Click a hearing date below to read a summary of the proceedings:

January 30, 2007: Committee Holds Hearing on Political Influence on Government Climate Change Scientists

February 7, 2007: Climate Change Research and Scientific Integrity

March 19, 200: Committee Examines Political Interference with Climate Science

March 28, 2007: Shaping the Message Distorting the Science: Media Strategies to Influence Public Policy Before House Committee on Science and Technology

May 9, 2007: Full Committee Oversight Hearing: “Endangered Species Act Implementation: Science or Politics?”

January 30, 2007

On January 30, 2007, the House Oversight Committee 1 listened to testimony from leading climate change scientists, an academic and a representative from a government watchdog organization regarding allegations that officials of the Bush Administration edited scientific reports and made other efforts to interfere with the work of government scientists who study climate change.

Summaries of Testimonies

Chairman Waxman (D-CA) 2: Chairman Waxman noted the uncooperative stance that the Bush administration took in providing documentation the committee repeatedly requested. He also voiced his concerns about the Bush administration’s efforts to suppress scientific works that report on the effects of global warming as well as any possible causal connection between it and human activity.

  • Reason for the hearing : “All of us have a right to our own views about the seriousness of global warming. But we don’t have a right to our own science. This hearing and the committee’s ongoing investigation into political interference is aimed at ensuring the American people receive the best science possible.”

http://oversight.house.gov/documents/20070130104001-68869.pdf

Dr. Roger Pielke 3, Professor in the University of Colorado’s Environmental Studies Program 4 and a Fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences 5: Mr. Pielke presented a very cynical view of the situation, arguing that politics and science are inevitably linked.

  • His position : “My testimony today makes the case that politics and science cannot in practice be separated.”
    • “Many decades of study of the role of science in decision making indicates that efforts to keep science and politics separate are not only doomed to fail, but they are likely to create conditions that are likely to enhance the pathological politicization of politics.”
    • “Science advisory panels never deal purely with science. They are convened to provide guidance either on policy or on scientific information that is directly relevant to policy.”
    • “On climate change, even as scientists have come to a robust consensus that human activities have significant effects on the climate, legitimate debate continues on the costs and benefits of proposed alternative policy actions. And evaluation of costs and benefits involves considerations of values and politics. It would be hopelessly na√Įve to think that an advisory committee on climate change could be empanelled without consideration of values and politics.”
  • Bush at the extreme end : “The Bush administration has engaged in hyper-controlling strategies for the management of information.”
  • Framing the discussion : “The real question is whether we want to openly confront the reality that extra-scientific factors of course play a role in committee empanelment or we turn a blind eye and allow committee empanelment decisions to play out in the proverbial backrooms of political decision-making.”

http://oversight.house.gov/documents/20070130114413-25161.pdf

Dr. Rick Piltz , former Senior Associate, U.S. Climate Change Science Program CCSP 6 : Mr. Piltz testified about the heavy-handed distortion of scientific findings, which prompted him to resign from his post in protest. To illustrate this manipulation, Dr. Piltz recounted the Administration’s suppression of the National Assessment, a document evaluating changes in climate conditions across the different regions of the country and their impacts on select economic sectors.

