Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Yesterday was the first hearing by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee under the new Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA). The topic of the hearing was political interference in the work of government climate change scientists -- the exact subject of the scientist survey and report we've been frantically working on for the past several months. Since my boss was called as one of the four witnesses, we took the opportunity to release our report and call for an end to interference in the work government scientists.

We only found out about the hearing last Monday, so basically my life for the past 9 days has been completely consumed by the tasks of (1) finishing the report, (2) getting it designed and printed, (3) taking care of the 637 billion other things needed for a successful hearing and report release. So after all those long hours, it's nice that the hearing was a success. The Democrats on the committee were all strong supporters of our position on this issue, and most of the handful of Republicans who showed up were fairly moderate.

I say 'most' because Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) led off with an ad hominem attack on UCS and followed that up with a weak attempt to discredit the methodology of our survey. The National Review decided to repeat this critique in a blog post labeling us the "Union of Junk Scientists." Heh. I would rebut this argument, but Chris Mooney has already hit the nail on the head as to why this attack entirely misses the point (see here and here). So goes the political theater.

Anyway, the report and the hearing got a ton of media coverage -- most of it pretty positive. Apparently my face appeared on CNN for a few seconds, wahoo! The story got picked up by AP, Washington Post, New York Times, LA Times, US News and World Report, San Francisco Chronicle, and Chicago Tribune among others. Michael, Francesca and Tarek also did interviews for several local TV affiliates.

You can see the video of the entire hearing by clicking here. That's me sitting behind Francesca and occassionally passing her notes - you have to scroll ahead for a long time to see me since there were over 70 minutes of opening statements. And beware: it goes on for almost 4 hours. There's also a few snippets up on You Tube. A few interesting blog reactions about hurricanes and cherry-picking can be found from Roger Pielke Jr. (the 4th witness suggested by the Republican side) and Real Climate. If you're interested in reading the report (titled Atmosphere of Pressure and co-authored by the Government Accountability Project) it can be downloaded here along with more information of the investigation and other incidents of political interference in science.

I'll post more about the actual content of the hearing at some point, but for starters it's a huge step in the right direction that it happened at all. Waxman appears to be a great ally on the issue of scientific integrity. The next step is definitely to push for actual reforms at federal agencies that protect scientists basic rights and let them get back to the job we're paying them to do.


Anonymous said...

Yes, actually caught the end of this hearing or a replay of it after getting home from work. I did catch Darrell Issa attacking the UCS as more of an advocacy group than scientists and attacking the survey itself, that only received a 19% response, if I remember correctly. I thought Dr. Grifo handled each point very well, especially the 19% rate. The fact that any scientist would respond to such a survey at all is very disturbing and reflects a need to take a hard look at who is trying to put the spin on and for what purpose. “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!!!”

Anonymous said...

Dan and I watched it and found it very interesting for many reasons. I loved seeing you! We also saw you during the Today Show's coverage of the hearing. Dan said you looked like the scientist in a movie who warns everyone that the asteroid is coming. :)

Issa was an idiot. The exchange about whether Dr. Pielke could/did review the report was Daily Show-worthy.

Unknown said...

What was the Issa thing about the Clinton administration? I could not follow that riff at all. And the Vietnam War thing. Please!


t said...

Hi all - thanks for the comments :)

Mom: I need to go back to the video to really address Issa's comments about the Clinton admin. I'm not sure but I think Rep. Issa was confused about some aspect of the National Climate Assessment. This was a scientific document that described the impact of climate change on the US. It was released in 2000 by Clinton and was immediately the subject of a lawsuit by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who sought to prohibit it from being used as a basis for any policies. The lawsuit was dismissed 'with prejudice' in 2003. Piltz's testimony was partly on how the NA was totally buried by the Bush admin.

Regarding the Vietnam War comment - it's clearly a case of attacking the messenger when you can't refute the message. Co-workers who have been with UCS longer than I tell me it's a common right-wing attack on UCS. For example, see this website.

Of course, I would say opposition to the Vietnam War should be a mark in our favor :) Anyway, will post more on these questions soon...