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Science group denounces House probe into climate skeptics’ funding

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) speaks (The Associated Press)
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As The Post’s Joby Warrick reported earlier this week, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D- Ariz.), the ranking member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, asked seven universities for detailed records on the funding sources for seven scientists, many of whom are unconvinced that humans are the driving force behind recent climate change.

In a letter to Grijalva released this afternoon, the American Meteorological Society (AMS) — a scientific and professional society representing atmospheric and oceanic scientists — expressed strong opposition to the inquiry.

“Publicly singling out specific researchers based on perspectives they have expressed and implying a failure to appropriately disclose funding sources — and thereby questioning their scientific integrity — sends a chilling message to all academic researchers,” the AMS wrote.

The AMS joins a cast of individual scientists who have spoken out against the inquiry, including several who are strong advocates for climate action and have been highly critical of skeptics:

The inquiry was provoked by the revelation that climate skeptic Wei-Hock (“Willie”) Soon had not disclosed his funding sources when publishing some recent studies. As The Post’s Terrence McCoy reported:

Soon didn’t disclose the money on at least 11 papers since 2008, reported the New York Times. The paper and other news organizations reported this appeared to be a violation of the journals’ ethical guidelines.

Those who have opposed Grijalva’s inquiry have characterized it as a “witch-hunt.” Among them is Judith Curry, a professor of atmospheric science at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who was targeted.

“It looks like it is ‘open season’ on anyone who deviates even slightly from the consensus,” Curry wrote on her blog. “The political motivations of all this are apparent….”

Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado Boulder, who was also subject to the inquiry, said he was perplexed to be included, as he adheres to the scientific consensus on man-made warming and supports the Obama administration’s climate regulatory policy.

However, some of his Pielke’s work, which questions the link between climate change and natural disasters, is viewed as controversial. And he has recently been called by Republicans in Congress to provide testimony on climate change to support their positions.

“I know with complete certainty that this investigation is a politically-motivated “witch hunt” designed to intimidate me (and others) and to smear my name,” Pielke wrote on his blog.

The University of Colorado Boulder administration has come to Pielke’s defense. Via the Daily Camera:

“Professor Pielke is a highly regarded faculty member who is clearly operating under the principles of academic freedom, which we strongly defend,” CU Provost Russell Moore said. “We stand behind him. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other credible organizations.
“None of his research has been funded by oil companies or fossil fuel interests.”

Senate Republicans joined the AMS in criticizing the inquiry in a letter dated today:

“Rather than empower scientists and researchers to expand the public discourse on climate science and other environmental topics, the [Democrats’] letter could be viewed as an attempt to silence legitimate intellectual and scientific inquiry,” the GOP letter says.

The American Geophysical Union (AGU), another professional society representing thousands of earth scientists, took a more nuanced stance in a statement also released today. It did not explicitly criticize the Grijalva inquiry but said scientists must be able to carry out their work free from academic interference and “without fear or intimidation.” Its letter stressed that the AGU requires scientists to reveal the sources of their funding and any conflicts of interest.

“Transparency is a critical element of the scientific process,” the AGU statement said. “To make sound decisions, the public and Congress need scientists to share and interpret unbiased and impartial information.”