  • Politics undermining science : “I came to the conclusion 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.”
  • Documented case of suppressing adverse science : “Despite the utility of the National Assessment, the Administration, most aggressively from the second half of 2002 onward, acted to essentially bury the National Assessment, i.e., by suppressing discussion of it by participating agencies for purposes of research planning by the Climate Change Science Program; suppressing references to it in published program documents including annual program reports to Congress; withdrawing support from the coordinated process of scientist-stakeholder interaction and assessment that had been initiated by the first National Assessment; and making clear that no second National Assessment would be undertaken.”
  • Reasons for suppression : “From my experience, observation, analysis of documentation, and personal communications with others in the program, I believe it is clear that the reasons for this were essentially political, and not based on scientific considerations.
    • My understanding at that point, which I believe was coming to be more widely shared, both inside and outside the program, was that the Administration was uncomfortable with the mainstream scientifically based communications suggesting the reality of human-induced climate change and the likelihood of adverse consequences.”
  • It rots from the top : “It is my understanding that the White House directed CCSP Director Mahoney 7 to suppress the use of and references to the National Assessment in program planning and publications.”
    • “Mahoney later confirmed to Environmental Science & Technology 8, a journal of the American Chemical Society 9, that federal researchers were restricted from referring to the National Assessment ( Environmental Science & Technology Online , October 12, 2005).”
  • Political appointees at the helm : “Unlike the other representatives on the program’s interagency principals committee, the great majority of whom were career science program management professionals, CCSP Director Mahoney was a Senate-confirmed Presidential appointee, as the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Deputy Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and thus a political representative of the Administration.¬† On the matter of not citing or using the National Assessment, I believe it was well-understood by the agency principals that to challenge the chairman would, in effect, have been to challenge the White House – in particular CEQ Council on Environmental Quality. 10
    • “It came to my attention that CEQ Chief of Staff Philip Cooney 11 was extensively marking up reports in a manner that had the cumulative effect of adding an enhanced sense of scientific uncertainty about global warming and minimizing its likely consequences, while also deleting even minor references to the National Assessment.”
    • “In a memorandum dated October 28, 2002, he marked-up the first draft of the CCSP Strategic Plan after it was approved by CCSP agency principals and before it was released for NRC National Research Council review and public comment. Most of his roughly 200 text changes were incorporated in the review draft. A number of these changes in text relating to questions of climate science altered the content of the draft as it had been developed by federal science program professionals.”
      • “Taken in the aggregate, the changes had a cumulative effect of shifting the tone and content of an already quite cautiously-worded draft to create an enhanced sense of scientific uncertainty about climate change and its implications. The draft Strategic Plan was legitimately criticized by reviewers who charged that the CCSP had adopted a vocabulary with an exaggerated emphasis on scientific uncertainties. To my knowledge this CEQ mark-up was not shared with or vetted by CCSP principals or CCSP agency science program managers. The process was quintessentially non-transparent and, in my view, a policy-driven political interference in a key science program document.”
      • “CEQ is a White House policy office, not a science office.¬† In my view it was problematic from day one that CEQ officials, whose essential job was to advance the President’s policy and political position on global climate change, were at the table participating directly in the governance of the Climate Change Science.”
  • Self-censorship is an end result : “From my observation, a few examples of relatively heavy-handed interventions sufficed to send a message to the program leadership about White House political sensitivities.¬† Under those circumstances, I believe a kind of anticipatory self-censorship kicks in, and reports begin to be drafted with an eye to what will be able to obtain CEQ approval – which appeared to be the final step in the White House clearance process.”
  • Budgetary reductions on the horizon : “The Administration’s response to criticism on climate change is often to point to how much is spent on research. But, notwithstanding the importance that Administration officials purport to give to the issues addressed by the program, the Administration is now steadily reducing the budget request for the program.”

http://oversight.house.gov/documents/20070130113813-92288.pdf

Dr. Drew T. Shindell , Researcher for NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies : Dr. Shindell provided the reasons for why many in the scientific community believe that global climate change is a reality for which humans are primarily responsible. He acknowledged that we do not have all the answers, but reminded the Committee that that is a poor reason for inaction. He also commented on the type of censorship climate scientists encounter, and the reasons for why we should be cautiously optimistic about positive changes in the near future.

  • Warmer and warmer : “The Earth as a whole is unquestionably warming and virtually all climate scientists believe that the evidence regarding a human role in this warming is clear and compelling. Multiple lines of evidence based on measurements, theory, and computer modeling support these conclusions.”
  • ¬† To act or not to act : “Although the scientific basis for the conclusion that human activities are altering Earth’s climate is very strong, arguments are still raised over whether current scientific understanding justifies societal action.”
    • “Even with the best possible information, policymakers must make subjective decisions in the face of uncertainty. These types of decisions go on all around us, for example when a doctor decides on treatment based on the best medical evidence despite the fact that medical science does not understand all aspects of the human body. The public must trust the evaluation of the evidence by policymakers in the same way that patients must trust their doctors.”
  • I’m listening : “During the fall of 2004, NASA Headquarters insisted that a NASA press officer monitor all interviews either in person or on the phone, a measure unbefitting a democratic society.”
  • Singling out : “As with the interference with press releases, these restrictions were not imposed on our NASA colleagues in Space Science , or even those in areas of Earth Science other than climate change.”
  • Cautious optimism : “NASA’s new written policy of openness regarding press contacts has been a welcome sign of change.”
    • “This clearly defined policy is rather unique among federal scientific agencies, and it should be emulated at others such as EPA Environmental Protection Agency , NOAA National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, DOE Department of Energy , etc.”
    • “NASA has taken important steps to ensure scientific integrity; even there the process of managing communication between scientists and the public or the press still lacks transparency.”

http://oversight.house.gov/documents/20070130113315-90082.pdf

Dr. Francesca T. Grifo , Senior Scientist and Director of the Scientific Integrity Program, Union of Concerned Scientists : Dr. Grifo presented an overview of the issues of scientific integrity. She then summarized the report Atmosphere of Pressure . She concluded by recommending reforms that will restore scientific integrity to the decision making process.”

