U.S.A.CONGRESS AND CLIMATE CHANGE.
A.K.A. "CLIMATE CHANGE DENIAL".
A three part series from The Huffington Post on GOP Congressional members and Climate Change Denial
HOW ONE GOP-CONTROLLED COMMITTEE IS WAGING A WAR ON SCIENCE
The American Independent Institute By Brad Johnson
Posted: 06/24/2014 11:12 am EDT Updated: 06/24/2014 7:59 pm EDT LAMAR SMITH
At a March 26 hearing of the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Republican congressmen took turns attacking President Obama's top science advisor, John Holdren. On climate change, their statements became increasingly heated, accusatory, and bizarre.
Southern California conservative Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) challenged Holdren on the fact that about 97 percent of the world's practicing climate scientists agree that human activity is responsible for climate change. "Why can't anybody admit that you've got a group of people putting out a bogus figure here?" he charged.
Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) noted that the earth had warmed in between ice ages, without any people around. So how could humans be blamed for the current warming?
"Just because we're alive now," he reasoned, "the tectonic plate shifts aren't gonna stop, the hurricanes [and] tsunamis aren't gonna stop, the asteroid strikes aren't gonna stop."
Finally, Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas), an air-conditioning company founder from Pearland, Texas, noted to Holdren, a climate scientist and MacArthur "Genius Grant" recipient, that "I may want to get your cell phone, because if we go through cycles of global warming and then back to global cooling, I need to know when to buy my long coat on sale."
Soon after, a Scientific American headline concluded that the committee was becoming "a national embarrassment."
Since Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) took over as chairman of the House Science Committee in the beginning of 2013, the GOP majority has been waging a war. Its enemies list is long: The Environmental Protection Agency. The National Science Foundation. Rules that prevent industries from polluting the air and groundwater. Climate scientists studying the effects of a warming planet. The very notion of non-politicized, peer-reviewed scientific inquiry.
For years, the House Science Committee was a quiet congressional backwater. Typically, its most contentious battles were over the future of American space exploration.
Smith has changed that. The traditionally collegial committee has been pursuing a more aggressive and party-driven agenda –- one that's closely aligned with the GOP’s relentless promotion of the fossil-fuel industry. Though critics say Smith's campaign has been scattershot and at least somewhat dysfunctional, they're alarmed about what could result from the various bills he's pushed over the last 18 months.
Stocked with corporate-trained lobbyists in key staff positions, the committee's majority has repeatedly attacked the EPA from several different vantage points. The committee participated in the congressional GOP's efforts to block or limit virtually all regulations on coal, oil and natural gas facilities – including a reinvigorated effort to delegitimize and ultimately scrap the most important existing such laws like the Clean Air Act by tarnishing seminal studies conducted by researchers with Harvard University and the American Cancer Society. After encountering resistance to that effort, committee Republicans went much further by pushing a bill that would disallow the EPA from using any confidential data or information – a measure seemingly designed to completely disrupt its ability to protect the public.
The GOP majority likewise has taken the lead in efforts to place tight reins on the National Science Foundation by attempting to exert political control over federally funded scientific research, an effort that has science advocates up in arms.
Through the "EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act," the committee's majority is trying to alter the way the EPA selects and uses its internal Science Advisory Boards, which are meant to provide independent review of the science conducted by the agency. One of the bill's main consequences, a committee Democrat concluded, would be to ensure "an overrepresentation of industry voices" on the panels.
And at every turn, GOP committee members have been working to deny the reality of global warming –- not surprising, given that at least 20 of the committee's 22 Republicans are either skeptics or outright deniers of the notion that the world's climate is steadily warming and that human activity is playing a significant role.
(Smith does have a penchant for at least one branch of science. Late last year, he hosted a hearing that investigated the possibility of life in outer space entitled "Astrobiology: Search for Biosignatures in our Solar System and Beyond.")
The majority of Smith’s attacks on science use the language of scientific ethics. He recently told the San Antonio Express-News that he employs the gavel to “make sure that the president's policies are based upon good science – not science fiction.” Smith used the same “science fiction” line in a February email interview about his campaign against what he has dubbed “secret science.” He noted, for example, that “[r]equiring transparency is a basic tenet of good government.”
Yet critics –- and there are many –- take fundamental issue with Smith's notion of good government.
The pushback from the committee's top-ranking Democratic, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), has been unusually impassioned, even in this hyper-partisan –- and on the Republican side, extreme –- era in the House. In an email interview, she said she's noticed a shift even further to the right under Smith, even though he took over from the conservative former GOP chairman, Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas). Six of the 22 Republicans on the committee hail from the Lone Star State –- more than one in four.
After Republicans took control in 2011, "the Committee became more partisan and more focused on issues that appeal to the conservative base rather than on the research, technology advancement, and education issues that were the primary focus areas during the four years Democrats controlled the Committee," Johnson said. "Unfortunately, that change has become even more pronounced in the last year. In particular, the steady drumbeat of attacks against the EPA’s efforts to protect public health and the environment have become louder and louder over this time."
During an April 28 speech before the National Academy of Sciences, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said she believed that by vilifying the work of reputable scientists and the EPA, critics of the agency are "looking to cloud the science with uncertainty – to keep EPA from doing the very job that Congress gave us to do."
Said McCarthy: "You can’t just claim the science isn’t real when it doesn’t align well with your political or financial interests"
When the Republican Party rode the Tea Party wave in 2010 to retake control of the House of Representatives, Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas), the oldest member of the House at 86, became the new head of the House Committee on Science and Technology. Only two years later, the elderly Hall passed the chairman’s gavel to fellow Texan Smith, the former chair of the House Judiciary Committee who helped found the House Tea Party Caucus. Smith won the chair after a brief but public battle with other senior Republican members of the committee, including Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), a former Science Committee chairman, and Rohrabacher of California, the bombastic global-warming denier who has sat on the Science Committee since entering Congress in 1989. (Rohrabacher was also an also-ran against Hall.)
Smith’s previous stint as Judiciary chair was ill-starred, as the long-serving congressman with a reputation as a moderate, corporate-friendly politician became embroiled in the catastrophic collapse of the Stop Online Piracy Act, the bipartisan intellectual-property legislation that led Google, Wikipedia, Reddit, and hundreds of other key Internet players to turn their sites black in protest.
Despite that misstep, there were expectations around Capitol Hill that Smith, whose district includes small pieces of San Antonio and Austin and big parts of Texas Hill Country, would bring an intelligent, sober, and competent –- albeit partisan –- hand to the Science Committee.
Those expectations have been shattered, say numerous lobbyists and committee staffers on both sides of the aisle, most of whom have asked not to be identified by name. The most frequent sentiment, more than dismay or anger, was bafflement, as if their teetotaling, bachelor uncle showed up for Christmas dinner drunk and accompanied by a mail-order bride.
“The Science Committee is totally dysfunctional,” a scientific society lobbyist said on background during a legislative markup in the committee’s formal hearing room. He complained not just of partisanship, but of a lack of competence among the majority staff. A frequent sentiment expressed to me in interviews was exasperation with hasty scheduling, slip-shod legislative drafts, and haphazard research. “They’re too dumb to be evil,” one Democratic staffer told me in his representative’s cramped office.
This internal chaos is a consequence of Smith’s work to establish his imprint on the committee. Over 2013, with Smith’s chief deputy for the science committee, GOP policy director Chris Shank, managing the process, most of the existing Republican staffers left –- some amicably, others considerably less so. Of the 37 staffers on the Republican side under Hall, at least 27 have gone since Smith took over.
Despite Smith’s professed commitment to transparency, this staff shuffle had to be pieced together from a combination of public records and interviews. Under Hall, the full staff listing was published on the committee website. All links to those pages were removed when Smith became chair.
The stonewalling of the public is no problem for those within many of Washington's already-powerful fossil fuel industry lobby shops -- they can just call on former colleagues now working on the committee.
Examples of the revolving door abound: former chief counsel Margaret Caravelli had joined the committee from the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association; she is now on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee staff. Dan Byers, the Energy and Environment Subcommittee staff director, went to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy Institute, its fossil-industry lobbying wing. Before Smith became committee chair, Environment Subcommittee staffer Clinton Woods came from the energy task force of the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, where he helped the American Gas Association draft a report on “EPA’s hostility to fossil fuels.”
The committee's majority is now also home to a new generation of lobbyists for the fossil fuel industry. After the Energy and Environment subcommittee was split into two, it gained two new staff directors, Stephen Sayle for Energy and Allyne Todd Johnston for Environment. Given their backgrounds, the subcommittees could more appropriately be named Fracking and Coal.
Sayle is a prominent fossil-industry lobbyist who got his start with Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas). In the 1990s, he was the chief counsel for Barton’s investigations into EPA fine particle air quality rules. While a top lobbyist at the Dutko and Dow Lohnes lobbying shops, Sayle’s clients included a cavalcade of oil, gas, and coal companies and front groups: Duke Energy, Cinergy, Chevron, Iroquois Gas, National Grid, Calpine, ITC, Tenaska, PSEG, Tesoro, the American Chemical Council, the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, and the Electric Power Supply Association. (Sayle also represented the Environmental Working Group, an environmental health research and advocacy group, on toxic-chemical regulation in 2010.) Sayle was one of The Hill’s top lobbyists of 2012 for his “background on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.”
