Democratic Congressman Draws Backlash Over Climate Funding Probe

"It does come across as sort of heavy handed and overly aggressive,"“It does come across as sort of heavy handed and overly aggressive,” Mann told National Journal.A House Democrat looking for ties between climate skeptics at several universities and fossil fuel interests is facing allegations that his probe goes too far. And they’re not just coming from his political opponents.

Following revelations that a prominent climate skeptic failed to disclose funding from Exxon, Southern Company, and other fossil fuel industry sources, Rep. Raul Grijalva, the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, sent letters to seven schools demanding information about—and “communication regarding”—specific professors’ funding sources and their preparation of testimony before Congress and other bodies.

Grijalva’s effort marks a flipping of the script of sorts. In recent years, some of the highest-profile probes of climate scientists have been generated by Republicans and global warming skeptics, notably former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s campaign against the prominent researcher Michael Mann.

“Politicians should not persecute academics with whom they disagree. No ifs or buts,” tweeted Bob Ward, policy and communications director with the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment in the U.K.

The University of Colorado’s Roger Pielke, Jr., one of the recipients of the letters, slammed Grijalva’s probe as a ‘witch hunt.’

Grijalva’s letters cite recent reports of Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon, a scientist affiliated with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Soon disputes the scientific consensus that human activities are the main driver of global warming, and documents obtained by environmentalists showed that Soon referred to his work as “deliverables” for funders.

The congressman implies that other researchers may have undisclosed relationships with fossil fuel companies. “If true, these may not be isolated incidents,” Grijalva wrote.

Joanne Carney of the American Association for the Advancement of Science said she understands the concerns around Soon’s work, and noted her organization requires disclosure of funding sources and potential conflicts in its journals. If the group were to find that a researcher has not disclosed the information, they would examine that author’s other work, Carney said.

But she was skeptical of Grijalva’s letters that probe other researchers. “I think we are questioning why they are making the assumption that other researchers need to be questioned,” Carney said, and later added: “It is not clear to us why these other scientists were being targeted.”

Pielke said he has “no funding, declared or undeclared, with any fossil fuel company or interest” and never has, he wrote in a blog post Wednesday. “Representative Grijalva knows this too, because when I have testified before the U.S. Congress, I have disclosed my funding and possible conflicts of interest.

“So I know with complete certainty that this investigation is a politically-motivated ‘witch hunt’ designed to intimidate me (and others) and to smear my name,” Pielke said.

On Twitter, University of Washington earth sciences professor Eric Steig said that he has Pielke’s back. “Welcome to the new McCarthyism. Congress should not be able to investigate on a whim. You have my *unequivocal* support,” Steig said.

Mann, a prominent Penn State climate scientist who has has been subject of Republican-led probes of his work in past years, had a mixed verdict on the letters.

“It does come across as sort of heavy handed and overly aggressive,” Mann told National Journal, adding that he is “a little uncomfortable” with the demands for the professors’ correspondence. But he said there’s nothing wrong with seeking information on funding sources. “That is something that no scientists should have any qualms” about providing, Mann said.

Mann also said the Grijalva letters on funding should not be “conflated” with probes he has faced from GOP Rep. Joe Barton and Cuccinelli.

“The difference being that they were demanding materials that are protected under principles of academic freedom—private deliberations between academics or scientists, unpublished manuscripts, raw source code that was written, stuff that’s intrinsic to your work as a scientist,” Mann said.

Mann is best known for research that produced the “hockey stick” chart, which that reconstructs global temperature over the past 1,000 years and shows a sharp uptick in the 20th century. His conduct has been cleared in several probes.

Grijalva’s office insists it’s not crossing the line, and argued there’s a difference between these letters and past GOP-led probes of climate scientists.

“We are not asking for drafts of scientific research. We are not asking for raw data. We are not asking for whole hard drives worth of stuff,” said Adam Sarvana, Grijalva’s spokesman. “This is about finances and it is about the connection between money and testimony, because testimony is not research. Testimony is interpreting scientific information for public consumption to influence policy, and in our view that is not protected entirely by academic shielding.”

Sarvana similarly defended the request for communications with funders, to determine if there was an “implicit or explicit promise made.”

“The whole Willie Soon story turns on exactly the kinds of things that we are asking for,” he said.