  • Takeaway : “In a nutshell, here is the problem we face: political interference is harming federal science and threatening the health and safety of Americans.”
  • How it is done :
    • Censorship and suppression of federal science by suppressing or delaying scientific reports, limiting media access to government scientists, and placing restrictions on the flow of information.”
    • Disseminating inaccurate science-based information by forcing scientists to change their data, editing scientific documents to alter their conclusions, distributing inaccurate science based information, and distributing curricula with incorrect information.”
    • “Manipulating scientific advice ¬† by subjecting scientific advisory panel nominees to political litmus tests; nominating underqualified individuals or individuals with conflicts of interest; and ignoring or disbanding science advisory committees altogether.”
  • Why we care: “Federal scientists have a constitutional right to speak about their scientific research and the American public has a right to be informed of the findings of taxpayer supported research. Restrictions on scientists who report findings contrary to an administration’s preferred policies undermine these basic rights. These practices also contribute to a general misunderstanding of the findings of climate science and degrade our government’s ability to make effective policies on topics ranging from public health to agriculture to disaster preparation.”

http://oversight.house.gov/documents/20070130113153-55829.pdf

 

February 7, 2007

On February 7, 2007, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation heard testimony from distinguished scientists who study global climate change and civil servants to determine whether bureaucratic policies and procedures of the Bush Administration have hampered the rights of federally funded scientists to disseminate their works freely and openly.

Summaries of testimonies

Chairman Inouye (D-HI) : Chairman Inouye stated the reason for why freedom of expression is essential to our nation’s welfare. ” When scientists can present their ideas in a forum unfettered by politics, well crafted policies usually follow.” In support of this belief, Inouye offered the example of Dr. F. Sherwood Rowland whose work on the environmental effects of chloroflourocarbons or CFCs eventually led to the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty which stopped the widespread use of CFCs and helped reverse damage to the ozone layer.

  • In a nutshell : “We in Congress as well as decision makers within the regulatory agencies must examine and weigh the scientific evidence to guide changes in policies, laws, and regulations.¬† To make the best decisions, we need free access to unbiased scientific findings and conclusions because the quality of our decisions is highly dependent upon the science we use to make those decisions.¬† To deny federal scientists the right to speak, to change the findings of their work, or to deny the release of their work, basically creating an atmosphere of intimidation and fear, is a great disservice to the public.”
    • “Today’s hearing will examine these claims, which suggest that we have not always had unfettered access to climate change research data.”

http://commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Hearings.Statement&Statement_ID=184

Mr. Bill Brennan , Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Affairs, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration , Acting Chairman, Climate Change Science Program : Mr. Brennan denied allegations that his agency has censored the work of its scientists and spoke of safeguards being put in place to protect against such harms. He proceeded to put forth the Administration’s stance on global climate change.

The administration’s purported position on global warming : “The administration has been clear that climate change is a serious problem, the Earth is warming and humans are the leading cause. More research must be done to answer the many questions and uncertainties that remain in this field, such as the role aerosols and deep ocean currents play in regulating the climate, as well as further work on the relationship between climate frequency, distribution, and severity of extreme weather events, such as tropical cyclones and droughts.”

http://commerce.senate.gov/public/_files/Testimony_BillBrennan_NOAA_Brennan.pdf

Dr. Richard Anthes , President University Corporation for Atmospheric Research . Dr. Anthes reported on several of the consequences of budgetary cuts that NASA has suffered. In particular, he discussed how NASA has either cancelled or postponed indefinitely exploratory missions and programs that are essential to learning more about the progression of global climate change. All of these postponements and cutbacks have caused the United States to lose its place at the forefront of the study of Earth Sciences and Applications. To recapture this position, Dr. Anthes urged the committee to restore the funding to the programs, insisting that this can be accomplished in a fiscally responsible manner.

  • A sensible plan for change : “Our report recommends a path forward that restores U.S. leadership in Earth Science and Applications and averts the potential collapse of the system of environmental satellites.¬† As documented in our report, this can be accomplished in a fiscally responsible manner, and I urge the committee to see that it is accomplished.”

http://commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Hearings.Testimony&Hearing_ID=1812&Witness_ID=6486

Mr. Thomas Knutson , Research Meteorologist, Climate Dynamics and Prediction Group
Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory [GFDL] , National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA]
: Mr. Knutson explained how new bureaucratic policies have infringed on his and his colleagues’ ability to disseminate their research to the public.¬†Dr. Knutson went on to inform the committee of some patent forms of governmental oversight.