Sayle’s return to the committee is somewhat surprising –- the energy subcommittee primarily has jurisdiction over the Department of Energy science labs, which focus on nuclear research, advanced biofuels, battery technology, and climate research -– not well aligned with Sayle’s focus on natural-gas and petrochemical lobbying.
However, the explosive growth of fracking in the nation in the past decade has raised serious new scientific questions about the risks and benefits of this formerly obscure method of extracting natural gas. How the federal government responds to scientific evidence of fracking’s threat to water supplies and our climate is a multi-billion-dollar question. That Republicans would add a fracking lobbyist to the House Science Committee is hardly surprising: Obama’s new Secretary of Energy is Ernest Moniz, a natural-gas-industry-funded scientist expected to steer the agency towards supporting oil and gas development.
Johnston came to the House Science Committee in 2013 from the staff of Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), where he was the chief climate policy advisor for the senator, a climate-science conspiracy theorist. Prior to that, Johnston was the Director of Air Quality for the coal industry’s primary trade group, the National Mining Association, from 2005 to 2007. During his tenure, he worked as a representative of the “Coarse Particle Coalition,” a group of gravel, cement and minerals groups that aimed to block scientifically backed soot standards during the George W. Bush administration.
Johnston then joined Sen. George Voinovich’s (R-Ohio) staff, drafting climate legislation in 2007 that supported a continued increase in greenhouse pollution and massive subsidies for the coal industry. In 2011 he moved to Inhofe’s staff, replacing Tom Hassenboehler when that operative moved over to America’s Natural Gas Alliance.
Johnston and Sayle declined comment for this story. According to committee Republican press aide Zachary Kurz, the committee has a policy of not making staffers available for public comment.
Environmentalists say industry groups are taking advantage of the key staff placements to help drive their plans.
“Industrial polluters are using the back rooms of Congress in this traditionally sleepy committee to assert an extreme corporate agenda,” clean-air advocate John Walke of the Natural Resources Defense Council argued in a telephone interview. “If you connect the dots, the agenda is to systematically bias the system, whether by weakening conflict of interest standards when corporations serve on scientific advisory bodies or thwarting regulations that address industrial pollution.”
The ties between the committee's Republicans and oil, gas and coal groups run deeper than staffing, of course. Press accounts in recent years have noted that fossil fuel interests have donated large amounts to Republicans on the House Science Committee.
Smith has received at least $10,000 from the Kochs, and a whopping $550,000 from the oil and gas industries over the course of his career, for example. Rohrabacher has received $189,444 in campaign contributions from the energy industry, including $91,294 from the oil and gas industry, over his career. And according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, Weber has received $10,000 from Koch Industries and another $45,000 from the energy sector in campaign contributions, the vast majority -– $39,000 –- coming from oil and gas.
The Republicans have “been unabashed in attacking anyone who points out the negative effects of fossil fuel development,” Eddie Bernice Johnson said in an interview. “It has been obvious since the first day of the 112th Congress that the oil and gas and coal industries have an outsized influence over the Republican agenda.”
In our February interview, Smith took umbrage at the assertion that he or his GOP colleagues are beholden to corporate interests, or that the panel's majority is somehow anti-science.
"The Committee conducts objective oversight and should not be influenced by either environmental or energy lobbyists," said Smith. "My goal as Chairman is to promote the discovery of science, exploration of space and development of new technologies. This will increase our nation’s productivity, improve Americans’ standard of living and create new jobs."
Since taking over as committee chairman, Smith gained the most attention after he subpoenaed the EPA on Aug.1 of last year for data collected from air pollution studies from the 1970s. He argued that the data from the seminal Harvard Six Cities Study and another sponsored by the American Cancer Society, known as the Cancer Prevention Study II, need to be made public so that it can be analyzed again, because of the costs associated with the regulations the studies have helped spur.
Smith tried to preemptively justify his move in a Wall Street Journal op-ed a few days before the committee issued the subpoena, headlined “The EPA’s Game of Secret Science.”
“Virtually every major EPA air-quality regulation under President Obama has been justified by citing two sets of decades-old data from the Harvard Six Cities Study and the American Cancer Society's Cancer Prevention Study II,” wrote Smith in the July 29, 2013 column.
Yet despite two years worth of letters to EPA administrators, Smith said, President Obama and the EPA were "unwilling" to reveal the underlying personal health data the studies used to justify a multibillion-dollar regulatory agenda. "The federal government has no business justifying regulations with secret information,” he wrote.
Reactions from the committee's Democrats was impassioned. "You are abusing Congressional power to harass the EPA administrator. You are undermining our legitimate scientific research enterprise. You are violating the trust that hundreds of thousands of research volunteers placed in our country's premier research institutions," wrote Johnson in an Aug. 6 letter to Smith. "And for what purpose? To provide human health data to tobacco industry consultants? If you continue on this path, you will cause irreparable harm to our Committee and our country."
Smith’s campaign against the EPA's “secret science” has involved multiple hearings, the first subpoenas issued by the Science Committee in living memory, and draft legislation that could shut down the agency.
Smith is challenging the process by which the United States government acts to protect the health of its citizens from industrial pollution, calling into question the consensus position of the nation’s scientific and medical establishment on the risks of smog, soot, and greenhouse pollution. If he's right, then the era of clean-air regulation that began with the enactment of the Clean Air Act in 1970 has relied on scientific fraud and misconduct on an epic scale.
To gauge the validity of Smith's assertions, it's imperative to look at the decade the world kindled to the idea that its air was dirty: the 1950s.
Sometime during Dwight Eisenhower's second presidential term, a medical student named Frank Speizer pulled up to a stoplight in Los Angeles in his state-issued automobile, emblazoned with a California health agency logo. A pedestrian knocked on his window.
“When are you going to stop air pollution?” the man asked.
The 1950s was the decade of a global awakening about air pollution. In 1952, the Great Smog of London, a pea-soup miasma of polluted air, sickened more than 100,000 people in five days. Medical researchers found that coal and vehicular pollution had caused somewhere between 4,000 and 12,000 deaths in the city. In response, England passed the Clean Air Acts of 1956 and 1958.
Meanwhile, the post-war economic boom in the United States was adding millions of cars to the hundreds of thousands of miles of new freeways and highways. Factories and coal-fired power plants were bringing economic prosperity but also dumping waste products into the nation’s water and air with catastrophic consequences.
Speizer started working on air pollution-related cases in 1958, while treating pulmonary function ailments in veterans in Los Angeles. He would go to hospital wards and see patients dying of respiratory diseases. He saw it as his responsibility not only to offer them treatment, but also find out why these people weren’t part of the population that was aging healthily.
As Speizer told me in his cozy Harvard School of Public Health office, “I’m a doctor and that’s my job -– to take care of people and find out why they get sick.”
Over the next fifty years, Speizer would become one of the most influential epidemiologists in the world. He is renowned not only for his work on air pollution but also for founding the Nurses’ Health Study, the landmark study that uncovered the risks of cigarettes and oral contraceptives to women’s health. His research, combined with that of thousands of other doctors and scientists, has since prevented the suffering and untimely death of millions.
In the late 1950s, smoggy air blanketed Los Angeles. “Our air pollution test was checking if you can see the mountains, which turns out to be a pretty good measure of fine particulate pollution actually.”
Speizer’s work joined a growing body of evidence showing that coal-fired power plants, factories, and vehicles produced pollution that harmed public health.
It was another decade before the United States was to pass the Clean Air of 1970, which established guidelines for the new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop scientifically grounded air pollution limits. A year later, in 1971, EPA administrator William Ruckelshaus announced the first national standards for sulfur oxides, particulate matter (soot), carbon monoxide, photochemical oxidants, nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons to protect vulnerable Americans.
Ruckelshaus cautioned the standards he established would likely be found wanting, because they reflected “the outer limits of our capability to measure connections between levels of pollution and effects on man.”
In 1973, a blue-ribbon commission of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences called for research into the health impacts of the nation’s expected switch from oil to coal in the wake of the Arab oil embargo.
Speizer, by then a Harvard School of Public Health researcher, joined pediatrician Benjamin Ferris to propose to the health sciences agency an ambitious, long-term study comparing the impacts of air pollution in six different American cities. Ferris had done groundbreaking work exposing the deadly impact of the sulfur dioxide emissions of a wood pulp mill in Berlin, New Hampshire, on the health of its residents. (Ferris had initially wanted to study the health impacts on the factory’s workers, but the mill owners refused him access, so he studied the entire community instead.)
It's unlikely Speizer and Ferris had any idea of the impact their study would generate – or the blowback from an emerging national right-wing power structure and its corporate backers.
