Fw: Climate Scientists See Intimidation in Letter from House Energy Chair
- July 13, 2005
Climate Scientists See Intimidation in Letter from House Energy Chair
Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton, powerful chair of the House Energy and
Commerce Committee, has created a stir among many of the nation's leading
climate scientists over what they call an "unprecedented" inquiry into
In late June, Barton sent a letter to three scientists whose findings
show that global temperatures have increased dramatically since 1900. 
The letter calls on them to provide all the raw data that contributed to
their research. Barton has also called on the National Science Foundation
for a list of "all grants and other funding" given for climate research.
Critics within the scientific community assert that Barton's request is a
blatant political maneuver to discourage scientists from pursuing studies
that might verify the link between global warming and human activity.
Michael Bender, a professor of geosciences at Princeton University and a
member on the board of atmospheric sciences and climate at the U.S.
National Academies told Environmental Science and Technology, "I feel
there is an attempt to intrude on the work of scientists...government is
attempting to intimidate scientists that have findings they don't agree
At issue is research conducted mainly by Michael Mann, an assistant
professor in the department of environmental sciences at the University
of Virginia. Mann's "hockey stick study," as it is known in the field,
shows that global temperatures were relatively stable up until 1900, when
the planet suddenly warmed dramatically: on a graph the upward spike
looks like a hockey stick.  Many scientists cite this study to confirm
that global warming exists, and is abetted by human activity. The Mann
paper played an integral role in a 2001 report by the UN International
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Despite the fact that the paper has undergone intensive peer review and
is widely regarded as a fundamental study on climate change, Barton has
called for all the raw data and the computer code Mann used in his study.
Growing numbers within the scientific community assert that Barton is not
actually interested in assessing how Mann reached his conclusions. Gavin
Schmidt, a climate scientist at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space
Studies, told BushGreenwatch, "Barton's request does not reflect an
effort to further understand the science, but an attempt to discredit the
Harvard Professor John Holdren, president-elect of American Association
for the Advancement of Science, says numerous separate studies have
confirmed Mann's findings.
Princeton's Bender told BushGreenwatch that such a request has had a
ripple effect in the climate science community, "I feel attacked, and I
feel as if climate change science and scientists are being attacked."
Emphasizing that he "would not bow down to such intimidation," Bender
warned that the impact of the Barton request "has the potential to lead
some scientists, particularly scientists feeling vulnerable financially
or otherwise, to bend their work in a way that might make it conform
better to the views of aggressive politicians who influence funding
decisions and have the power to carry out investigations outside the
common practices of journals, funding agencies, and universities."
In the letter requesting raw data from Mann, Barton predicates his
skepticism of Mann's results on a February article in the Wall Street
Journal, which cites the work of Stephen McIntyre, a former director of
several mineral exploration companies, and economist Ross McKitrick. 
McIntyre and McKitrick claim that Mann's study is rife with
methodological errors and data flaws.
McIntyre and McKitrick's dispute with Mann's work was published in a
little-known journal called Energy & Environment, which according to
Journal Citation Reports is found at only 25 institutions worldwide, and
is not included on the Journal Citation Reports list of impact factors
for the top 6,000 peer-reviewed journals. The article was also published
in Geophysical Research Letters.
McIntyre and McKitrick's study has received substantial criticism from
several prominent climate scientists. NASA's Schmidt told BushGreenwatch,
"Most of their study has been shown to be wrong or irrelevant."
McKitrick is a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute, a free-market
oriented Canadian think tank that received $60,000 from ExxonMobil in
2003.  Both McIntyre and McKitrick are listed as "experts" for the
George C. Marshall institute, which has received $515,000 from ExxonMobil
since 1998. 
Barton, who will chair the upcoming House-Senate conference on the energy
bill, also has close ties to the energy industry. Since 1987, he has
received $1.84 million from the oil, gas, coal, nuclear, electricity and
chemical industries -- more than any other member of the House.
Barton's request for Mann's data comes at a time when the Bush
Administration has been consistently accused of downplaying science on
 Rep. Joe Barton's website.
 "Congressman unmoved by peer review, asks to see raw data,"
Environmental Science & Technology Online News, Jul. 6, 2005.
 Barton website, op. cit.
 Fact Sheet: Fraser Institute, Exxonsecrets.org.
 Fact Sheet: George C. Marshall Institute, Exxonsecrets.org.