Climate Scientists See Intimidation in Letter from House Energy Chair
- Climate Scientists See Intimidation in Letter from House Energy Chair
July 13, 2005
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 their research.
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 with." 
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 IPCC report."
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
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
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.