The Harvard Six Cities study, as it became known, involved 8,111 participants ages 25 to 74 in six U.S. cities (St. Louis; Topeka, Kansas; Watertown, Mass.; Harriman, Tenn.; Steubenville, Ohio; and Portage, Wisc.) who filled out a detailed medical questionnaire and also underwent a test of their lung vitals. Follow-up questionnaires were sent every year. With parental consent, groups of school-age children were examined in a similar way. The study was funded in part by the health sciences agency, which is a part of the National Institutes of Health, the EPA, and the Electric Power Research Institute, a utility-industry think tank.
Within a dozen years, the Harvard Six Cities researchers found that life expectancy was two years shorter in the dirtiest city than the cleanest, with a linear relationship found between air pollution and mortality in all six cities. They published these results in 1993 in the New England Journal of Medicine.
“After adjusting for smoking and other risk factors, we observed statistically significant and robust associations between air pollution and mortality,” the researchers wrote, adding their findings to the “large and growing body of literature that documents the adverse health effects associated with particulate air pollution.”
The industries that produced the pollution in question quickly struck back. Researchers funded by the Electric Power Research Institute, the American Iron and Steel Institute and American Petroleum Institute immediately demanded access to the medical data for their own re-analysis; using different methodologies, they found little-to-no connection between particulate air pollution and public health. (These same researchers have done work paid for by the asbestos industry questioning the danger of asbestos, and the liquor industry questioning the health risks of alcohol.)
At the time, other long-term medical “cohort” studies –- surveys about the histories of specific population segments -– were already underway, which could be examined independently for the effects of air-pollution on cardiopulmonary disease and mortality. The most comprehensive of these studies, which remains the most thorough, was conducted by the American Cancer Society, starting in 1982.
The study includes confidential questionnaires for about 1.2 million Americans in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, including personal and family medical histories, menstrual and reproductive histories, drug use and dietary habits. The cancer society has collected blood and tissue samples from over half of its survey group, and has also collected mortality and cause of death information for the 491,188 deaths that have occurred between 1982 and 2006 among the participants.
Brigham Young University researcher Arden Pope independently confirmed the Harvard Six Studies findings in 1995, by comparing EPA air pollution data for 151 U.S. cities against the ACS study’s medical records. “Increased mortality is associated with sulfate and fine particulate air pollution at levels commonly found in U.S. cities,” Pope and his co-authors wrote in the American Journal of Respiratory Critical Care Medicine.
Smith’s claim that the EPA air-quality rules are justified solely on these two landmark studies is false. Other researchers from the Health Effects Institute -– an independent research institution jointly funded by EPA and the automotive industry in the 1980s to resolve similar disputes about diesel pollution -– conducted re-analyses of the results in multiple studies, also confirming the Harvard Six Cities findings. Over the following twenty years, there have since been further reanalyses and confirmations of these studies conducted by the health effects group and other institutions.
Meanwhile, laboratory research found cardiovascular effects in animals from inhaled pollutants. Now, the evidence supporting new limits on soot pollution included not only a broad array of epidemiological work but medical proof of how inhaled soot damaged the lungs, heart, and circulatory system.
The toll on American lives was enormous.
“The city-by-city analysis estimates that approximately 64,000 people may die prematurely from heart and lung disease each year due to particulate air pollution. Lives are not just being shortened by days or weeks, but by an average of 1 to 2 years in the most polluted areas,” Deborah Shprentz wrote in report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, published in May 1996.
Finally, the EPA during the Clinton Administration began moving toward establishing limits on sulfur dioxide and fine-particulate pollution based on this research.
It was then that the Koch brothers joined the fray.
This story was supported by The American Independent Institute. It is the first in a three-part series.
REPUBLICANS WAGE ANTI-'SECRET SCIENCE' CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE EPA
The American Independent Institute
By Brad Johnson
Posted: 06/25/2014 11:02 am EDT Updated: 06/25/2014 4:59 pm EDT RICHARD SHELBY
This is the second in a three-part series. Read the first story here.
The conservative “secret science” campaign harkens back nearly twenty years.
In late 1996, industry was trying to fight the Environmental Protection Agency’s first efforts to set a fine particle pollution air quality standard of "PM2.5," the abbreviation used for particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter.
Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), an astroturf lobbying group founded by the petrochemical industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch in 1984, warned that the “effects of the new air quality standards on the economy would be devastating,” based in part on economic analyses conducted by the Center for Study of Public Choice at George Mason University – a group also funded by the Koch brothers. The CSE co-founder and president was Koch Industries vice president Rich Fink, a George Mason economist who has sat on the board of the school's public choice center.
CSE, the precursor to the Tea Party groups FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity, was then led by C. Boyden Gray, an heir to the Reynolds tobacco fortune and GOP kingmaker. In addition to running the tobacco-and-polluter-funded “grassroots” CSE, Gray also managed the Orwellian-sounding “Air Quality Standards Coalition,” an industry coalition coordinated by the National Association of Manufacturers to fight EPA limits on soot and smog pollution.
As industry was not getting much traction with the “it’s going to cost too much” argument, Gray’s group employed street theater as a political tactic.
In January 1997, attendees of a Senate hearing on the proposed EPA rules encountered a group of people wearing white lab coats holding signs saying, “Harvard, release the data!” The supposed scientists in fact came from CSE. In addition, CSE took out ads in the Chicago Tribune attacking the Harvard brand, and writers in the libertarian-industrial network questioned the legitimacy of the studies and demanded the release of the private medical records at their core.
“The unwillingness of the study's authors to allow access to basic data is troubling; such secrecy is incompatible with the modern scientific process,” complained a CSE publication in June 1997.
CSE also found an ideological hook for the economic-damage attacks, spinning pollution limits as an assault on freedom. “Imagine that – a new government regulation that takes away our freedom to celebrate our freedom," said a CSE radio advertisement in the summer of 1997. The ad claimed that the proposed air pollution regulations would ruin Independence Day by outlawing barbecues, lawn mowers, and fireworks.
The outcome of the campaign was threefold: a weakening and delay of ozone and particulate-matter rules; a $50 million taxpayer-funded project to reconfirm the results; and legislation compelling that the data generated by federally funded research be made available to industry and the public.
Fast forward to last year.
“The data in question have not been subjected to scrutiny and analysis by independent scientists,” Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) charged in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed.
Yet Smith’s claim that the studies and the underlying patient data did not undergo independent analysis is false. In fact, in 1997, while Smith was serving his sixth term, Congress appropriated $49.6 million for a major research program into fine particulate matter, including a reanalysis of the Harvard and ACS studies by the Health Effects Institute. Smith voted for the bill.
“When we got the medical records from Harvard, I personally signed a confidentiality agreement, as did the investigators at University of Ottawa. The data was conveyed to a locked room with limited access,” said Health Effects Institute president Dan Greenbaum in an interview.
In 2000, the group issued a 297-page report entitled “Reanalysis of the Harvard Six Cities Study and the American Cancer Society Study of Particulate Air Pollution and Mortality.” The explicit goal of that study was “to conduct a rigorous and independent assessment of the findings of the Six Cities and ACS Studies of air pollution and mortality.”
In short, the HEI assessment confirmed the studies’ results. So did a separate HEI analysis of public records from 90 cities known as the National Morbidity, Mortality, and Air Pollution Study.
A charitable interpretation is that this multi-year, multi-million-dollar taxpayer effort advanced epidemiological methodologies. Others might say that polluters knowingly gamed the system by unfairly casting doubt on well-founded science.
The Shelby Amendment
Following these EPA battles, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) drafted the Data Access Act, better known as the Shelby Amendment, in response to his inability to get the underlying medical records from the Harvard Six Cities and American Cancer Society studies.
The Shelby amendment mandated that “all data produced under a [federally funded] award will be made available to the public through the procedures established under the Freedom of Information Act [FOIA].” The Office of Management and Budget drafted rules to implement the Shelby amendment that limited the scope to research “used in developing an agency action that has the force and effect of law” and carved out exceptions for confidential data.
Efforts to repeal the Shelby amendment in 1999 led tobacco and oil industry consultant Steve Milloy to coin the term “secret science.” In February, Milloy launched the “Stop Secret Science” sweepstakes, offering a Wall Street Journal subscription to people who sent a comment to OMB on the “secret science” rule. Soon, the Washington Times and the New York Post published “secret science” editorials, and an oil executive attacked the “secret science” of the EPA rules. But the term failed to catch on, perhaps because most politicians couldn’t claim with a straight face that confidential medical records should be made public on industry’s behalf.
The Shelby amendment had little actual impact on the Harvard and ACS studies. The ACS data is not funded by federal or public dollars, and is not subject to the Data Access Act. Essentially all of the non-confidential records and data from the Harvard Six Cities research has been made public, a process that was underway before the passage of the amendment.
Whatever the intent, the Shelby amendment marked an important shift in the balance of power between industry and the public, as corporate researchers could get access to federally funded work without any expectation of a quid pro quo.
Forcing a Document Release
Fifteen years later, Rep. Lamar Smith was ready to go further.
