Congressional Committee of Oversight and Government Reform Henry A. Waxman, Chairman Hearing on Political Influence on Government Climate Change Scientists Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Congressional Committee Holds Hearing on Political Influence on Government Climate Change Scientists

On January 30, 2007, the Oversight Committee heard testimony from a number of leading climate change scientists regarding allegations that officials edited scientific reports and made other efforts to interfere with the work of government scientists who study climate change.

In his opening statement, Chairman Waxman said, “despite my strong views, I would never want scientists to manipulate research so that they can tell me what they think I want to hear. I don’t want politically correct science. I want the best science possible.” Prior to the hearing, Waxman had requested documents from the Council on Environmental Quality related to alleged government officials’ interference with scientific reports. At the hearing, Waxman also reported that he had sent a letter to the White House regarding documents requested repeatedly in the past which would show that White House political staff tried to suppress the speech of government scientists and that senior Administration officials attempted to mislead the public by injecting doubt into the science of global warming and underplaying its potential dangers. Waxman said, “We are simply seeking answers to whether the White House’s political staff is inappropriately censoring impartial government scientists.”

Witnesses and summaries of testimony:

Dr. Roger Pielke, Jr., Professor in the University of Colorado’s Environmental Studies Program and a Fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences discussed the politicization of science, and held that there is a long history of using science to support political goals, even within the Oversight Committee.
» Read Pielke’s full testimony

However, most witnesses focused on the Administration’s efforts to delay or change government scientists’ findings: Dr. Drew Shindell, Goddard Institute for Space Studies, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, said he was speaking as an individual, not as a representative of NASA. He described research he and his colleagues conducted on ozone depletion and increasing greenhouse gases over Antarctica, reporting that his findings indicate that Antarctica could warm rapidly in the future, causing ice to melt and raising sea levels sharply. But his press release, he said, was delayed publication as officials in NASA Headquarters changed it significantly, leaving the final product a “watered down” version of Dr. Shindell’s original report.
» Read Shindell’s full testimony

Mr. Rick Piltz, former Senior Associate, U.S. Climate Change Science Program reported that he resigned in protest in 2005 from his job with the federal Climate Change Science Program because he concluded that “politicization of climate science communication by the current Administration was undermining the credibility and integrity of the Climate Change Science Program in its relationship to the research community, to program managers, to policymakers, and to the public interest.” He noted that part of his job had been to compile periodic assessments of government climate change research for the Congress, but that these reports “were curtailed by the political opposition of the Bush Administration, which chose to initially ignore and later suppress the Assessment rather than use it to…educate the public about the issues.”
» Read Piltz’s full testimony

Dr. Francesca Grifo, Senior Scientist and Director of the Scientific Integrity Program, Union of Concerned Scientists testified regarding a report produced by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Government Accountability Project. Dr. Grifo described the pressure scientists frequently face to remove references to climate change from their work, to face charges that their work misrepresents their findings, and for climate-related materials to be removed from websites. The report shows that almost 60 percent of scientists surveyed said they had personally experienced interference of this nature.
» Read Grifo’s full testimony




» Waxman Seeks Climate Inquiry Evidence, by H. Josef Hebert for The Associated Press » Scientists Criticize White House Stance on Climate Change Findings, by Cornelia Dean in The New York Times



» NCAC’s Legal Times op-ed about censorship of climate change science
» UCS/GAP report: Atmosphere of Pressure
» NCAC action alert: Hearings on Censorship of Global Warming Scientists Turn Up Heat on White House