The Scientific Activist

Last week I mentioned an upcoming hearing by the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to “Examine Allegations of Political Interference with Government Climate Change Science.” The hearing happened on Monday (19 March), and it even got a bit of media coverage in the process.

The testimony of the witnesses can be downloaded here. I reported last week that a video would also be available on the site (as this is what I was told by the person who informed me about the hearing), and looking at past hearings, this seems to be the standard policy. Since no video has yet been made available, I contacted the Committee to find out when it would be uploaded onto the site. The person I talked to informed me that they don’t post videos on the site after the fact but instead only offer live streaming video during the hearings.

There was, however, no live video available during the hearing to the best of my knowledge, and this doesn’t really make much sense anyway since the videos of past hearings are on the site. If you are as confused as I am, you might try giving the Committee a call yourself at (202) 225-5051 or send an email here. Let me know if you receive a more satisfactory explanation.

Update: the video is available from C-SPAN here (the link opens the video in RealPlayer). Thanks go to Mark Bowen for pointing me to the video. This still doesn’t explain why the video is not available on the Committee’s site, though.

The hearing boasted a pretty interesting witness list:

  • Philip Cooney, former Chief of Staff, White House Council on Environmental Quality

  • James Hansen, Director, Goddard Institute for Space Studies, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • George Deutsch, former public affairs officer, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • James Connaughton, Chairman, White House Council on Environmental Quality
  • Roy Spencer, University of Alabama in Huntsville

There is quite a bit of testimony there, but I’ll give a few highlights here:

Philip Cooney: Cooney, on whom most of the current press coverage of the hearing has focused, was discovered in 2005 to have edited a series of government reports in order to downplay the dangers of global warming. This shouldn’t be surprising, since Cooney worked for the American Petroleum Institute before joining the White House, and he went to Exxon Mobil after he resigned. He gives an unconvincing defense of his actions, and he even acknowledges that his “work at the White House Council on Environmental Quality was solely to promote the public policies of President Bush and his administration.”

James Hansen: Hansen offers a detailed statement about the current instances of political interference in science in which he was targeted and about global warming and political interference in general. It’s certainly worth a read, and Hansen gives several policy recommendations at the end.

George Deutsch: Deutsch–the Bush appointee who made headlines for censoring science at NASA and subsequently resigned after The Scientific Activist reported that he had not graduated from Texas A&M University as his resume claimed–gave a short statement that was mostly just a defense of himself (noting that he has since graduated from A&M). I found this part of his statement, regarding his not letting NPR interview James Hansen, particularly misleading:

In December 2005, National Public Radio (NPR) asked for an interview with Dr. Hansen. NASA Press Secretary Dean Acosta decided to offer NPR interviews with senior SMD personnel instead. These ultimately included Dr. Mary Cleave, Dr. Colleen Hartman and Dr. Jack Kaye. NPR declined to interview any of these three scientists. NPR later interviewed Dr. Hansen on different occasions.

The contrasts pretty heavily with what The New York Times reported in January 2006:

In one call, George Deutsch, a recently appointed public affairs officer at NASA headquarters, rejected a request from a producer at National Public Radio to interview Dr. Hansen, said Leslie McCarthy, a public affairs officer responsible for the Goddard Institute.

Citing handwritten notes taken during the conversation, Ms. McCarthy said Mr. Deutsch called N.P.R. “the most liberal” media outlet in the country. She said that in that call and others, Mr. Deutsch said his job was “to make the president look good” and that as a White House appointee that might be Mr. Deutsch’s priority.

But she added: “I’m a career civil servant and Jim Hansen is a scientist. That’s not our job. That’s not our mission. The inference was that Hansen was disloyal.”

I think I’m going to go with the Times on this one. Nice try, Deutsch.

James Connaughton: Connaughton offers his defense of President Bush and of Cooney.

Roy Spencer: Spencer is a bit of a global warming contrarian (not to mention a supporter of “intelligent design”). Therefore, his views lie far from mainstream scientific opinion on climate science and other areas, and he was probably not a particularly appropriate choice for this hearing.

This hearing was exciting in that it produced the first sworn testimony from both Cooney and Deutsch on this issue. I find it disappointing, though, that more climate scientists were not called to testify. The Bush administration has an incredibly dismal record on its treatment of scientists, and it’s important that we hear from the scientists involved so that the Administration’s political interference in science is comprehensively documented.

Comments

  1. #1 Mark Bowen
    March 22, 2007

    Nick-

    Actually, C-Span broadcast the first two hours of the hearing, and the Ovesight Committee webcast the entire thing. I also found the video of the entire hearing on the C-Span Web site the next day, and it may still be there.

    Deutsch made some interesting slip-ups. He testified that he was following orders from Dean Acosta, for example, who pretended to be entirely unaware of all this to Revkin, as reported in the article you’ve quoted. Michael Griffin and all the higher ups at NASA have been claiming Deutsch was acting as a lone wolf all along, as has Sherwood Boehlert, who initiated a useful inquiry in that it led to Griffin’s Statement on Scientific Openness, but also succeeded in stamping out the fire which would otherwise probably have moved up the ladder.

  2. #2 Nick Anthis
    March 22, 2007

    Thanks! I’ve added the link to the video now.

  3. #3 Jason
    March 22, 2007

    A bit off-topic but I think you might find Dana Milbank’s account of Al Gore’s trip to Capitol Hill in the Washington Post entertaining.

  4. #4 Betsy McKenzie
    March 27, 2007

    Nice work, Nick! You meet the law librarian standard for able assistance and legislative links (AALL – our national org). Thank you for keeping us informed — I am very distressed that our government has its head in the sand (or elsewhere!). I am grateful for commentators like you who keep folks informed of hot political issues from the point of view of scientists.

  5. #5 Randy Smith
    April 6, 2007

    Re: climate change.
    I’d like to know what type of of scientist are alleging mans 100 yr. rule of the earth is causing this alleged Man’s involvment,Are they all scientist of climatology,atmospheric conditions. Could be all scientist you site as experts of what type of scientist,There is literally thousands of fields of scientific studies of all things,does’nt qualify them anymore than you our I.
    30 years ago these so called scientist you trought out as experts Dire warning of Global Freezing. I do not deny that we may be in a cyclical weather change. For smething deffenatly happened to End THE ICE AGE (warming) Our the mini Ice Age in Europe in circa 1300.
    The planet doe’nt die every time a Volcano dumps tons and tons of debri and sulferic gases globally. Upteen times a year,Hundreds of times more than man makes in a 1000 years,
    PS Gore owns the plant that everyone would pay for their so-called carbon foot print.. Stop scaring the children,and follow the money……. . Stop the doom and gloom .

  6. #6 Komik Videolar,YouTube
    October 17, 2007

    Nice work, Nick! You meet the law librarian standard for able assistance and legislative links (AALL – our national org). Thank you for keeping us informed — I am very distressed that our government has its head in the sand (or elsewhere!). I am grateful for commentators like you who keep folks informed of hot political issues from the point of view of scientists.

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