After two years of fishing expeditions begun during Ralph Hall’s chairmanship, Smith was fed up with the idea that the federal government wouldn’t –- or couldn’t –- force Harvard and the American Cancer Society to turn over private medical records to his committee.
“If the administration does not provide this data by the end of July, the science committee will force its release through a subpoena,” he warned.
Although the EPA complied with Smith’s previous demands, turning over all of the records under its control, Smith pushed the subpoena forward. On Aug. 1 of last year, the committee authorized subpoenas against the EPA, Harvard University, and the American Cancer Society on a party-line vote. That day, Smith issued a subpoena to the EPA.
A month later, Smith expressed his anger at the EPA’s limited response, challenging the agency to force Harvard and the cancer society to turn over the medical records so that his Committee can “analyze the health effects of exposure to certain air pollutants.”
In a Sept. 3 letter to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, Smith claimed that the OMB’s implementation of the Shelby amendment means the EPA’s power to compel private institutions to turn over records is without limit, no matter what confidentiality agreements exist between the researchers and their subjects, or between the government and the researchers.
A March 2013 Congressional Research Service report on the Shelby amendment notes that its scope “excludes personal and business-related confidential data.”
When Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) asked Smith who he wanted to pass along the research data to, he said, “Dr. James Enstrom.”
It turns out that Mr. Smith’s preferred expert for more than two decades has been closely connected to the American tobacco industry, reviled for its promotion of deceptive marketing and faux-science.
'I Understand Science Better'
Enstrom, an epidemiologist, is perhaps best known for his work on tobacco industry-funded studies, including studies on the health effects of tobacco and second-hand smoke.
His first published work as an epidemiologist, which wasn't funded by the industry, “Cancer Mortality Among Mormons” (1975), found that Mormons’ low consumption of tobacco and alcohol seemed linked to lower cancer rates than the general population.
That said, Enstrom’s attempts to be funded by the tobacco industry go back to the beginning of his career, as communications as far back as 1975 indicate. Enstrom received $233,500 from 1992 to 1998 from the tobacco industry-sponsored Council for Tobacco Research. In 1997, as anti-tobacco lawsuits were leading to the dissolution of CTR, Enstrom solicited and received $150,000 directly from Philip Morris for research based on his idea that “there may indeed be a threshold below which tobacco use is not related to mortality.”
Given the tobacco industry’s widespread campaign of deliberate deceit about the health risks of smoking, tobacco-funded research is now considered tainted.
In a 2007 essay, Enstrom accused the entire field of epidemiology of “science McCarthyism.” He finds the move to restrict tobacco-industry funding for research into the health effects of tobacco to be the equivalent of the Soviet government’s efforts to create a "regime of truth" by outlawing research into genetics.
Enstrom has argued depictions of him as a “tobacco industry consultant,” including the one made by Johnson, are “defamatory.”
As the tobacco money dried up, Enstrom switched over to industry-funded studies of air pollution.
In a 2005 study funded by Electric Power Research Institute, Enstrom failed to find a “relationship between ﬁne particulate pollution and total mortality in elderly Californians,” in contrast to conclusions reached in previous work by the American Cancer Society.
In a telephone interview from his home in Los Angeles, Enstrom said he’s not biased towards industry but towards the science, and is so often at loggerheads with other researchers because he’s smarter than epidemiologists with medical or other backgrounds. “I'm saying I understand science better,” he said.
Whether or not Enstrom’s views on science are better, many are unusual.
For example, Enstrom had no explanation regarding how fine-particulate pollution could have been found to be deadly at various points in the past, as multiple studies around the globe have found, but are not now in California, as he hypothesizes. He told me that the burden of proof should be on the mainstream medical community, because there isn’t medical research that explains how soot causes cardiopulmonary diseases.
“We don't have a mechanism,” he said.
But just to cite one of many well-regarded studies on the topic, a decade-old report from the National Research Council noted that there is “growing clinical and epidemiological evidence that ambient air pollution can precipitate acute cardiac events, such as angina pectoris, cardiac arrhythmias, and myocardial infarction.”
Enstrom said he believed that there are potential benefits to exposure to air pollution and radiation. He cited the concept of "hormesis," a controversial scientific concept that hasn't gained widespread acceptance among scientists and is generally reviled by environmentalists. He said hormesis posits that “below a certain level of pollution there's a loss of natural immunity; if the air is too clean the body doesn't necessarily protect itself.”
“I believe there's a lot of evidence supporting the validity of hormesis,” he told me.
Unsolicited, Enstrom then made a point to defend the rampant climate-science denial among the Republican members of the House Science Committee. “We should be all thankful that we live in a country where freedom of speech is allowed,” he said.
Private Medical Records
One of the main concerns from environmentalists, science advocates, Democrats and others about Smith's demands for the Harvard and American Cancer Society data is that the data includes confidential, personal health information from participants who were promised confidentiality. Such a disclosure of the data would violate their trust, they maintain.
Yet Smith and his aides (and Enstrom) insist there are ways that participants can be "de-identified."
“Even if you were unable to de-identify the documents, you were still required to produce them,” Smith wrote in a September 3 letter to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy. “We are confident the data can be de-identified with relative ease.”
But many, including the author of the Six Cities study, argue Smith's position is faulty.
“Anonymizing doesn’t work,” said Frank Speizer. “To know enough from the medical records to be able to replicate the results gives you enough information to personally identify individuals.”
Speizer added that the specter of being forced to disclose private data is a "stigma" on new research. “How do you get investigators to do this work?" he asked. "How are you going to get people to participate?”
“The data included in Harvard Six Cities includes detailed medical records, tests, visits on 8,000 individuals,” explained Greenbaum of the Health Effects Institute. “There are sworn signed statements that we will not disclose this information in any way.”
“One of the principal rules that goes throughout science," said Greenbaum, is that "you are really constrained from presenting the data in more than aggregated form.”
For example, Greenbaum noted, when the studies were first done, researchers relied on having one or two air monitors in each city and estimating that the exposure reflects everyone in that city. There are now improved methodologies that are based on where people live. “If you know where somebody lives, and when they died, you know who they are,” he explained.
When I presented Greenbaum’s points to Enstrom, he conceded that Greenbaum could be right. “You’re raising concerns that I don’t want to deal with in this phone call,” said Enstrom.
The Secret Science Reform Act
The August subpoena authorized the committee to directly mandate that Harvard University and the American Cancer Society turn over their confidential records. Despite Smith’s rhetoric about the multi-trillion-dollar importance of getting access to the patient records, his committee has only gone after the EPA.
Since the EPA doesn’t actually have the confidential medical records, he has changed course, with a new and much broader line of attack.
On February 6, Smith and Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) introduced the Secret Science Reform Act.
The bill is less than a page long, but it is breathtaking in scope. It forbids the EPA from taking any kind of action – regulatory, advisory, or enforcement – unless the action relies entirely on scientific research that has had all of its data made public.
Unlike the “secret science” subpoena effort, the bill doesn’t try to force the disclosure of confidential data. Instead, it calls for the exclusion of any such research in EPA actions.
“Virtually every regulation proposed by the Obama administration has been justified by nontransparent data and unverifiable claims,” said Smith in his press release announcing the bill. “The American people foot the bill for EPA’s costly regulations, and they have a right to see the underlying science.”
Environmental advocates say it would have been difficult to launch a more potentially devastating attack on the EPA and its stated mission, "to protect human health and the environment."
“Anyone who understood anything about EPA and the myriad responsibilities and legal authorities it has to undertake at the direction of Congress could not have written a two-paragraph bill that more thoroughly disrupts the agency’s ability to protect the public,” said clean-air advocate John Walke of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “One gasps at how oblivious it is to a vast array of unintended and absurd consequences.”
The potential public health implications go beyond preventing the EPA from regulating air pollution.
One example: In June, 2010, the Gulf Coast was reeling from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster. Millions of barrels of crude were gushing into the gulf, treated with millions of gallons of deep-sea chemical dispersants. In Jackson, Mississippi, state legislators convened a series of hearings on the disaster, which BP officials refused to attend. Legislators – even Steven Palazzo, now a member of the House Science Committee and a co-sponsor the Secret Science Reform Act – asked if the dispersants could make made Gulf seafood toxic.
The chemical composition of those dispersants was and remains confidential.
Another example: Walke noted that the Elk River chemical spill in West Virginia earlier this year involved one chemical the EPA knew about but was shrouded in secrecy, and another they didn’t know about at all. More than 100 people were made sick by exposure to the chemical, and about 300,000 residents were warned not to use their tap water in any capacity.
The Smith bill, if in effect, in both cases would have prevented the EPA from acting on known dangers that it learned about from confidential information – so therefore, had the law been in place, the agency could not have acted to prevent the circumstances that led to either spill, nor could they have assisted in the spills' aftermath.
Said Walke: "That is ridiculous!"
Smith hasn't used his perch as committee chairman only to try to make life miserable for environmental regulators. He's got a thing for scientists, too.
