GOP lawmakers rip 'biased' NASA scientist on warming; 'Free speech is subject to policy'
A hearing in Congress over the editing of scientific work to downplay global warming's impact is heating up, the Los Angeles Times reports.
"Government scientists, armed with copies of heavily edited reports, charged Monday that the Bush administration and its political appointees had soft-pedaled their findings on climate change," writes Nicole Gaouette for the Times. "The accusations led Democrats and Republicans at the congressional hearing to accuse each other of censorship, smear tactics and McCarthyism."
Democrats probed a lobbyist for the oil industry who was hired by the Bush administration to review climate documents and who, Gauoette says, "made hundreds of edits that the lawmakers said minimized the impact of global warming." Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) called the lobbyist a "spin doctor."
For their part, Republicans hammered a NASA director testifying about pressure from the White House, "accusing him of political bias, of politicizing his work and of ignoring uncertainties in climate change science."
Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT) issued a startling rebuke to the NASA official, disputing his assertion that taxpayer-funded scientists are entitled to speak freely.
"Free speech is not a simple thing and is subject to and directed by policy," Cannon said, according to the Times.
The hearing, being conducted by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), "was the latest effort to challenge what the Democratic congressional majority sees as the Bush administration's unchecked use of power," writes Gaouette.
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To support their charges Monday, the Democrats produced hundreds of pages of legal depositions, exhibits and e-mail exchanges between administration officials. The paper trail illustrated how officials with no scientific training shaped the administration's climate change message and edited global warming reports, inserting doubt in the place of definitive statements and diminishing the role people play in the planet's rising temperatures.
Waxman's committee received more than eight boxes of papers from the White House Council on Environmental Quality that he said provided disturbing indications of political interference.
"There may have been a concerted effort directed by the White House to mislead the public about the dangers of global climate change," said Waxman, who also cited the administration practice of "controlling what federal scientists could say to the public and the media about their work."
"It would be a serious abuse if senior White House officials deliberately tried to defuse calls for action by ensuring that the public heard a distorted message about the risks of climate change," Waxman said.
One example showed how a report originally said the U.S. National Research Council had concluded that "greenhouse gases are accumulating in the atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures to rise and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise."