Integrity of Science

Bill Brennan, acting director of the Climate Change Science Program, was spinning the White House’s treatment of scientists at this morning’s Senate Commerce Committee Hearing on Climate Change Research and Scientific Integrity.

“The administration takes the concerns of its scientists very seriously, and each department and agency is reviewing — and modifying, if necessary — its policies to ensure government scientists do not face censorship on any scientific matter,” Brennan said. Source (subscription required)

Brennan’s written testimony is available here (PDF). It does not address any allegations of interference head-on, but toward the end it takes a turn for the absurd:

“The Administration has been clear that climate change is a serious problem, the Earth is warming and humans are the leading cause.”

Unless he is referring to the past month exclusively, that statement is untrue on its face. The Administration’s sheer lack of clarity is well documented — you don’t need a Freedom of Information Act request — just watch the Daily Show.

This is, of course, all a distraction from the subject of whether or not the Administration has censored scientists or distorted scientific findings. More from Brennan’s written testimony:

The Bush Administration values science as a basis for effective policy action in its service to the public, and regards the timely, complete and accurate communication of scientific information as an important part of that service. The White House, through the Office of Science and Technology Policy, asked Departments and Agencies to review their respective policies to ensure scientific openness and that employees and management understand their rights and obligations under these policies. (our emphasis)

The devil is in the definitions. “Complete” leaves room for the exaggeration of any minutiae of uncertainty to delay action. That’s been a consistent policy for the beginning. And going forward, it looks like the policy will be more studies, no action.

The report of Working Group I of the IPCC demonstrates that the level of scientific certainty has increased regarding the human impact on climate change. However, more research must be done to answer the many questions and uncertainties that remain in this field, such as the role aerosols and deep ocean currents play in regulating the climate, as well as further work on the relationship between climate frequency, distribution, and severity of extreme weather events, such as tropical cyclones and drought.

If the Administration had been a fraction as methodically committed to analyzing Iraq’s supposed possession of WMDs, we’d be a wealthier, safer country. But whereas Condoleezza Rice falsely warned in 2002 and 2003 of the “next smoking gun” being an Iraqi-delivered “mushroom cloud,” the smoking guns of climate change are ever apparent. Will any amount of empirical evidence will get this Administration to take action? Doubtful. But in the meantime, we’ve now amassed enough Administration doublespeak to fill a sequel to Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Kudos to Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) for calling today’s hearing. Keep ‘em coming.

Comments

  1. #1 Thom
    February 9, 2007

    The Bush Administration is not doing anything that is markedly different from past administrations. For more information, see Roger Pielke Jr. at Prometheus blog.

    Ed. – Thanks for your comment. We’re familiar with Prometheus and respect what Pielke brings to the table. However, this administration has convinced us (and many, many others) that its multifaceted attack on scientific research and understanding — as opposed to the political weighing of science in forming policy — distinguishes itself from past administrations.

    We encourage you to read Gleick’s testimony if you haven’t already done so.

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