The bookish-appearing Smith, who wears round rimless glasses and generally has a quiet, respectful demeanor, has cast his agenda regarding the $7 billion National Science Foundation with Texas-sized swagger. “I’m going to have a little fun with them,” he told the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce February 5. “I’m going to change the way the grants are awarded if I have my way.”
On April 18, 2013, Smith introduced a draft of the High Quality Research Act, which would compel the NSF director to certify that every grant is for “groundbreaking” research that “solves problems that are of utmost importance to society at large.”
Inasmuch as the grants come before the results of the research are known, the proposed act was rightly considered absurd.
Smith and other GOP members of the committee argue that the NSF awards far too many grants on topics of an unserious nature, which do little but allow left-leaning scientists to travel to often-exotic locales on the federal dime.
He and the other committee Republicans looked at the most recent crop of 164 NSF grants issued the month before he introduced his NSF bill for examples. Looking at titles alone, and not the substance of the proposals -– which is what one prominent Democrat says Smith did -– questions might understandably be raised about whether taxpayers should be paying for the studies.
One of the grants 164 the NSF announced in March, 2013, was titled, “Picturing Animals in National Geographic, 1888-2008.”
Soon after, the Washington Times asked, “[C]an the government really afford to spend $227,437 to study pictures of animals in National Geographic magazines?”
A month later, Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) challenged John Holdren, President Obama's top science advisor, to justify that and other NSF-funded studies, saying “it’s just hard to conceive how those are important to our national security or our national interest.”
Smith sent a letter to acting NSF director Cora Merritt listing the abstract titles for five grants, including the one regarding National Geographic, questioning their “intellectual merit.” The other grants, which ranged from $152,000 to $435,000, were titled "Comparative Histories of Scientific Conservation: Nature, Science, and Society in Patagonian and Amazonian South America”; “The International Criminal Court and the Pursuit of Justice”; “Comparative Network Analysis: Mapping Global Social Interactions”; and “Regulating Accountability and Transparency in China’s Dairy Industry.”
Yet put in context, it's clear that these studies could be defined as being in the national interest, using a wide range of definitions. According to the NSF Award Abstract, Megan Tracy, an anthropologist with James Madison University, is studying, in part, "how individuals, motivated by global scandals and the pressure to prevent future incidents, transmit and transform food safety regulations and best practices across international borders."
And Maxine Kamari Clarke, a Yale-based anthropologist, will be studying the arrest warrants the International Criminal Court has pursued against African national leaders, as it pertains to "international justice and human rights as these concepts have been interpreted by the [ICC] and the African Union Commission."
All five grants were issued by the NSF Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences.
During his tenure as chair, Smith has attacked a total of 20 different NSF grants by name, 18 of which are in the social sciences. (The other two were related to climate change.)
Remarkably, two-thirds of these grant recipients are female scientists. Smith’s attacks on research conducted by women took some effort, as females represent only about 30 percent of practicing scientists.
Democrats suspect that Smith's filter doesn’t appear to go beyond reading the names of the abstracts. “It has been my experience that some members read the titles of the research grants but seldom read the substance behind the headlines,” said Science Committee member Rep. Donna Edwards, (D-Md.), referring to Smith.
Just as she did when Smith tried to subpoena the Harvard and American Cancer Society data, Johnson, the panel's top Democrat, again issued a harsh rebuke to Smith after he introduced the High Quality Research Act.
"This is the first step on a path that would destroy the merit-based review process at NSF and intrudes political pressure into what is widely viewed as the most effective and creative process for awarding research funds in the world," Johnson wrote April 26 of last year. "In the history of this Committee, no Chairman has ever put themselves forward as an expert in the science that underlies specific grant proposals funded by the NSF."
Washington-based advocates for scientific research say the peer-review process by which NSF grants have been funded works well and is accepted as the best available system –- and that allowing politics to be interjected into the process would be potentially disastrous.
“The veiled attack on the merit review system is a serious concern. Scientists come together to volunteer their time and evaluate your competitors’ research. You’re only going to fund the best ideas. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s the best system we do have,” said Erin Cadwalader of the Association for Women in Science, herself a biomedical scientist. “It’s important science remain separate from partisan politics.”
“It’s hard to predict what ideas are going to yield what’s useful and fruitful,” said Cadwalader. “You can’t study heart development without understanding how heart cells communicate with each other. It’s tedious and not very sexy, but it’s what has to be done to understand how to treat heart disease.”
Barry Toiv, a spokesman for the American Association of Universities, which represents top public and private research universities, agreed. “Some of the most extraordinary results have come from research that sounds completely uninteresting, funny, weird, irrelevant,” he said.
After months of criticism, Smith slightly watered down the HQRA language into a provision in the FIRST Act, which stands for Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology. The bill is a 2-year reauthorization of NSF programs that still requires NSF officials to certify every research grant as “in the national interest.”
On May 1, Holdren told attendees of a forum sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science that the FIRST Act "would have an extraordinarily unfortunate effect" on the NSF's grantmaking process, according to an account from ScienceInsider.
“I think that NSF’s peer-review process has proven itself over the years in a manner that has made it the envy of the world,” said Holdren. “Everybody else is trying to mimic the success NSF has had from funding research. I don’t think we should be trying to fix something that isn’t broken.”
In a question and answer session after his talk, Holdren got to the heart of the matter. The bill, he said, "appears aimed at narrowing the focus of NSF-funded research to domains that are applied to various national interests other than simply advancing the progress of science."
Facing Draconian Funding Cuts
“If you look at where we are as a nation, the greatest need is more jobs, to get our economy started,” Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, (R-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Science Committee from 2001 until his retirement in 2007, said in a telephone interview from his home in upstate New York. “Most jobs come from the development of new technology, which come from government investment, especially in the basic science enterprise.”
At the request of Boehlert, the National Academy of Sciences developed a 2007 report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm, that set goals for greatly expanding the science workforce to ensure America’s future economic competitiveness. The first authorization of the bipartisan Competes Act was 2007, with initial reauthorization in 2010. The goal was to double funding for key agencies in seven years.
The economy tanked and that didn’t happen. Today, the U.S. scientific enterprise is in retreat.
Since the Republican takeover of Congress, the gap between the goals of the 2010 Competes Act and actual science funding has widened into a chasm, with the cuts mandated by sequestration in 2013 adding insult to injury. Only the engineering and computer science directorates at NSF have enjoyed funding in line with inflation, while the other directorates have remained flat or fallen into decline.
“In science, when you cut research funding, you're cutting the research as well as the training of the next generation of scientists,” said Toiv. “Training researchers occurs at the same time as you get the research done. You're sending a message to potential young scientists: get out while you can.”
The FIRST Act not only calls for funding that doesn’t even keep up with inflation, it intends to cut funding for the social and economic sciences by 45 percent. Social sciences have never been a major portion of NSF funding. This bill suggests even that is too much.
Smith's war on social science spells doom for his professed goals for American science in general.
Policy Objective D of the FIRST Act is “expanding the pool of scientists and engineers in the United States, including among segments of the population that have been historically underrepresented" in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields.
Yet, “it seems like a contradiction to say we’re going to prioritize doing these things without providing the funding to answer the questions of how to do this,” said Cadwalader.
The House Anti-Science Committee
The salvos against soot regulations and social science are examples of extreme rhetoric with potentially disastrous consequences to the scientific enterprise in return for relatively small gains to corporate polluters.
But the existence of climate change represents an existential threat to the fossil-fuel industry, and the Republican Party has become, as political historian and former GOP operative Kevin Phillips writes, the vehicle for “petroleum-defined national security.” It's global warming that sparks the Science Committee’s most aggressive language.
The March 26 hearing before the Science Committee to review the President’s proposed science budget was a typical display.
After Smith gaveled in the hearing, he launched directly into an attack on climate science. “Unfortunately, this administration’s science budget focuses, in my view, far too much money, time, and effort on alarmist predictions of climate change,” he said.
After the likes of Posey, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas) took turns trying to mock and belittle White House science advisor John Holdren, it became clear that by the time Smith called on the last committee member, Rep. Eric Swalwell, a Democrat from California, Swalwell had had enough. He had listened to more than his fill of climate denial, science-bashing and general hostility toward the witness.
Swalwell, at 33 the committee's youngest member, warned Holdren about where Republicans might try to lead him the next time he's called to testify.
"At this rate, frankly, I'd say you should be prepared to address whether the earth is round or flat – that might come up – or whether indeed gravity is happening," said Swalwell. "You never know what could fly at you from what we've seen already."
This story was supported by The American Independent Institute.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated the meaning of "PM2.5," which refers to the diameter of fine particles, not their prevalence.
MORE: Lamar Smith EPA Science Richard Shelby Climate Change Republican War on Science War on Science House Science Committee
This is the third in a three-part series. Read the first story herehttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/24/house-science-committee_n_5525609.html?1403707503
and the second here.
THE HOUSE SCIENCE COMMITTEE IS IN A STATE OF CLIMATE CHANGE DENIAL
About 97 percent of active climate scientists believe that climate change is real and dangerous and that human activity is a significant cause.
