Thu, Feb 01, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Scientists faced pressure to play down warming


Federal scientists have been pressured to play down global warming, advocacy groups testified on Tuesday at the Democrats' first investigative hearing since taking control of Congress.

The hearing focused on allegations that the White House has micromanaged the government's climate programs for years and has closely controlled what scientists were allowed to tell the public.

"It appears there may have been an orchestrated campaign to mislead the public about climate change," said Democratic Republic Henry Waxman, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He also is a critic of the administration of US President George W. Bush environmental policies, including its views on climate.

Climate change also was a leading topic in the Senate, where presidential contenders for next year lined up at a hearing called by Senator Barbara Boxer, also a Democrat. They expounded, at times trying to outdo each other, on why they believed Congress must act to reduce heat-trapping "greenhouse" gases.

"This is a problem whose time has come," Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, widely considered the early Democratic front-runner in the presidential race, proclaimed.

"This is an issue over the years whose time has come," echoed Republican Senator John McCain.

Democratic Senator Barack Obama said "for decades, far too many have ignored the warning" about climate change. "Will we look back at today and say this was the moment we took a stand?"

At the House hearing, two private advocacy groups produced a survey of 279 government climate scientists in which many said they had been subjected to political pressure aimed at minimizing the climate threat. Their complaints ranged from a challenge to using the phrase "global warming" to raising uncertainty on issues on which most scientists basically agree, to keeping scientists from talking to the media.

The survey and separate interviews with scientists have "brought to light numerous ways in which US federal climate science has been filtered, suppressed and manipulated in the last five years," Francesca Grifo, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told the committee.

Drew Shindell, a climate scientist with NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said climate scientists frequently have been dissuaded from talking to the media about their research, although NASA's restrictions have been eased.

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