|Global warming has the House hot under
Posted 7/17/2005 10:41 PM
By Dan Vergano, USA TODAY
A heated war of words over a global warming research paper has
boiled over in Congress. Two powerful Republicans are brawling over
an investigation that one calls "misguided and illegitimate."
The fight is the latest chapter in a
long-running feud over a 1998 climate study. Long confined to Web
sites and scientific journals, the dispute now centers on conflicting
views of how Congress examines science.
On Friday, the chairman of the House Science
Committee, Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y., sent a strongly worded
rebuke to the House Energy Committee. Directed to energy committee
chief Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, Boehlert's letter condemned extensive
requests made in June by Barton's committee for research data and
financial information from three scientists.
Barton's committee also made similar requests
to the National Science Foundation, which has financed the
researchers, and a U.N. climate panel that cited their work.
Boehlert wrote that the "purpose seems to be to
intimidate scientists rather than to learn from them, and to
substitute Congressional political review for scientific peer review."
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., made similar complaints in a separate
letter to Barton last week, as did the American Association for the
Advancement of Science.
In a statement, energy committee spokesman
Larry Neal replied: "Chairman Barton always appreciates heated
lectures from Reps. Boehlert and Waxman, two men who share a passion
for global warming. We regret that our little request for data has
given them a chill. Seeking scientific truth is, indeed, too important
to be impeded by politics, and so we'll just continue to ask fair
questions of honest people and see what they tell us. That's our job."
Neal called his committee's inquiries a "modest
but necessary step."
This latest chapter in a long-running climate
science sideshow comes even as the scientific consensus has firmed up
that global warming is occurring. President Bush, for example,
acknowledged at a summit this month the consensus that man-made
greenhouse gases are increasing global temperatures.
The main issue in the energy committee requests
is a 1998 Nature paper by Michael Mann of Penn State, Malcolm
Hughes of the University of Arizona and Raymond Bradley of the
University of Massachusetts that reconstructed average global
temperatures over recent centuries. The study concluded, as have about
a dozen similar efforts, that the 20th century was warmer than the
preceding ones, and temperatures have increased sharply in the 1990s.
After the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change noted the study in a 2001 report, it turned into a
symbol for opponents of climate change science, such as Sen. James
Inhofe, R-Okla. Citing the criticism of two Canadian researchers, they
see it as representing all the shortcomings of the scientific argument
for global warming's reality. The same argument appears in the energy
committee's requests to the three scientists.
Boehlert says the energy committee's intrusion
into the debate "raises the specter of politicians opening
investigations against any scientist who reaches a conclusion that
makes the political elite uncomfortable."
Amid the debate, the three researchers replied
to Barton's committee today, at times answering the questions and in
others referring them elsewhere for information.