A top House lawmaker’s confrontation with government researchers over a groundbreaking climate change study is provoking a national backlash from scientists, who say his campaign represents the most serious threat Congress has posed to scientific freedom.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, has subpoenaed scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and demanded that they turn over internal e-mails related to their research. Their findings contradicted earlier work showing that global warming had paused, and Smith, a climate change skeptic, has accused them of altering global temperature data and rushing to publish their research in the June issue of the journal Science.
[NOAA chief tells lawmaker: No one will ‘coerce the scientists who work for me’] So far, NOAA officials have resisted Smith’s demands, and the showdown has escalated. The lawmaker has threatened to subpoena Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, while scientists have rallied in solidarity with the researchers.
On Tuesday, seven scientific organizations representing hundreds of thousands of scientists sent an unsparing letter to Smith, warning that his efforts are “establishing a practice of inquests” that will have a chilling effect.
“The repercussions of the committee’s actions could go well beyond climate science, setting a precedent to question other topics such as genetically modified organisms and vaccines that have controversial regulatory and policy implications,” the letter said.
Comment from the Diva: this conflict is a very serious one for the scientific community, and many of the top scientific organizations have weighed in on it. «
Update: At least two readers have major disagreements with the report. See their comments on this posting.