The American Association of University Professors does not have an official position on the letters, but the group referred questions to Martin Kich, an English professor at Wright State University.

Kich said Grijalva has every right to ask for the sources and amounts of research grants and specific proposals that have been funded. “But in requesting the personal correspondence of faculty, he is asking the institutions to violate the academic freedom of those faculty members. AAUP will almost certainly be opposed to that,” he said in an email.

Pielke is one of several academics who have testified before Congress at the invitation of Republicans to be targeted by one of the letters, which were sent to the presidents of the universities that employ the researchers Grijalva’s probing.

Pielke doesn’t dispute human-induced climate change, but frequently says advocates have gone too far with claims that it has worsened extreme weather events like hurricanes and severe droughts, or increased their frequency.

Other professors targeted by the letters break in various ways with the overwhelming majority of scientists on climate change.

For instance, Judith Curry of the Georgia Institute of Technology has attacked the 2013 finding by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that there’s at least a 95 percent chance that human influences have been the dominant cause of warming since the mid-20th century, arguing that evidence had weakened since the IPCC’s big 2007 assessment.

Curry, in a lengthy post on her website Wednesday, criticized Grijalva’s letters and pointed to statements about her funding sources that she attaches to congressional testimony.

“It looks like it is ‘open season’ on anyone who deviates even slightly from the consensus,” she writes, later adding: “I don’t think anything good will come of this. I anticipate that Grijalva will not find any kind of an undisclosed fossil fuel smoking gun from any of the 7 individuals under investigation.”

The other professors who are targets of Grijalva’s letters are:

David Legates of the University of Delaware; John Christy of the University of Alabama; Richard Lindzen of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Robert Balling of Arizona State University; and Steven Hayward of Pepperdine University.

Across Capitol Hill, other Democrats are taking a different tack in launching new probes of the nexus between fossil fuel industries and climate research and testimony.

Sens. Ed Markey, Barbara Boxer and Sheldon Whitehouse sent letters to roughly 100 fossil fuel companies, trade groups, and conservative organizations—like this one to the American Petroleum Institute—seeking information on climate-related research they have supported.

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  • Avatar

    Drewski

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    The probes into Benghazi went to far.
    Probing fossil fuel obfuscation can’t go far enough.

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Gator

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      Gee, I seem to remember certain people who went berserk when Bush was alleged to have muzzled Hansen. How dare they silence a scientist!

      It’s OK Pinocchio, we don’t expect anything like honesty or ethical principles from you. Don’t worry.

      But hey, why not reveal all the entities on the take from Big Oil, and toss all of their science out the window. Where to start?

      I know!

      [i]1. Climate Research Unit (CRU) History From the late 1970s through to the collapse of oil prices in the late 1980s, CRU received a series of contracts from BP to provide data and advice concerning their exploration operations in the Arctic marginal seas. Working closely with BP’s Cold Regions Group, CRU staff developed a set of detailed sea-ice atlases, This list is not fully exhaustive, but we would like to acknowledge the support of the following funders (in alphabetical order): …British Petroleum…Greenpeace International…Reinsurance Underwriters and Syndicates…Sultanate of Oman…Shell……

      2. Sierra Club TIME – 2 February 2012 Exclusive: How the Sierra Club Took Millions From the Natural Gas Industry TIME has learned that between 2007 and 2010 the Sierra Club accepted over $25 million in donations from the gas industry, mostly from Aubrey McClendon, CEO of Chesapeake Energy—one of the biggest gas drilling companies in the U.S. and a firm heavily involved in fracking…”

      3. Delhi Sustainable Development Summit [Founded by Teri under Dr. Rajendra Pachauri chairman of the IPCC] 2011: Star Partner – Rockefeller Foundation 2007: Partners – BP 2006: Co-Associates – NTPC [coal and gas power generation] | Function Hosts – BP 2005: Associate – Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited, India | Co-Associate Shell

      4. Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project Berkeley Earth team members include: Richard Muller, Founder and Scientific Director……Steven Mosher, Scientist… Financial Support First Phase (2010) …Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation ($150,000) The Ann & Gordon Getty Foundation ($50,000)… Second Phase (2011) …The Ann & Gordon Getty Foundation ($50,000)… Third Phase (2012) …The Ann & Gordon Getty Foundation ($50,000)…Anonymous Foundation ($250,000)… Fourth Phase (2013) …The Ann & Gordon Getty Foundation ($100,000)…

      5. 350.org 350.org caught up in fossil fuel ‘divestment’ hypocrisy [Rockefellers Brothers Fund] RBF has given 350.org $800,000 in recent years and almost $2 million to the 1Sky Education Fund, now part of 350.org, according to foundation records.”