  • A subtler kind of censorship : “NOAA’s media policy issued in June 2004 requires prior notification of Public Affairs for media interviews involving policy relevant research such as mine.¬† This led to a number of missed opportunities for interviews, at times simply due to the additional hurdle and complexity of getting in touch or coordinating with Public Affairs people in Washington (for example evenings and weekends).¬† I and several of my colleagues at GFDL have been frustrated by this burden.¬† Some of us believe it has caused some reporters to steer away from GFDL scientists for interviews because of the various hurdles and time constraints.”
  • The elephant in the room : “Several of us at GFDL have had Public Affairs officers monitor some interviews, typically through phone conferencing. In one case a public affairs officer traveled from Washington to New Jersey to be in the room with me for a television interview.”
  • Bureaucratic gunk : “The impression I had (along with others at GFDL) is that at times NOAA Public Affairs was becoming more of an obstruction than a promoter of interaction between GFDL scientists and the media.”
    • Illustrations : “Examples of such interference that either others or I experienced included: ¬†cancelled press releases, requests for interviews that were never responded to (“i.e., pocket vetoes”), and being given guidelines for steering certain interview questions in directions that were not based on science considerations.”
  • Our words or no words : “On October 19, 2005, I received a media request to appear on the CNBC program “On the Money” where I had appeared several weeks earlier.¬† I contacted NOAA Public Affairs for approval.¬† A few minutes later I was called by a Public Affairs person and was quizzed for several minutes on what I planned to say on the program.¬† I was asked whether I thought there was a trend in Atlantic hurricane activity.¬† I gave a guarded response that, based on recently published work, there was some possibility that a trend was emerging.¬† I received a voicemail a few minutes later informing me that “About the CNBC interview tonight, I’m afraid it has been turned down.”
  • Sunlight is the best disinfectant : “From the time that Jim Hansen, and later other scientists and I, went public, I have experienced no further interference that I am aware of in communicating with the media.¬† GFDL’s unofficial, operational practice, shortly thereafter, has been to keep NOAA Public Affairs in Washington informed, but generally notify them after the fact about media contacts.”

http://commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Hearings.Testimony&Hearing_ID=1812&Witness_ID=6489

  • Dr. James Mahoney , former Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere U.S. Department of Commerce, Deputy Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atomospheric Administration [NOAA], and Director US Climate Change Science Program : Dr. Mahoney defended the Administration’s media policies by insinuating that the number of “incidents” is small relative to the number of media requests. More broadly speaking, his testimony addressed: ( 1 ) the background and evolution of NOAA’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration communication policy related to scientific research; ( 2 ) the peer review process required for scientific reports or conclusions to be officially released by NOAA; and ( 3 ) the scientific and general public review process required for scientific reports and conclusions being released by the Climate Change Science Program [CCSP].
  • No big deal : “My observation is that – in all large work forces – there will always be some small percentage of errors in communication. Many of these errors are inadvertent, and can usually be rectified quickly.¬† My personal observation is that there are occasional “intended errors” or misrepresentations that can occur within any organization and that illustrate the need for effective communications policies applicable to government scientific organizations.”
  • The grand defense : “NOAA’s communication policy over several years has aimed to reduce or eliminate errors and misrepresentations by ( 1 ) assuring appropriate internal scientific reviews before technical information is communicated; ( 2 ) asking scientists to coordinate their communication activities with the public affairs offices in the major elements of NOAA (to avoid “left hand – right hand” inconsistencies among various researchers).¬† Please note that the internal scientific reviews mentioned here are to be conducted by scientific peers, and not by political appointees.”

http://commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Hearings.Testimony&Hearing_ID=1812&Witness_ID=2146

Dr. Rick Piltz , former Senior Associate, U.S. Climate Change Science Program [CCSP] : Mr. Piltz testified about the heavy-handed distortion of scientific findings, which prompted him to resign from his post in protest. To illustrate this manipulation, Dr. Piltz recounted the Administration’s suppression of the National Assessment, a document evaluating changes in climate conditions across the different regions of the country and their impacts on select economic sectors.

  • Politics undermining science : “I came to the conclusion 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.”

