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House Committee Hearing On Climate Change Held Despite Claims That Documents Are Being Withheld

January 30, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

Two hearings addressing issues of global climate change were held in Congress today. The Senate heard preliminary testimonies on the issue from many prominent senators. In the House, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s hearing focused on a review of allegations that the Bush administration has been editing scientific papers related to climate change and global warming.

The hearing held by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform took place today despite the dismay of its chairman, Henry Waxman (D-CA). Waxman stated he had not received documents from the Bush administration which he had repeatedly requested for the past six months, saying that the requested documents are “related to allegations that officials edited scientific reports and took other actions to minimize the significance of climate change.” They were requested from the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), which handed Waxman nine documents last night that he said “add nothing to our inquiry.” A CEQ spokesman said that they have “been communicating with the committee since last summer and continue to work with them on their request to provide them with documents.”

Despite the missing documents, strong evidence towards the allegations of political editing of scientific reports was presented to the committee today by two private advocacy groups, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Government Accountability Project. Francesca Grifo, a senior scientist with UCS, testified in front of the committee about a report that her organization released today:

UCS distributed surveys to 1,600 climate scientists, asking for information about the state of federal climate research. The scientists who responded reported experiencing at least 435 occurrences of political interference in their work over the past five years. Nearly half of all respondents (46 percent) perceived or personally experienced pressure to eliminate the words “climate change,” “global warming,” or other similar terms from a variety of communications. Forty-three percent of respondents reported they had perceived or personally experienced changes or edits during review of their work that changed the meaning of their scientific findings. And nearly half (46 percent) perceived or personally experienced new or unusual administrative requirements that impair climate-related work.

In contrast, scientists at the independent but federally-funded National Center for Atmospheric Research, who are not federal employees, reported far fewer instances of interference.

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