Almost as high a percentage of the Republicans serving on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology – 91 percent – disbelieve the notion, either in part or in full. Twenty of 22 GOP members of the committee, our research has found, aren't just unwilling to come to grips with the reality of man-made global warming. Most are clearly hostile to the notion.
In early May, the federal government produced its Third National Climate Assessment. More than 300 experts contributed to the report, which was sponsored by the U.S. Global Change Research Program. It found that effects of climate change, "once considered an issue for a distant future," have moved firmly into the present. "Summers are longer and hotter, and extended periods of unusual heat last longer than any living American has ever experienced.”
The response from House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas)? "This is a political document," he said, "intended to frighten Americans into believing that any abnormal weather we experience is the direct result of human CO2 emissions."
The only Republicans on the committee who are not public skeptics or deniers of the science of climate change are Reps. Steve Palazzo of Mississippi and Chris Collins of New York. Yet both are forceful advocates for drilling and fracking, and both have voted repeatedly to block EPA greenhouse pollution rules. Both declined repeated requests for comment.
Following are the 20 climate-hostile House Science Committee Republicans, in their own words.
Lamar Smith of Texas, Committee Chairman
“We now know that prominent scientists were so determined to advance the idea of human-made global warming that they worked together to hide contradictory temperature data. But for two weeks, none of the networks gave the scandal any coverage on their evening news programs. And when they finally did cover it, their reporting was largely slanted in favor of global warming alarmists.”
— December 8, 2009, House floor speech on “Climategate”
Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma
“Mr. Speaker, global temperatures stopped rising 10 years ago. Global temperature changes, when they exist, correlate with Sun output and ocean cycles. During the Medieval Warm Period from 800 to 1300 A.D. – long before cars, power plants, or the Industrial Revolution – temperatures were warmer than today. During the Little Ice Age from 1300 to 1900 A.D., temperatures were cooler. Neither of these periods were caused by any human activity.
Even climate change alarmists admit that the number of hurricanes hitting the U.S. and the number of tornado touchdowns have been on a slow decline for over 100 years. But here’s what we absolutely know. We know that Oklahoma will have tornadoes when the cold jet stream meets the warm gulf air. And we also know that this President spends 30 times as much money on global warming research as he does on weather forecasting and warning.
For this gross misallocation, the people of Oklahoma are ready to accept the President’s apology, and I intend to submit legislation to fix this.”
— June 11, 2013, House floor speech on Oklahoma tornadoes
Mo Brooks of Alabama
“I am unconvinced about America’s ability to do anything about Global Warming (assuming Global Warming is man-made and not a recurrent global weather pattern).”
— September 4, 2010, at Left In Alabama, a politics blog
Paul Broun of Georgia, Oversight Subcommittee Chair
“Scientists all over this world say that the idea of human-induced global climate change is one of the greatest hoaxes perpetrated out of the scientific community. It is a hoax. There is no scientific consensus.”
— June 26, 2009, House floor speech opposing climate legislation
Larry Bucshon of Indiana, Research and Technology Subcommittee Chair
“The data does not support the premise that carbon dioxide emissions are playing a significant role in the world temperature variations. The temperature of the Earth has been changing over centuries with warmer and colder periods throughout history.”
— June 5, 2010, campaign platform opposing climate legislation
Kevin Cramer of North Dakota
“These mandates and these wind farms are all based on this fraudulent science from the EPA, meaning their claim that CO2 is a pollutant and is causing global warming. I’m sure you’re familiar with one of the leading climate research centers in the world there at East Anglia University in England, the Hadley Research Centre. The director, Phil Jones, his emails, he admitted that he was falsifying temperature data. The reason he had to do this is because the data was showing the global climate is actually declining in temperature, temperatures were going down. He was overlaying higher temperatures on the real data to show that it was actually rising. We know the globe is cooling. Number one, we know that. So the idea that CO2 is somehow causing global warming is on its face fraudulent.”
— February 4, 2012, KNOX radio campaign interview
Ralph Hall of Texas, Previous Committee Chairman
“There is growing concern and evidence that scientific data, from which global warming theories emerged, has been manipulated, enhanced or deleted. The IPCC data was used by the EPA as part of the data that went into their endangerment finding. This is especially problematic since the endangerment finding will most likely be used as the basis for a regulatory regime in the U.S.”
— November 11, 2010, House Science Committee hearing on climate science
Randy Hultgren of Illinois
“The greatest impact on our climate clearly is the sun, and we have very little impact on the sun and how much energy and temperature the sun is sending to the earth. We have seen clearly over thousands of years that at different times more energy has come through and different times less energy has come through, and that variation has impacted climate change. Over the thousands of years that’s been recorded we’ve had both colder times and warmer times. It happens to be that we’ve recently come out of a warmer time and now actually we’re headed in to a little bit of a colder time.”
— November 23, 2009, Illinois Review interview
Bill Johnson of Ohio
“Long before Americans were around to blame, there was climate change. Geology tells us that at one time, much of Ohio was covered by ice. At other times, the planet was so warm, that Ohio was under water. These are facts proven throughout the Earth’s history, recorded for the ages in the ground that we live on. Our climate is constantly changing.”
— July 2, 2013, Barnesville Enterprise op-ed by Johnson opposing President Obama’s climate policy
Frank Lucas of Oklahoma
“Most telling of the EPA’s irrational regulatory approach is how the EPA has concluded that the breath that we exhale, the gas that livestock expels, are dangerous pollutants and should be regulated by the Clean Air Act.”
— April 7, 2011, House floor speech opposing EPA greenhouse pollution rules
Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Energy Subcommittee Chair
“There is no disputing that our planet experiences climate change – it has been cycling between cooling and warming periods long before we were here to experience the effects. I believe the jury is still out on whether mankind can alter global climate trends.”
— June 4, 2009, op-ed opposing climate legislation
Thomas Massie of Kentucky
“I would challenge [President Obama] to show us the linkage – the undeniable linkage – between droughts and the change of weather, and some kind of human activity.”
— January 22, 2013, Heritage Foundation “Conversations With Conservatives”
Michael McCaul of Texas
“Whereas recent events have uncovered extensive evidence from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in England (in this resolution referred to as the ‘CRU’) which involved many researchers across the globe discussing the destruction, altering, and hiding of data that did not support global warming claims.”
— December 8, 2009, House Resolution 954, regarding the scientific protocols used in climate change research
Randy Neugebauer of Texas
“What we have here is a case of formulating scientific findings that back up policy, instead of creating policy that is backed up by legitimate science. Proponents of man-made global warming in Congress will use every opportunity they have to invite witnesses to testify before Congress who only share their point of view. We now have clear evidence of what we knew all along, that there are perhaps thousands of scientists who don’t share these views, and sadly have been the subject of concerted efforts to discourage and suppress their findings from publication.”
— November 30, 2009, Randy’s Roundup weekly constituent newsletter
Bill Posey of Florida
“If we've had at least three ice ages, and some people, some scientists say five, you cannot have five seamless ice ages. You must warm up between, you know, to have them. The earth has had tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, tectonic plate shifts, meteor strikes, asteroid strikes, for millions of years, and it's not going to stop just because we're here now. When you think back twenty years ago, the worry was global freezing. We're going to freeze again. We're going to have another ice age.”
— December 19, 2011, interview with Tea Party activist Victoria Jackson
Dana Rohrabacher of California
“Too often, when Congress is asked to pass environmental legislation, the legislation is based on emotional junk science rather than data based on reproducible, rigorous, tested, peer-reviewed results. In no area has this been more obvious than climate change. Because the Kyoto Treaty and much of the suggested environmental legislation would decimate jobs in southern California, constituents may be interested to learn of the growing scientific consensus that global warming is not manmade, if it is in fact even occurring.”
— March 18, 2009, House floor speech on global warming
David Schweikert of Arizona, Environment Subcommittee Chair
“When you think about the complexity of a worldwide system and the amount of data you’d have to capture, and how you adjust for a sunspot, and how you adjust for a hurricane and I think it’s incredibly arrogant for the Al Gores of the world to stand up and say the world is coming to an end.”
— June 16, 2010, interview with conservative activist Marcus Kelley
Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin
“For months, legitimate questions have been raised about global warming data not being verified and conflicting data being suppressed, better known to some as ‘Climategate.’”
— February 12, 2010, weekly column
Steve Stockman of Texas
"Global cooling" (70s) -> "Greenhouse effect" (80s) -> "Global warming" (90s) -> "Climate change" (00s) -> Record cold temps (10s)
— January 25, 2014, Stockman's Twitter feed
Randy Weber of Texas
“I may want to get your cell phone, because if we go through cycles of global warming and then back to global cooling, I need to know when to buy my long coat on sale. I just don't know how y'all prove those hypotheses going back fifty, hundred, what you might say is thousands if not millions of years, and then postulate those forward.”
— March 26, 2014, Science Committee hearing with White House science advisor John Holdren
This story was supported by The American Independent Institute.
