Thursday, March 29, 2007

House Hearing On Distorting The Science Of Climate Change

Mar 28: Members of the House Committee on Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing entitled, Shaping the Message, Distorting the Science: Media Strategies to Influence Public Policy. Subcommittee members questioned industry efforts and attempts within science agencies to control which Federal scientists get access to the media and how media campaigns are mounted to confuse the public. Subcommittee Chairman Brad Miller (D-NC) led the hearing which "used climate change science as a case study to relate how the deception works." According to a release, from the public’s perspective, climate change news stories often become little more than two “experts” staking out opposite positions. The fact that one “expert” may be articulating a consensus scientific position that represents the work of thousands of active researchers, and the other “expert” is paid to be a professional skeptic is not obvious to the average citizen.

Chairman Miller said, "Industry often promotes made-for-television 'experts' who are supported by financial contributors that can be traced back primarily to the oil and gas industry. Few of these experts do any original research, many are not even trained in the fields in which they claim expertise, most are readily available for the press and specialize in attacking as 'junk science' careful, legitimate research that has been published in learned journals and tested by rigorous peer review.”

Those testifying at the hearing included: Sheldon Rampton, co-author of a series of books including “Toxic Sludge is Good for You” and “Trust Us, We’re Experts!” and co-founder of SourceWatch; Dr. James McCarthy of Harvard and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS); Terek Massarrani, staff attorney for the Government Accountability Project (GAP); and Jeff Kueter, the President of the Marshall Institute was the Minority witness. The Subcommittee release indicated that the Marshall Institute "is a leading center for providing experts who cast doubt on climate change science."

Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Ranking Member on the Subcommittee, dismissed the special interest allegations that the Administration is interfering with the integrity of Federal climate scientists. Sensenbrenner submitted for the record a lengthy statement saying, in part, “The title of today’s hearing has an odious ring -- “Shaping the Message, Distorting the Science.” These accusations, leveled against ExxonMobil and against the Administration, have a grave tone. If it were not for the ubiquitous press headlines declaring the world’s imminent demise from global warming, the title of today’s hearing could lead us to falsely conclude that the climate change debate is being stifled. I am now the Ranking Member on a Committee devoted almost entirely to climate change, and a recent poll by Time Magazine found that 88% of Americans believe that the Earth is getting warmer. All of this makes me wonder why we are here and what relationship this hearing has with reality.

“The alleged distortion of science is purportedly happening in two different ways. First, major industries, particularly ExxonMobil, are allegedly deceiving the masses by intentionally funding and trumpeting false science. Second, the Administration is allegedly curbing Federal scientists from presenting scientific findings that are at odds with its policies. Before we start screaming “McCarthyism,” we should examine how little merit these accusations actually have..." The statement continue to rebut the various interest group testimony.

Access a release from the Subcommittee (
click here). Access the hearing website with links to witness testimony (click here). Access the rebuttal statement from Representative Sensenbrenner (click here). Access a release on the GAP report (click here). Access the complete 138-page report (click here). [*Climate]