Senators Request Inquiry Into White House Global Warming Activities

WASHINGTON, DC, October 2, 2006 (ENS) - A group of 14 senators has called for an investigation of allegations the Bush administration has repeatedly interfered with federal scientists who have tried to publish research or speak to the media about the reality and impacts of global warming. The senators sent letters Friday to the inspector generals of NASA and the U.S. Commerce Department, which oversees the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), requesting formal investigations into the claims.

"These activities do a disservice to the American public and are delaying a rational and comprehensive response to the very grave and real threat of global warming," the letter said. "In light of these and other troubling reports, we respectfully request that your office conduct a full and thorough investigation into the suppression of science and censorship of scientists at these government agencies."

The letter was sent by 13 Democrats and the Senate's lone Independent, James Jeffords of Vermont.

It cites a report published last week by the journal "Nature" that detailed allegations the administration blocked publication of federal research compiled by NOAA scientists that suggested global warming contributing to the frequency and intensity of hurricanes.


President George Bush's global warming policy has been frought with allegations that officials have tried to suppress information linking climate change to human emissions of greenhouse gases. (Photo courtesy White House)

The administration has strongly denied allegations that it has interfered with scientists regarding global warming. In response to last week's article by Nature, NOAA officials said the report in question was an internal document and was blocked because it took a policy position on global warming. But the senators who signed the letter are unconvinced.

"We strongly believe that research paid for with taxpayer funds should be published, disseminated and debated, rather than suppressed because it does not support the stated positions of the administration," the letter said. "Unfortunately, this recent incident seems to be only the latest in a growing list of actions taken by this administration to conceal legitimate and scientifically sound findings that do not fit the President's stated ideological preferences."

The letter notes that political appointees at NOAA apparently barred NOAA scientist and weather expert Tom Knutson from speaking to reporters last year because he has published studies that links global warming to hurricane strength.

That allegation is supported by internal agency emails, released last week by Representative Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, that suggest political officials denied a request by CNBC for an interview with Knutson because he had projected an increase in hurricane strength due to global warming. In February, Knutson complained in an interview with the "Wall Street Journal" that he felt censored by the administration.

The letter also cites reports that NASA scientist James Hansen, a world-renowned expert on climate change, was prevented by political appointees from speaking to the media after delivering a lecture in which he concluded that greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced in order to slow global warming.

In addition, it mentions an April article by the "Washington Post" that include interviews with NOAA scientists and contractors who disclosed that not only had administration officials criticized them for speaking on global warming policy, but had removed references to global warming from "their reports, news releases and conference Web sites."


NASA scientist James Hansen is one of the federal scientists who has complained of political interference from the White House. (Photo courtesy Earth Institute)

"Global warming is a serious threat to the security and health of the entire planet," said Senator Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat and one of the 14 who signed the letter. "Instead of demonstrating real leadership, the Bush administration continues to wave the ideological right wing flag as they wage their war against facts, figures and reason."

The other Democratic senators who signed onto the letter are: Harry Reid of Nevada, Tom Carper of Delaware, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, John Kerry of Massachusetts, Maria Cantwell of Washington, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Barbara Boxer of California, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Richard Durbin of Illinois, Dianne Feinstein of California, and Barbara Mikulski of Maryland.

The letter adds to pressure on the administration for its global warming policy. Last month the House Government Reform Committee called on the White House to release a slew of documents related to its review and revision of public climate change documents.

The committee said it is particularly interested in the work of Phillip Cooney, the former chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). Cooney, a former lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute, made dramatic changes to official reports on climate change to downplay scientific findings on the causes and impacts of global warming. He resigned in June 2005 after media reports of his role in editing scientific reports on climate change, and took a position with oil giant Exxon-Mobil.

New allegations of political interference in climate research also were reported Monday in the "Newark Star-Ledger."

NOAA scientists at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in New Jersey, including Knutson, told the paper that political appointees have blocked press releases and a position paper that reviewed global warming studies.

According to scientists interviewed for the story, the releases and the position paper included research linking global warming to stronger hurricanes, as well as predictions that continued warming would increase droughts and floods.