 

  • Documented case of suppressing adverse science : “Despite the utility of the National Assessment, the Administration, most aggressively from the second half of 2002 onward, acted to essentially bury the National Assessment, i.e., by suppressing discussion of it by participating agencies for purposes of research planning by the Climate Change Science Program; suppressing references to it in published program documents including annual program reports to Congress; withdrawing support from the coordinated process of scientist-stakeholder interaction and assessment that had been initiated by the first National Assessment; and making clear that no second National Assessment would be undertaken.”
  • Reasons for suppression : “From my experience, observation, analysis of documentation, and personal communications with others in the program, I believe it is clear that the reasons for this were essentially political, and not based on scientific considerations.
    • My understanding at that point, which I believe was coming to be more widely shared, both inside and outside the program, was that the Administration was uncomfortable with the mainstream scientifically based communications suggesting the reality of human-induced climate change and the likelihood of adverse consequences.”
  • It rots from the top : “It is my understanding that the White House directed CCSP Director Mahoney to suppress the use of and references to the National Assessment in program planning and publications.”
    • “Mahoney later confirmed to Environmental Science & Technology , a journal of the American Chemical Society, that federal researchers were restricted from referring to the National Assessment ( Environmental Science & Technology Online , October 12, 2005).”
  • Political appointees at the helm : “Unlike the other representatives on the program’s interagency principals committee, the great majority of whom were career science program management professionals, CCSP Director Mahoney was a Senate-confirmed Presidential appointee, as the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Deputy Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and thus a political representative of the Administration.¬† On the matter of not citing or using the National Assessment, I believe it was well-understood by the agency principals that to challenge the chairman would, in effect, have been to challenge the White House – in particular CEQ Council on Environmental Quality.”
    • “It came to my attention that CEQ Chief of Staff Philip Cooney was extensively marking up reports in a manner that had the cumulative effect of adding an enhanced sense of scientific uncertainty about global warming and minimizing its likely consequences, while also deleting even minor references to the National Assessment.”
    • “In a memorandum dated October 28, 2002, he marked-up the first draft of the CCSP Strategic Plan after it was approved by CCSP agency principals and before it was released for NRC National Research Council review and public comment. Most of his roughly 200 text changes were incorporated in the review draft. A number of these changes in text relating to questions of climate science altered the content of the draft as it had been developed by federal science program professionals.”
      • “Taken in the aggregate, the changes had a cumulative effect of shifting the tone and content of an already quite cautiously-worded draft to create an enhanced sense of scientific uncertainty about climate change and its implications. The draft Strategic Plan was legitimately criticized by reviewers who charged that the CCSP had adopted a vocabulary with an exaggerated emphasis on scientific uncertainties. To my knowledge this CEQ mark-up was not shared with or vetted by CCSP principals or CCSP agency science program managers. The process was quintessentially non-transparent and, in my view, a policy-driven political interference in a key science program document.”
      • “CEQ is a White House policy office, not a science office.¬† In my view it was problematic from day one that CEQ officials, whose essential job was to advance the President’s policy and political position on global climate change, were at the table participating directly in the governance of the Climate Change Science.”
  • Self-censorship is an end result : “From my observation, a few examples of relatively heavy-handed interventions sufficed to send a message to the program leadership about White House political sensitivities.¬† Under those circumstances, I believe a kind of anticipatory self-censorship kicks in, and reports begin to be drafted with an eye to what will be able to obtain CEQ approval – which appeared to be the final step in the White House clearance process.”
  • Budgetary reductions on the horizon : “The Administration’s response to criticism on climate change is often to point to how much is spent on research. But, notwithstanding the importance that Administration officials purport to give to the issues addressed by the program, the Administration is now steadily reducing the budget request for the program.”

http://oversight.house.gov/documents/20070130113813-92288.pdf

Dr. F. Sherwood Rowland , Bren Research Professor, Chemistry and Earth System
School of Physical Sciences, University of California
: Mr. Brennan framed the traditional approach to scientific research and discussed how political policies have disrupted that process.

  • Scientific inquiry as it has been and should be : “Presentation of one’s work as one sees it is the bedrock of the scientific enterprise.¬† However, in the last several years, my scientific conversations have run into far too many instances in which the reports of the significance¬†of the work have been subsequently changed by others, often by persons with less, or even no, expertise in the subject at hand.”

http://commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Hearings.Testimony&Hearing_ID=1812&Witness_ID=6488

 

 

March 19, 2007

 

On March 19, 2007, the Oversight Committee heard testimony from scientists who study climate change and political appointees regarding allegations that the Bush Administration distorted the work of climatologists to deemphasize the risks and obscure the causes of climate change.

Summaries of testimonies

Chairman Waxman (D-CA) : In his opening statement, Chairman Waxman noted that the committee had received over eight boxes of documents from the White House Council on Environmental Quality [CEQ]. He characterized the documentation as disturbing, stating that “it suggests there may have been a concerted effort directed by the White House to mislead the public about the dangers of global climate change.” Waxman went on to allege that the White House attempted to dictate the type of information that federal scientists could tell the public and media about their work. Such practices carry dire consequences for the earth.

