Environmental News Archive

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Us Climate Policy A Hot Potato

31 Jan 2007 (TODAY)

Congress examines claims that officials edited scientists' take on

WASHINGTON - Two private advocacy groups say they have found evidence of
political pressure on government climate scientists in seven federal
agencies to downplay the threat of global warming.

Their report was expected to be presented to a House of Representatives
committee yesterday as the Democratic-controlled Congress steps up its
examination of climate policy in the Bush administration.

In preparations for yesterday's hearing by the House Oversight and
Government Reform Committee, its chairman Henry Waxman asked the White
House and the Environmental Protection Agency to provide more than three
dozen documents related to their climate programmes.

Among the documents sought were any effort by the White House Council on
Environmental Quality "to manage or influence statements made by
government scientists" to the media on climate change.

Also called to testify was a former senior official of the office that
coordinates the governments climate programmes. That official, Mr Rick
Piltz, quit his job in 2005, charging that scientists' climate documents
were being edited and toned down by political appointees.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, a private advocacy group, and the
Government Accountability Project, a legal-assistant group that represents
whistle-blowers, earlier said they would present "new evidence of
suppression and manipulation of climate science".

The groups said their findings cover seven federal agencies and contain
information about "first-hand experiences" by government climate
scientists and workers.

Mr Waxman was said to be particularly interested in reports of activities
involving climate science at the White House Council on Environmental
Quality and at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Allegations of political pressure have been at the centre of a controversy
involving Mr James Hansen, director of the Goddard Institute for Space
Studies and one of the country's top experts on climate change.

Mr Hansen has accused the space agency of trying to keep him from speaking
publicly about global warming.

Meanwhile, Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer was holding an open meeting
for her Senate colleagues to express their views on climate change.

Among those scheduled to comment are two presidential hopefuls, Republican
John McCain and Democratic Barack Obama, who favour mandatory reductions
of greenhouse gas emissions, which President George W Bush opposes.

Mr Bush has argued that such requirements would threaten economic growth.

Since Democrats took control of Congress, there has been a rush to
introduce climate legislation. Ms Boxer has offered the most aggressive
Bill, which is promoted as capable of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by
80 per cent by mid-century.

The Obama-McCain Bill, co-sponsored by Independent Senator Joe Lieberman,
would cut emissions by two-thirds by 2050. - AP