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Advocacy groups say U.S. pressured scientists to play down risks of global warming

Source:  Copyright 2007, Associated Press
Date:  January 30, 2007
Original URL: Status DEAD


Two private advocacy groups told a congressional hearing Tuesday that climate scientists at seven government agencies say they have been subjected to political pressure aimed at playing down the threat of global warming.

The groups presented a survey that shows two in five of the 279 climate scientists who responded to a questionnaire complained that some of their scientific papers had been edited in a way that changed their meaning. Nearly half of the 279 said in response to another question that at some point they had been told to delete reference to "global warming" or "climate change" from a report.

The questionnaire was sent by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a private advocacy group. The report also was based on "firsthand experiences" described in interviews with the Government Accountability Project, which helps government whistleblowers, lawmakers were told.

The findings were presented as Rep. Henry Waxman, a Democrat, opened a hearing by his Oversight and Government Reform Committee into allegations of political interference as the Democratic-controlled Congress steps up its examination of the Bush administration's climate policy.

At the same time, Sen. Barbara Boxer, a Democrat, sought to gauge her colleague's sentiment on climate change. She opened a meeting where senators were to express their views on global warming in advance of a broader set of hearings on the issue.

Among those scheduled to make comments were two presidential hopefuls — Sens. John McCain,a Republican, and Barack Obama, a Democrat. Both lawmakers favor mandatory reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, something opposed by President George W. Bush, who argues such requirements would threaten economic growth.

The intense interest about climate change comes as some 500 climate scientists gather in Paris this week to put the final touches on a United Nations report on how warming, as a result of a growing concentration of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, is likely to affect sea levels.

They agree sea levels will rise, but not on how much. Whatever the report says when it comes out at week's end, it is likely to influence the climate debate in Congress.

At the Waxman hearing, the two advocacy groups said their research — based on the questionnaires, interviews and documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act — revealed "evidence of widespread interference in climate science in federal agencies."

The groups report described largely anonymous claims by scientists that their findings at times at been misrepresented, that they had been pressured to change findings and had been restricted on what they were allowed to say publicly.

The survey involved scientists across the government from NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency to the department's of Agriculture, Energy, Commerce, Defense and Interior. In all the government employees more than 2,000 scientists who spend at least some of their time on climate issues, the report said.

Waxman has asked the White House and the Environmental Protection Agency to provide more than three dozen documents related to their climate programs. Among them are papers involving attempts "to manage or influence statements made by government scientists" to the media on climate change.

Since Democrats took control of Congress this month, there has been a rush to examine the administration's climate programs and to introduce legislation aimed at reducing the risks of climate change. Many scientists agree that the flow of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, much of them man-made from burning fossil fuels, is warming the earth.

Boxer has offered the most aggressive bill, one that is touted as reducing these greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by mid-century.

Bush in his recent State of the Union address acknowledged that climate change needs to be addressed, but he continues to oppose mandatory emission caps, arguing that industry through development of new technologies can deal with the problem at less cost.

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