Why we need unfiltered information : “In addressing climate change, science should drive policy. The public and Congress need access to the best possible science to inform the policy debate about how to protect the planet from irreversible changes.”

http://oversight.house.gov/documents/20070319100637-25344.pdf

Mr. Philip Cooney , former Chief of Staff, White House Council on Environmental Quality : Mr. Cooney highlighted four main points in his testimony. First, that his reviews of federal budgetary and research planning documents on climate change were guided by the President’s stated strategy and research priorities. Second, that the documents that he reviewed as part of a well established interagency review process were not a platform for the presentation of original scientific research. Third, that his work at the White House Council on Environmental Quality was solely to promote the public policies of President Bush and his Administration. Finally, he stated that all three branches of the federal government considered climate change science–and acknowledged remaining uncertainties in our understanding. It is worth noting that the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit upholding the EPA’s decision not to regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act that he cites to support this premise has since been reversed by the US Supreme Court (See Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency) .

  • The thrust of his testimony : “My point is that the comments and recommendations that I offered in reviewing Executive Branch policy documents on climate change were consistent with the views and exploration of scientific knowledge that many others in all three branches of our government were undertaking.
    • “My most important point is that I offered my comments in good faith reliance on what I understood to be the most authoritative and current views on the state of scientific knowledge.”
  • Science and politics aligned : “I worked very hard to advance the administration’s stated goals and policies. I believe that those policies were grounded strongly in rationality.”
    • “The President’s policy itself was guided by the National Academy of Sciences report that his cabinet-level committee on climate change had specifically requested.”
    • “I had the authority and responsibility to review the documents in question, under an established interagency review process, and did so using my best judgment, based on the Administration’s stated research priorities as informed by the National Academy of Sciences.”
    • “I participated in the established review process with integrity, seeking merely to align Executive Branch reports with Administration policies.”
  • Distancing himself from his past : “The breadth of my managerial responsibilities as the agency’s chief of staff and many other aspects of my job, simply did not involve any connection to the interests of my former employer, the American Petroleum Institute. “

http://oversight.house.gov/documents/20070319103626-14718.PDF

Dr. James Hansen , Director, Goddard Institute for Space Studies , National Aeronautics and Space Administration : Dr. Hansen reported that he has noticed an increase in the degree of political interference with scientific testimony to Congress. He noted several incidents in which he and colleagues of his were hindered in communicating their works to the public. Lastly, he informed the Congressional Committee of how the White House retroactively reduced NASA’s Earth Science budget to halt scientific inquiry.

  • Censoring like no other : “interference communication of science to the public has been greater during the current administration than at any time in my career.”
    • “I have never seen anything approaching the degree to which information flow from scientists to the public has been screened and controlled as it has now.”
  • Hiding unfavorable scientific information : “One way to avoid bad news; stop the measurements.”
  • Cloaking the truth in supposed uncertainty : “the effect of the filtering of climate change science during the current Administration has been to make the reality of climate change less certain than the facts indicate and to reduce the concern about the relation of climate change to human-made greenhouse gas emissions.”

http://oversight.house.gov/documents/20070319105800-43018.pdf

Mr. George Deutsch , former public affairs officer, National Aeronautics and Space Administration , Mr. Deutsch testified about his journey from working for President Bush’s reelection campaign and the Presidential Inaugural Committee to NASA’s Public Affairs Office, as well as his subsequent departure from there following the discovery that he inaccurately noted on his resume that he had completed his baccalaureate degree. He justified the agency’s media relations guidelines on the ground that they encourage agency coordination and accurate reporting.

  • Censorship as a standard operating procedure : “Among those practices for responding to media requests were that Public Affairs Officers should listen to interviews as they’re being conducted, that superiors can do interviews in someone’s stead (known as the right of “first refusal”) and that NASA employees should report interview requests to the Public Affairs office.”
  • E-mail scandal : “I sent an e-mail to NASA web designer to Flint Wild, expressing my personal religious views.”
    • “Regardless of my personal views, the crux of the e-mail was that I asked Mr. Wild to refer to the big bang theory as a theory in his posting to the NASA Web site, in accordance with “AP style as written in the latest Associated Press Stylebook 2005.”
  • R√©sum√© scandal : “To the best of my recollection, I disclosed on various occasions, the fact that I had not completed my college degree.”
    • “I failed to update the r√©sum√© itself to convey that I was still one course shy of graduation.”

http://oversight.house.gov/documents/20070319103734-13686.pdf

 

Mr. James Connaughton , Chairman, White House Council on Environmental Quality [CEQ] : Mr. Connaughton reported that the Bush Administration had devoted approximately $12 billion to advancing world class climate change science since 2001. He also defended the Administration review process of scientific information by noting that Dr. James Mahoney, a Ph.D. scientist, who served as the Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere at the Department of Commerce had final approval over any revisions made by political appointees to the work of scientists. He quoted Dr. Mahoney as stating that “he had reviewed the reports and concluded that the content of those reports was scientifically sound.”

