly detailed information in five other categories.

Reactions around the country were swift and strong.

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Barton's goal wasn't scientific clarity but political intimidation. That was the conclusion of Rep.Sherwood Boehlert, a New York Republican who chairs the House Committee on Science, which also claims jurisdiction on climate change issues. He wrote a blistering July 14 letter to Barton: "My primary concern about your investigation is that its purpose seems to be to intimidate scientists rather than to learn from them, and to substitute Congressional political review for scientific peer review. This would be pernicious." He added that the precedent set by this effort "to have Congress put its thumbs on the scales of a scientific debate" was "truly chilling."

The Houston Chronicle offered that the standard means of fact-finding was abandoned in favor of a unfocused approach.
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Barton is right that global warming is a pressing and controversial issue — and tracking the use of federal funding is a worthwhile endeavor. In his indiscriminate mining for documents, however, Barton ignores the first steps of fact-finding: hearings, discussions with the scientists and reading the peer-reviewed and published papers in the field.

The Rutland Herald (Vt) had saw the spectre of McCarthy in the proceedings.

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There is a long tradition of using congressional committees as instruments of intimidation, going back to the McCarthy era when Congress made a practice of dragging people before committees to ferret out supposed communists.

These days the bullying powers of Congress are being deployed against scientists who have helped us understand the vast and complex changes of global warming. ...

Barton is among the Republican lawmakers who oppose mandatory curbs on gases that are creating the greenhouse effect and global warming. To admit the reality of global warming is to acknowledge the need for serious steps to head off global catastrophe. ...

The intended effect of Barton's request, no doubt, is to make climate scientists nervous. Nobody wants to have to devote weeks of work compiling documents for the needless investigation of a congressional committee. Nobody likes having his or her life's work subject to an inquisition even if one is fully confident of one's work. Barton's probe also raises the possibility that federal funding of important scientific work might be jeopardized. ...

Of course, resolving a scientific dispute is not what Barton really has in mind.

The Houston Chronicle makes it all clear. Rep.Barton has a heavy debt to repay.

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Given his indebtedness to the oil and power industries — from 1989-2004 he received more money from these industries that any other House member — Barton seems to be acting on motives other than a thirst for truth. This is a disservice to the nation. Harassing scientists is the wrong way to find answers to environmental questions that affect us all.

So, must Rep.Barton reveal sources of his funding too?


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