Reposted from Climate Science Watch
4 REPUBLICAN FORMER EPA ADMINISTRATORS CALL ON CONGRESS TO TAKE ACTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE
Posted on June 25, 2014 by Rick Piltz
4 REPUBLICAN FORMER EPA ADMINISTRATORS CALL ON CONGRESS TO TAKE ACTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE
Posted on June 25, 2014 by Rick Piltz
Exemplifying the proactive way authentic conservatives should be talking about climate policy, former Environmental Protection Agency administrators William Ruckelshaus, Christine Todd Whitman, Lee Thomas, and William Reilly -- all appointed by Republican presidents -- gave Senate hearing testimony last week that stood in sharp contrast to the current Republican Senators on the panel, who seemed to live in an alternative universe, offering up a sustained litany of party-line denial and delayer talking points.
At a June 18 Senate Committee
http://www.epw.senate.gov/public/?CFID=87633524&CFTOKEN=42579704 on Environment and Public Works subcommittee hearing on "Climate Change: The Need to Act Now" (archived webcast, witness testimony, and opening statements here),http://www.epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Hearings.Hearing&Hearing_id=a26b916b-b182-45cb-f502-930b93f8a24b the political theater involved a Democratic chairman (Sheldon Whitehouse-Rhode Island) calling on former heads of the EPA who served under Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and both Bushes to give testimony. A few samples from what they said:
William Ruckelshaus (served as the first head of the EPA in 1970 under Nixon, and during 198-1985 he returned as EPA Administrator under Reagan):
We have, as EPA administrators, served four Presidents over four decades. We have successfully wrestled with a variety of public health and environmental problems, all contentious, including severe automobile and industrial air pollution, widespread water pollution and the unacceptable effects of pesticides like DDT.
We have made progress. We have cut automobile emissions, for example, by 95% and greatly improved air quality while the number of cars has doubled. The hole in the ozone layer and acid rain are under control.
Inherent in all of these problems was uncertain science and powerful economic interests resisting controls. The same is true of climate change. In all of the cases cited the solutions to the problems did not result in the predicted economic and social calamity. Scientific uncertainty or the inevitable industry resistance does not mean that nothing should be done unless we are willing to suffer the consequences of inaction. …
We also know that if America does not get serious about our responsibility to deal with this problem nothing much will happen in the rest of the world. Not taking action is a choice. It is a choice that means we leave to chance the kind of future we want, and opt out of the solution to a problem that we are a big part of.
We like to speak of American exceptionalism. If we want to be truly exceptional then we should begin the difficult task of leading the world away from the unacceptable effects of our increasing appetites for fossil fuels before it is too late.
Christine Todd Whitman (served as head of EPA from 2001-2003 under George W. Bush):
I must begin by expressing my frustration that the discussion about whether the Environmental Protection Agency has the legal authority to regulate carbon emissions is still taking place in some quarters.
The issue has been settled. EPA does have the authority. The law says so and the Supreme Court has said so twice. The matter should be put to rest.
Given that fact, the Agency has decided – properly, in my view – that it should act now to reduce carbon emissions to improve the quality of our air, protect the health of our people, and as part of an international effort to address global climate change.
For the United States, climate change is not just an environmental issue or an economic issue. Climate change also has very real implications for our national security, and those concerns must be an important part of the discussion. …
Congressional action and leadership would be a preferable approach. But since Congress has declined to act, the EPA must. …
We have a scientific consensus around this issue. We also need a political consensus.
The two parties were able to rally around a common purpose in the early days of environmental policymaking. It is urgent that they do so again.
Lee Thomas (served as head of EPA from 1985-1989 under Reagan):
I've approached the issue using a risk assessment and risk management process. This is the approach I used during my time at EPA as we addressed a range of environmental problems. …
The issue of climate change is one that the EPA and the global scientific community have studied and analyzed for decades. And since my time as Administrator, the assessment of risk global warming poses to public health and the environment has continually improved and become more certain. Whether it is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or the latest scientific valuation authorized by Congress, the National Climate Assessment, there is clear evidence regarding climate change and its anthropogenic foundation. …
We know that communities in our country are already dealing with the effects of the changing climate today. In my state of Florida, we see increasing salt water intrusion infiltrating our drinking water supply due to sea level rise. Coastal communities are dealing with the impact sea level rise is having on their drainage systems, resulting in an investment of more than $300 million to upgrade flood mitigation infrastructure in Miami Beach alone. The economic impact is undeniable, and local governments struggle to address today’s impacts of climate change while trying to anticipate the increased risk it poses in the future.
On a broader scale, scientific analysis of the issue points to widespread impacts across our country. They range from depleted shellfish harvests in the Pacific Northwest due to ocean acidification, to increased drought and wildfires in the Southwest and a more than 70 percent rise in the occurrence of heavy downpours in the Northeast since the late 1950s.
Given this assessment of the impacts and risk posed by global warming, the EPA has the responsibility given to it by Congress, and affirmed by the courts, to address the risk management challenge.
William Reilly (served as head of EPA from 1989-1992 under George H.W. Bush):
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, especially carbon dioxide, can help fend off more draconian impacts later this century. Yet I increasingly believe that we have a second, immediate agenda, namely to prompt states and communities and our federal agencies to begin to adapt to likely changes and to build up resiliency. If you read the Washington Post’s June 1st front-page story on Norfolk,
http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/in-norfolk-evidence-of-climate-change-is-in-the-streets-at-high-tide/2014/05/31/fe3ae860-e71f-11e3-8f90 73e071f3d637_story.html Virginia, you get an excellent picture of the dilemma that community faces—not to mention what the Navy’s base there faces. Dealing with flooding and meeting future projections from storm surges will be costly, and the growing demands on federal, state, and local budgets come at a time when the country seeks to reduce federal debt and tame federal deficits. ...
Markets the world over eagerly seek clean energy technologies. ... Technology and innovation are a comparative advantage for our country that will help control what we can and help find ways to replace the most serious contributors to the climate challenge. This is an enormous opportunity for U.S. entrepreneurs and exporters even as we deploy more clean energy at home. ...
We have the know-how, the ingenuity, the entrepreneurial spirit, the ability to demonstrate leadership in tackling this challenge. While the President has taken many important steps, a full and constructive response is needed from Congress...
Re watching the webcast of the hearing:
before the panel of witnesses testified, the first hour of the hearing was occupied by opening statements from 11 members of the Environment Committee -- an unusually large number for a subcommittee hearing, but perhaps not surprising given the theater of four Republican former EPA Administrators calling on the Senate to get past denialism and take action, given the political salience, once again, of climate change policy, and given the polarized controversy over EPA's role in regulating greenhouse gases.
What one sees is alternating Democratic (subcommittee chair Whitehouse, full committee chair Barbara Boxer-California, Bernie Sanders-Vermont, Ben Cardin-Maryland, Kristen Gillebrand-New York, and Cory Booker-New Jersey) and Republican (David Vitter-Louisiana, John Barrasso-Wyoming, James Inhofe-Oklahoma, John Boozman-Arkansas, and Pete Sessions-Alabama) Senators, talking right past each other, with no substantive overlap in their comments. The partisan separation could not be much more complete.
Generally speaking, the Democratic Senators, in their statements and in later questioning of witnesses, were compatible with Obama administration policy, with the former EPA Administrators (albeit with the Senators making some harder-hitting political statements), and not at odds with the IPCC and National Climate Assessment. The Republican Senators have a different political agenda that feeds back into how they relate to the science. The alternating statements provide a one-hour window into where the Senate is at right now on climate policy.
The Republicans called three witnesses. One, Prof. Daniel Botkin, an ecosystem scientist from UC-Santa Barbara, has emerged recently as a favorite Republican witness for his outspoken skeptic positions on the climate science assessments. He rejects findings and conclusions that are widely shared among his colleagues, while uncritically citing sources such as Willie Soon, David Legates, John Christy, and Roger Pielke Jr.
Several Republican Senators took a shot at discrediting in various ways the "97% of climate scientists agree that human activity is warming the planet" consensus finding. That is a finding, based on several independent studies, that the right-wing seems to find quite threatening, and probably justifiably so. As one of their top pollster-strategists, Frank Luntz, pointed out to them a decade ago, once the public understands that there is not a big debate in the science community about the reality of the anthropogenic global warming problem, the door will close on their ability to obstruct a response. Prof. Botkin, helped them with this thrust -- 'science is about data, not taking a vote', blah blah blah.
The Republican Senators addressed questions to him rather than to the EPA Administrators, as in: "Dr. Botkin, as the only panelist who is actually a scientist..." It's unfortunate that this witness was put on the record without being balanced by climate and ecosystem scientists who led the IPCC and National Climate Assessments who could respond to the arguments in his testimony. Perhaps the Committee will create this opportunity in follow-up questions for the record. Botkin's statements shouldn't stand without a response.
But it's not our mission here to debate science points, and, as Chairman Whitehouse noted, the purpose of the hearing wasn't to create a panel for science debate, it was to hear from the former EPA heads at a time when EPA and climate policy are in the spotlight. Thus, although he didn't put it this way, to contrast the voices of conservatives who think and talk the way conservatives should about science and environmental protection, with the voices we have come to associate with the so-called "conservative" position since the radical right hijacked their party.