  • Scientific censorship is nothing new : “Reports, speeches and communications materials developed during the interagency policy review process have been a routine part of executive branch decision-making in both Democratic and Republican Administrations.”
  • The scope of Censorship : “The proposed edits ranged from corrections of grammatical errors to suggestions for insertions or deletions of text.”
  • The general position : “The edits proposed by CEQ did not miststate any specific scientific fact, but some of the proposed edits challenged the degree of confidence to be attached to various scientific statements.”
  • Towing the political line : “”The policy challenge is to act in a serious and sensible way, given the limits of our knowledge. While scientific uncertainties remain, we can begin now to address the factors that contribute to climate change””
  • Putting a good spin on a very bad thing : “The interagency review process included a diversity of agencies and officials from a variety of professional disciplines. The fact that Mr. Cooney was not a scientist is no more remarkable than the fact that innumerable other non scientists worked alongside scientist in the highly multi-disciplinary realm of environmental and energy policy.”

http://oversight.house.gov/documents/20070319130732-64027.pdf

Dr. Roy Spencer , Principal Research Scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, former Senior Scientist for Climate Studies at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center : Mr. Spencer testified that some level of political influence on government-funded climate science has always existed, and likely always will exist. ¬† Also worth noting is his zealous defense of the interagency review process on the basis that it keeps researchers from being too easily persuaded by data that confirms their preconceived notions or predictions. ¬† He devoted most of his testimony to advancing the minority perspective on global warming, claiming that the warming of the planet is not a historical anomaly, minimizing the attribution of current warmth to mankind, and questioning the causes of Earth’s Greenhouse Effect and the scientific models that advance the conventional wisdom.

  • Restrictive policies push good scientists away : “Partly because of those limits on what I could and could not say to the press on the subject of global warming, I voluntarily resigned from the government.”
  • Avoiding scientists’ personal biases : “Managers cannot simply give blanket approval to whatever the scientist wants to say just to avoid the impression of “muzzling the science.” This is one reason why agencies like NASA and NOAA need to retain some level of control over how their employees portray their science to the public.”
    • “Even the climate researchers themselves have biases that influence the direction they take their research.”
    • “Researchers tend to be more accepting of data that confirms their preconceived notions or political or social predilections.”
  • Balancing the sciences : “This committee now has the unique opportunity to help level the playing field for the scientific minority and make sure that the programs are not biased by desired political outcomes.”
  • Punching holes in the conventional wisdom : Even though globally averaged temperatures in recent decades have been unusually warm, there is no compelling evidence that they are either unprecedented in the last 1,000 years or attributed to human greenhouse gas emissions.
    • “The evidence for today’s global warmth being unusual for intergalacial conditions is nether extraordinary nor compelling.”
    • “Because it takes a higher level of complexity in any physical system to produce self-regulation and stabilization, such findings do not naturally flow out of the existing research”
  • Urging caution : “Given the extreme cost to humanity (especially the poor) that most economists claim will result from the restricting or otherwise penalizing the use of fossil fuels, a guiding principle for accepting claims of catastrophic global warming should be: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence .”
    • “This research is almost always biased toward the finding of climate destabilizing mechanisms rather than climate stabilizing mechanisms. “
    • “Given the immense cost (especially to the poor) of proposed carbon control policies that most economists foresee; it is not helpful for tax dollars to be funneled in a research direction that unfairly favors certain political or policy outcomes.”
    • “Only through a large dose of either faith or ignorance can one believe current climate models’ predictions of global warming.”

http://oversight.house.gov/documents/20070320152338-19776.pdf

 

March 28, 2007

On March 28, 2007, the House Committee on Science and Technology 1 heard testimony from representatives of academia, public relations, and lobbyists to investigate whether forces from big business, the media, and politics have coalesced to obfuscate the debate on global climate change.

Summaries of testimonies

Chairman Brad Miller, (D-NC) 2: In his opening statement, Chairman Miller alleged that the Bush Administration, and the oil and gas industries have lent more credence to minority views regarding global warming than is warranted by the science supporting these positions.