      6. Union of Concerned Scientists The 2013 Annual Report PDF UCS thanks the following companies that matched members’ gifts at a level of $1,000 or more….Chevron Corporation…” Annual Report 2002 PDF The Union of Concerned Scientists gratefully acknowledges the following individuals and foundations for their generous contributions of at least $500 during our fiscal year 2002 (October 1, 2001–September 30, 2002)…” Friends of UCS The Friends of UCS provide substantial support for the ongoing work of the organization…Larry Rockefeller…Matching Gift Companies…BP Amoco Matching Gift Program…Philip Morris Companies, Inc…”

      7. University of California, Berkeley CalCAP, Cal Climate Action Partnership What is CalCAP? The Cal Climate Action Partnership (CalCAP) is a collaboration of faculty, administration, staff, and students working to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at UC Berkeley.”

      8. University of California, Berkeley UC Berkeley News – 1 February 2007 BP selects UC Berkeley to lead $500 million energy research consortium with partners Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, University of Illinois.”

      9. Climate Institute About Us The Climate Institute has been in a unique position to inform key decision-makers, heighten international awareness of climate change, and identify practical ways of achieving significant emissions reductions… Donors American Gas Foundation…BP…NASA….PG&E Corporation [natural gas & electricity]…Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Shell Foundation…The Rockefeller Foundation…UNDP, UNEP…”

      10. EcoLiving About …EcoLiving provides events and hands-on workshops to teach Albertans about ways to reduce our collective ecological footprint…” Sponsors 2008 Sponsors: …ConocoPhillips…Shell 2009 Sponsors: …ConocoPhillips Canada…2013 Sponsors:…Shell FuellingChange…”

      11. Nature Conservancy Climate Change Threats and Impacts Climate change is already beginning to transform life on Earth. Around the globe, seasons are shifting, temperatures are climbing and sea levels are rising…… If we don’t act now, climate change will rapidly alter the lands and waters we all depend upon for survival, leaving our children and grandchildren with a very different world…” [/i]

      Come on Pinocchio! Go get ’em! 😀

      Reply

      • Avatar

        Drewski

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        Did any of these uncited sources guarantee “deliverables”?

        Reply

        • Avatar

          Gator

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          Of course they did! When was the last time you paid for a product and then did not receive it?

          de·liv·er·a·ble
          dəˈliv(ə)rəb(ə)l/
          adjective 1. able to be delivered.
          “goods in a deliverable state”
          noun
          noun: deliverable; plural noun: deliverables
          1. a thing able to be provided, especially as a product of a development process.

          Hey! How is Pachauri doing these days?

          Reply

  • Avatar

    Amber

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    It is easier to try and intimidate than challenge the scientific findings . Expect a lot more as the grossly exaggerated global warming scam unwinds .

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Robert

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    [quote]documents obtained by environmentalists showed that Soon referred to his work as “deliverables” for funders.[/quote]

    One little word, deliverables, blown so far out of proportion with its meaning so twisted it isn’t even worth reading any of the “reports” about it.

    The contracts were signed by representatives of the Smithsonian, the Smithsonian was the recipient of the funds who then would disburse to Dr. Soon as the contracted employee.

    No one, regardless of their affiliations provides funding without the expectation of some form of deliverable. The word is standard language in business contracts.

    Now prove that his results would have been any different if the money had come from Greenpeace.

    Secondly, the paper that started this mess, the “Models run too hot” paper was not part of this funding. It was not a “deliverable.”

    A paper that comes up with “2+2=4” is true regardless of who funded the paper.

    Nice to see the alarmist rats showing themselves for what they are, they can’t refute the paper so attack the man.

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Drewski

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    “A paper that comes up with “2+2=4″ is true regardless of who funded the paper.”

    And when it comes up “5” as it so often has with Willie Soon — what then?

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Gator

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      The paper passed peer review. Are you saying that scientific journals believe 2+2 is 5? 😆

      How is your wingman Pachauri these days?

      Reply

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