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Lawmakers read climate e-mails on House floor

Thu., Dec. 3, 2009

Inslee
Inslee

Republicans, scientists differ on significance of comments

WASHINGTON – House Republicans pointed to controversial e-mails leaked from climate scientists and said it was evidence of corruption. Top administration scientists looking at the same thing found no such sign, saying it doesn’t change the fact that the world is warming.

The e-mails from a British university’s climate center were obtained by computer hackers and posted online about two weeks ago. Climate change skeptics contend the messages reveal that researchers manipulated and suppressed data and stifled dissent, and conservative bloggers are dubbing it “Climategate.”

In the first Capitol Hill airing of the issue, House Republicans on Wednesday read excerpts from at least eight of the e-mails, saying they showed the world needs to re-examine experts’ claims that the science on warming is settled. One e-mail from 2003 was by John Holdren, then of Harvard University and now the president’s science adviser.

The controversy led Phil Jones to step aside as head of the climate research unit at the University of East Anglia, the source of the e-mail exchanges. The university is investigating the matter. Penn State University also is looking into e-mails by its own researcher, Michael Mann. House Republicans asked for a separate hearing or investigation into the issue but were rebuffed by Democrats.

“These e-mails show a pattern of suppression, manipulation and secrecy that was inspired by ideology, condescension and profit,” said U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.

The science is proper and this is about a small fraction of research on the issue, said Holdren, a physicist who has studied climate change.

“The e-mails do nothing to undermine the very strong scientific consensus … that tells us the earth is warming, that warming is largely a result of human activity,” said another government scientist Jane Lubchenco. A marine biologist and climate researcher, she heads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The e-mails don’t negate or even deal with data from NOAA and NASA, which keep independent climate records and show dramatic warming, Lubchenco told members of the House global warming committee.

Among the messages that Sensenbrenner read was one from Jones, the East Anglia scientist, in which he wrote about a “trick of adding in the real temps” in an exchange about long-term climate trends. Holdren responded that the word “trick” did not mean manipulation of data, but about a “clever way” to tackle a problem. Another Jones e-mail read, “I would like to see the climate change happen so the science could be proved right.”

Defending the scientists, Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., said somehow the e-mails aren’t stopping the Arctic from warming, the oceans from getting more acidic, and glaciers from melting. He sarcastically asked Holdren and Lubchenco if they were part of a global conspiracy that even included fictional movie villain organizations. Holdren played along, saying he was not.



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