The Science Debate is Heating Up

The intertubes are on fire this morning about the report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) about the governments manipulation of global warming data in reports from at least seven different federal agencies.

This story was carried yesterday in the Washington Post and the New York Times and, with a minor delay, today in the Christian Science Monitor and even Spiegel Online (German). Today the blogging world will start talking. Joe Gandelman at Moderate Voice got started and used the CSM article to highlight the issue; I’ll quote the Washington Post.

U.S. scientists were pressured to tailor their writings on global warming to fit the Bush administration’s skepticism, in some cases at the behest of a former oil-industry lobbyist, a congressional committee heard on Tuesday.

“Our investigations found high-quality science struggling to get out,” Francesca Grifo of the watchdog group Union of Concerned Scientists told members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

A survey by the group found that 150 climate scientists personally experienced political interference in the past five years, for a total of at least 435 incidents.

To policy watchers interested in science, this is nothing new. Science and the Bush administration are about as friendly as Saddam and the Bush administration. (I just hope we won’t see any more hangings.) But the anti-science history is rather long.

There was the smackdown report from the UCS in 2004 (article, executive summary) about the administration’s anti-science meddling. That report got so much attention that the White House felt compelled to attempt an official rebuttal. The UCS responded with an update.

Then there was the brouhaha about George Deutsch, the twenty something NASA press hack, telling one of the worlds top climate researchers not to use global warming in press releases. This caused Michael D. Griffin, NASA chief administrator to issue a rather stern e-mail warning: “It is not the job of public-affairs officers to alter, filter or adjust engineering or scientific material produced by NASA’s technical staff.” Of course Mr Deutsch only got fired resigned when it was discovered that he had lied about his degree from Texas A&M . (He dropped out to – um – help the Bush campaign. Imagine that?)

The list goes on and on. For those really interested in ‘science,’ one only has to read The Republican War on Science by Chris Mooney. While I find the book slightly fairly slanted and would have probably called it The Politician’s and Lobbyist’s War on Science, it outlines most of the recent misdeeds.

But that’s not the end of the story.

While Michael Bachmann hasn’t gotten the memo yet and Senator James Inhofe would be spinning in his grave if someone would just get around to killing him, Bush has finally backed down from the alternate reality where there is no climate change.

He included the science surrender monkey statement in the SOTU address while talking about alternate energy sources, “These technologies will help us become better stewards of the environment, and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change.” Pushed during the NPR interview by Juan Williams, he went the final two yards and uttered the death blow to Republican polar bear haters…

MR. WILLIAMS: Now, also in the State of the Union, you talked about the – quote here – “the serious challenge of global climate change.” Were you talking about global warming there?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Absolutely, and it’s a serious challenge. And one of the things that I am proud of is this administration has done a lot on advancing new technologies that will enable us to do two things – strengthen our economy, and at the same time, be better stewards of the environment. In 2002, I talked about an energy efficiency standard, which says new technologies will enable us to grow our economy, and at the same time, improve the environment, and we’re meeting certain standards that I set for the country. [my emphasis]

…before drifting off into another scientific never-never land and babbling on about renewable nuclear power. Whatever.

So all better? The UCS is working with ‘old’ and ‘out-of-date’ data? Democrats are putting on the superhero tights – um – skirts to solve the problem? Not so fast BATMAN!

Just yesterday the New York Times also pointed out that Bush signed a new directive.

President Bush has signed a directive that gives the White House much greater control over the rules and policy statements that the government develops to protect public health, safety, the environment, civil rights and privacy.

In an executive order published last week in the Federal Register, Mr. Bush said that each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries. The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and the benefits of new rules and to make sure the agencies carry out the president’s priorities.

This strengthens the hand of the White House in shaping rules that have, in the past, often been generated by civil servants and scientific experts. It suggests that the administration still has ways to exert its power after the takeover of Congress by the Democrats. [my emphasis]

Oh. I feel better.And of course the Washington Post talked about those conflict ridden Democrats.

Several [Democrats] with mixed feelings about drastic carbon regulations — including Rep. Rick Boucher, who represents a coal-heavy Virginia district and chairs the subcommittee on energy and air quality — discussed working with Republicans to defeat the new committee on the House floor.

The strict emissions cuts that Pelosi supports had no chance in the GOP Congress, but they still face an uphill climb. Carbon-reliant industries including coal, oil, agriculture and manufacturing will resist any strong legislation, a position that will pose serious dilemmas for Democrats in districts where those industries and their unions hold sway. Some representatives of low-income minority districts are also concerned that a climate bill would slap heavy energy costs on their constituents.

Even if Pelosi manages to finagle a bill through the House, there is the problem of the Senate, where global-warming skeptic James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) has lost his chairmanship to climate-conscious Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) but has threatened a filibuster. And President Bush seems unlikely to sign anything too far-reaching

So, where are we?

There was something about warming? Or was it heating? Oh yeah! Frying pans! We are soooo cooked!


3 comments so far

  1. icanplainlysee on


    This isn’t meant to be either abrasive or agressive.

    It seems the Union of Concerned Scientist’s are a seriously political organization in their own right, maybe more political than science.
    What would you estimate the goal of all this effort is? Sale of green products whether we need them or not? Massive additional costs to taxpayers and industry for little or no return? Destruction of capitalism?

    You probably know many of the concerned scientists involved in this chicken little scenario blame America for the worlds ills. Blaming America and holding up the American taxpayer has become a sport for some lately.

    Extorting an enviro-alarmist tax seems a great way to finally get capitalism under control and effect changes to America that no one ever voted for.

    I assume your a neutral character in all this and just enjoy staying informed. If not, you know what I’ve missed in my weak, late night attempt to point out that theres way more than global warming going on here.

    Thanks for your post.

  2. blc303 on

    I’d agree immediately to the idea that the UCS are a lobbyist organisation. I would think that is clear. And, although made up of scientists, it is a political lobbyist organization. But I doubt that the goals are as dubious as you would paint and I’m am probably more chicken little then the UCS.

    But the goal is to try to get real science in policy and not whatever the current administration would like to have.

    A enviro-alarmist tax? Gee we have that in Germany… Let’s see Ford Escort, American – best mileage 37 mpg – Germany version between 43 and 38 mpg. Just because gas is more expensive. The same manufacturer, pretty much the same car!

    Last time I checked the German economy hasn’t collapsed. The Euro is pretty strong against the dollar. And cars use less gas because there is a tax. I buy into conservation through taxation and not Libertarian/Republican bullshit.

    Americans will start voting for changes. And yes there is way more that global warming going on. But global warming is a threat. And I get the idea you would like to ignore it.

  3. Teresa on

    Sometimes the “invisible hand of the market” goes groping around in the wrong place, and you have to give it a good slap to get it back in line, or you end up screwed.

    Remember, in politics, silence is assumed to be consent.

    Especially if you are a scientist. The right-wing likes to create the appearance of controversies where there are none (and for some reason they always use S. Fred Singer). Scientists unite to assert the scintific consensus, and suddenly it’s a conspiracy.

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