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Administration Suppressing Climate Change Data – US Rep Waxman January 30, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Politics, US News, White House.

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)–The chairman of a U.S. House panel accused the administration of President George W. Bush of suppressing documents Tuesday that he said would likely show senior White House officials attempted to mislead the public debate about climate change.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., made the accusation at a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The panel is investigating allegations of political interference with the government’s climate-change scientists.

To back his claim, Waxman said the committee had received “virtually nothing” from the administration, despite repeated requests for information.

Kristen Hellmer, a spokeswoman at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said the White House has been working “really cooperatively” with the committee. She said it has given the committee 10,000 documents over the past six months and expects to produce more. It has also made a large volume of deliberative documents available to the committee for review, she added.

“We’re hoping to continue to work with the committee so the committee can get the information it needs to perform its oversight duties,” said Hellmer.

In a report submitted during the hearing by the science-based nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists and the group of government whistle-blowers known as the Government Accountability Project, the groups found more than 100 climate scientists at the National Center for Atmospherhic Research and various federal agencies have faced political pressure to change or edit their scientific findings on climate change.

According to the report, the groups surveyed more than 300 federal scientists and found that more than half said they had personally experienced one or more incidents of political interference with their scientific findings on global warming within the past five years.

Additionally, about 43% perceived or experienced changes or edits during review that altered the meaning of scientific findings.

The ranking Republican on the committee, Tom Davis, R-Va., said he also “remained disappointed at the lackluster production of these documents.”

He added, however, “I’m concerned this morning that the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction…that we’ve gone from legitimate conversations about politicizing science to a potentially dangerous dynamic that not only condones but heralds the suppression of scientific dissent.”

“We’re seeing a dangerous trend towards inflammatory and counter-productive hyperbole,” Davis added.

Waxman said the committee wasn’t trying “to obtain state secrets or documents that could affect our immediate national security, we are simply seeking answers to whether the White House’s political staff is inappropriately censoring scientists.”

But the committee chairman said that after repeatedly narrowing the information requested and extending deadlines for around six months, only nine non-public documents were submitted to the panel late Monday evening.

Waxman warned that he would “invoke the Committee’s broad powers” if necessary, “insisting on Congress’ right to receive relevant information.”

As a result of a review last year, the chairman said “we know that the White House possesses documents that that contain evidence of an attempt by senior administration officials to mislead the public by injecting doubt into the science of global warming and minimizing the potential dangers.”

Waxman said the committee sent a letter to the administration Tuesday about the requested documents, “and to urge the White House to reconsider the confrontational approach it is now taking.”

One of the key witnesses who testified before the panel included Rick Piltz, a former administration official on the U.S. Climate Change Science Program who resigned because he concluded “politicization of climate science communication by the current administration was undermining the credibility and integrity of the Climate Change Science Program.”

“The administration was acting to impede forthright communication of the state of climate science and its implications for society,” Piltz said.

Waxman also castigated the administration for hiring a former American Petroleum Institute lobbyist as a top official for the administration’s climate change science program.

Drew Shindell, a top climate researcher at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Sciences, said administration officials had repeatedly delayed and changed the publication of a key piece of climate change research.

After asking about the delays and changes, Shindell testified that he was told by the administration officials, “the releases were being delayed because two political appointees and the White House are now reviewing all climate-related press releases.” He said that the title of his report was changed several times and progressively “softened.”

Another witness, Roger Pielke from the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, said his research showed the administration had clearly politicized its science, but wasn’t an anomaly.

He said politics and science had always mixed, that “scientific cherry-picking and mischaracterization” was a part of politics, and “the politicization of science has itself become politicized.” He even cited the chairman’s witness invitations for Tuesday’s hearings as evidence of the use of scientific data for political ends.

Ranking Republican member Davis asked: “Should it really surprise anyone that leadership at federal agencies manages information in pursuit of their interests or agenda?”

Congress is considering several proposals to cut greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change, with some legislation more severe than others. While the administration supports a voluntary, research-based approach to develop new technology to cut greenhouse gases, Democratic proposals include a mandatory market-based, cap-and-trade system that would limit companies’ emissions and allow them to buy and sell emission credits. The administration fears such a system might harm the economy, put U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage, and be based on inconclusive evidence.

Democrats argue the evidence of a link between human activities, greenhouse gases and climate change is overly abundant and that the issue must be addressed through legislation now before climate change becomes catastrophically disastrous, both environmentally and economically.

By Ian Talley, Dow Jones Newswires


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