  • The conventional wisdom : “Peer-reviewed studies by climate scientists were almost unanimous in finding that global warming was real and that greenhouse gas emissions were a major cause of it.”
  • The perceived debate : “In the popular press, the question was treated as controversial among scientists.”
    • “To the average citizen, it looked like a real debate between scientific peers.”
    • “The approved agency spokesman sometimes treated as outlandish, as urban legend, the considered view of most scientists at the agency.”
  • Tipping the scale : “According to the testimony we will hear today, since 2001 the Bush administration has been part of the effort to manipulate public debate about climate change.”
    • “The Bush administration at the urging of the oil industry and gas industry, muzzled government scientists whose research supported the consensus view of climate scientists, adding to the public impression that there was substantial doubt among scientists.”

http://science.house.gov/publications/OpeningStatement.aspx?OSID=733

Dr. James McCarthy 3, Alexander Agasiz Professor of Biological Oceanography at Harvard University : Dr. McCarthy described the process by which scientists have reached a robust and consistent position on our understanding of climate change and the threats it poses. He then summarized recent reports by the Union of Concerned Scientists: one chronicles how Exxon Mobil manufactured uncertainty on climate change, and the other one describes how federal climate science has been systematically manipulated and suppressed. He closed with recommendations meant to fix the stated problems.

  • Cohorts in distortion : “It is now clear that for a number of years, both Bush administration political appointees and a network of organizations funded by the world’s largest private energy company, ExxonMobil, have sought to distort, manipulate and suppress climate science, so as to confuse the American public about the reality and urgency of the global warming problem, and thus forestall a strong policy response. Unfortunately, these efforts have misled many individuals, including elected officials, to believe that the human influences on climate change are either negligible, or of little consequence.”
  • The correct process : “Science is an evolving body of knowledge, which is always open to challenge and new ideas. But there is a process by which this occurs, one that gives these challenges and new ideas credibility and legitimacy. This is through publication in peer reviewed scientific journals.”
  • Unwarranted support : “Despite [the] strong scientific understanding, media coverage and political debate on global warming science often give undue credence to the views of little known organizations and statements by individuals purporting to be experts on climate science.”
  • Smoke, Mirrors and Hot Air: How ExxonMobil Uses Big Tobacco Tactics to Manufacture Uncertainty on Climate Science” : This report documents how ExxonMobil, the world’s largest energy company, has for years underwritten a sophisticated disinformation campaign whose aim has been to deceive the public and policymakers about the reality of global warming.”
  • Two peas in a pod : “Like the tobacco industry in previous decades, ExxonMobil has:
    • Raised doubts about even the most indisputable scientific evidence
    • Funded an array of front organizations to create the appearance of a broad platform for a tight-knit group of vocal climate change contrarians who misrepresent peer-reviewed scientific findings
    • Attempted to portray its opposition to action as a positive quest for “sound science rather than business self-interest
    • Used its access to the Bush administration to block federal policies and shape government communications on global warming. ”
      • “As the report shows, Exxon Mobil even drew upon key personnel who had implemented big tobacco’s tactics.”
  • The problem : “Science has been increasingly tailored to reflect political goals rather than scientific fact.”
  • The solution : “I urge Members of Congress to draw the scientific information needed to formulate wise policy responses to impending climate change from bona fide scientific organizations and member scientists who publish in the scientific literature, and to assiduously avoid being influenced by the protestations of small but vocal groups, and individuals funded by ExxonMobil and other corporations and special interests for the express purpose of casting doubt on a robust body of climate science.”

http://democrats.science.house.gov/Media/File/Commdocs/hearings/2007/oversight/28mar/mccarthy_testimony.pdf

Sheldon Rampton , Research Director, Center for Media and Democracy : In his testimony, Mr. Rampton highlighted the political incentives for distorting scientists’ findings and analogized the distortion of global climate change to that of tobacco and its effects decades earlier.

  • Motive for distorting science : “The very prestige of science…makes it an attractive tool for manipulating public opinion.”
    • “It turns out that the prestige and power of science makes scientists, academics, doctors and other professional experts very useful third party spokespersons if they can be recruited for the purpose.”
  • ¬† A lesson from the past : “Clear scientific evidence showing the link between smoking and lung cancer first emerged in the early 1950s. Public recognition of the extent of the hazard was delayed for decades due to aggressive public relations by the tobacco industry.”
    • “What is needed, therefore, is greater public transparency regarding the sponsorship of science and of organizations that claim to speak on scientific matters.”

http://democrats.science.house.gov/Media/File/Commdocs/hearings/2007/oversight/28mar/rampton_testimony.pdf

Tarek F. Massarani , Government Accountability Project : Mr. Massarani’s discussed his organization’s report that demonstrates how policies and practices have increasingly restricted the flow of scientific information emerging from publicly-funded climate change research. According to him, this phenomenon has affected the media’s ability to report on the science, public officials’ capacity to respond with appropriate policies and the public’s grasp of an environmental issue with profound consequences for our future.

  • The findings : “The investigation found no incidents of direct interference with climate change research.”