Of course, given their posture at this hearing, the right-wing will no doubt summarily dismiss the former EPA Administrators as liberals in disguise, not true conservatives or true Republicans. Why, just having worked at that evil Environmental Protection Agency is probably enough to discredit them in the eyes of the denial machine. Nevertheless, their civilized statements are on the record.
House votes to direct the Pentagon to disregard climate change assessments
House Science Committee majority plays out the politics of climate science denialism
Reposted from Politicususa:
REPUBLICANS THREATEN TO WITHHOLD GOVERNMENT FUNDING OVER OBAMA'S NEW EPA RULES
By: Rmusemore from Rmuse
Monday, June, 23rd, 2014, 10:12 am
It is safe to say every American has witnessed a spoiled child that becomes very angry and annoyed when they do not get what they want, and just as safe to say no-one enjoys being around petulant children. However, insolent children have an excuse insofar as they are the product of bad parenting whereas petulant adults, particularly Republican adults in Congress, have no other excuse than they are despicable human beings. Over the course of the past four years Republicans have gone to great lengths to get what they want including threatening (twice) to cause a credit default that cost America its stellar credit rating, and shutting down the government that cost the economy billions of dollars.
The government shutdown last October was over eliminating the Affordable Care Act and destroying the full faith and credit of the United States government, but if Senate and House Republicans fail to get what they want and force President Obama to bend to their will (again), they are threatening to shut down the government when the new fiscal year begins on October 1. The latest shutdown threat is not about government spending, abolishing the Affordable Care Act, or raising the debt limit, but protecting the dirty energy industry and increasing damage from climate change as well as adhering to their raison d’être to oppose anything proposed by the African American man sitting in the Oval Office.
Republicans in the House
http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/house-republicans-plan-to-block-climate-change-coal-rules and Senate http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/gop-senators-want-to-block-obamas-climate-rules are so angry at the President over new Environmental Protection Agency regulations on coal-powered power plants that they are threatening to withhold previously agreed-on funding for the government unless the EPA regulations are eliminated by September 30. It is yet another instance of “my way or the highway,” or hostage politics, from Republicans the White House said “is Republicans repeating their government shutdown play to protect the profits of big polluters.”
In the Senate, Republican Conference Chair John Thune said “there’s a lot of support” among Republicans to use the appropriations process to block the EPA rules, and he pledged that the GOP will do “anything we can do to prevent the administration from going forward with what are really poorly timed, very burdensome, very expensive … regulations.” As far as the timing, Thune is absolutely correct; the regulations should have been enacted two decades ago to reduce the devastating effects of climate change. However, his assertion that the new rules are “very expensive” is a lie because there is no expense to the government. Still, they are threatening to shut down the government unless they get their way and protect the Koch brothers and dirty coal industry from regulations that will benefit the entire nation’s economy as well as the American people who are ultimately suffering most from the devastating effects of climate change. It is yet another example of Republicans doing the will of dirty energy industry at the expense of the people’s “general welfare,” and unless they are allowed to harm the people by eliminating the EPA’s regulations, they will harm them by shutting down the government.
The senior member of the environmental committee in the Senate, one of the leading man-made climate change deniers,
http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/types-of-climate-change-deniers Jim Infhofe said “I would do anything to block it, including shutting down the government. The regulations would constitute the largest tax increase in the history of America on the American people and accomplish nothing for it.” After the past five years, one would have thought that the Affordable Care Act was the largest tax increase in the history of America to hear Republicans tell it, but like their “Obamacare” lies, Inhofe’s claim is false. The new EPA rules are not any kind of tax increase on the people, or the coal-fired power industry; they are long overdue regulations to rein in carbon emissions driving climate change and Inhofe knows it. He also knows, whether he admits it or not, that the regulations will accomplish exactly what they are intended to; reduce carbon emissions, reduce the effects of climate change, and reduce health hazards of air pollution.
Congressional Republicans, as is always the case, are advocating against an Obama policy on climate change that a large majority of the American people support; even if they have to pay higher energy costs. According to several surveys, including a recent nationwide survey conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News, 70% of Americans (including 63% of Republicans) nationwide support
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/06/02/a-huge-majority-of-americans-support-regulating-carbon-from-power-plants-and-theyre-even-willing-to-pay-for-it/ federal regulation of power plant emissions. Still, Congressional Republicans, including leadership, universally oppose the EPA’s proposal that House Speaker John Boehner described http://www.speaker.gov/press-release/speaker-boehner-president-s-new-national-energy-tax as “nuts” and they will use funding the government as a hostage unless they get what the coal industry and the Kochs want.
As usual, Republicans are united in their willingness to hold the government hostage to get their way regardless of the will of the people, or the continuing severe damage climate change is wreaking on the people and the economy. John Thune said, “There’s a lot of support on our side to block that, and if you want to send a clear message to the administration about a series of regulations that you think are very detrimental, one way to do that would be through the appropriations process.” The ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, Jeff Sessions, said Republicans must reverse what he claimed is “presidential overreach by Obama on environmental regulations,” and that since Congress has the power to withhold funding to shutdown the government to get what the coal industry wants, “it is power Republicans will clearly use.”
First, under the Clean Air Act of 1970 established
http://www.epa.gov/air/caa/requirements.html by the United States Congress, the President has the authority to impose clean air standards, so the idea of presidential overreach is another Republican lie. And as far as being detrimental, reducing the effects of carbon emissions, regardless the reason, can only be good for America. However, Republicans have a serious aversion to doing anything that is good for America or its people, but they will go to any length to do everything for the dirty energy industry including leveling another credible threat to hold funding the government hostage to, as the White House said, “protect the profits of big polluters.”
Republicans have revealed themselves to be criminals in their approach to governing, if one can call it that, since Americans elected an African American man to be President. It is important to remember that after congressional Republicans held the full faith and credit of the United States hostage for severe austerity that cost the nation its stellar credit rating, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell boasted that Republicans would revisit hostage taking again to get what they wanted and Republicans stayed true to McConnell’s threat. However, all they accomplished in shutting down the government unless the ACA was eliminated and America defaulted on its debt obligation was costing the American economy at least $24 billion according
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/16/government-shutdown-cost_n_4110818.html to financial ratings agency Standard & Poor’s.
Whether Republicans admit climate change is man-made or not, they cannot deny its effects on the economy and more importantly the American people. But they just could not care less because the primary driver of climate change, carbon emissions, is from the dirty energy industry they are Hell-bent on protecting at any cost; including using keeping the government open as a hostage. Republicans are worse than petulant children who just get angry when they do not get what they want, because as congressional representatives, when they get angry they resort to criminality and regardless what one calls their tactics, holding anything hostage, much less the government, to get what the dirty energy industry wants is criminal.
Republicans Threaten to Withhold Government Funding Over Obama’s New EPA Rules was written by Rmuse for PoliticusUSA.
© PoliticusUSA, Mon, Jun 23rd, 2014 — All Rights Reserved
Reposted from EcoWatch:
CLIMATE DENIAL HUB CLAIMS IT IS HOSTING ‘MOST IMPORTANT CONFERENCE ON GLOBAL WARMING EVER’
Brandon Baker | July 2, 2014 4:48 pm
How does a climate change conference hosted by an organization bankrolled by the Koch Brothers
http://ecowatch.com/2014/05/20/dark-money-koch-brothers/ and the Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund look? http://ecowatch.com/2013/02/15/climate-deniers-piggy-bank/
That question will be answered July 7 to 9 in Las Vegas when the Heartland Institute holds its ninth International Conference on Climate Change.
In case you forgot, the Heartland Institute is the think-tank that once erected billboards http://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2012/may/04/heartland-institute-global-warming-murder comparing the believers of global warming to the likes of ”Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski and Osama Bin Laden.
Now, the group claims to be the host of “the most important conference on global warming ever!” Promotional material for the event encourages you to “meet leading scientists from around the world who question whether man-made global warming will be harmful to plants, animals or human welfare.” Heartland picked those scientists from a small group though, since 97 percent of scientists agree that humans cause the climate to change.
Given the climate denial of some of its main donors, the Heartland Institute has a lengthy history of scientific rejection. Back in 2003, CEO Joseph Bast released a list of “eight reasons why global warming is a scam.”
Greenpeace http://www.greenpeace.org/ in 2013 uncovered more of the Institute’s denial exploits in its study, Dealing in Doubt: The Climate Denial Machine Vs Climate Science.
The report showed how the denial extended well beyond the environment. In the ’90s, the Heartland Institute worked with Philip Morris in questioning the link between second-hand smoke and human health risks. The entities went on to lobby against government public health reforms around tobacco.
Ironically, the tagline for this year’s conference is “don’t just wonder about global warming. Understand it.”
If that’s what you want to do, the Heartland’s Institute’s conference might not be the event for you.
Graphic credit: Heartland Institute