Hearing ‚Äì Climate Science: Assumptions, Policy Implications, and the Scientific Method
US House Committee on Science, Space and Technology
March 29, 2017
My Recent Experiences Where Science Meets Politics
Despite publishing many peer reviewed papers on a wide range of climate-related topics with colleagues around the world and having my research included in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC),1
I experienced an organized effort of delegitimization by members of Congress and the White House, supported by their political allies in the media and in well-funded advocacy groups. These efforts were successful in that they resulted in me re-orienting my academic career away from climate-related research.
Here are some specifics of my experiences over the past few years:
Several months after I testified before this committee in December 2013, the White House posted on its website a 6-page essay by the President’s Science Advisor,
John Holdren, which claimed falsely that my testimony before this committee was “not representative of mainstream views on this topic in the climate-science community” and was “seriously misleading.”2
Science advisor Holdren’s false claims were put forward even though my testimony was drawn from and consistent with the most recent reports of the IPCC.
I have for decades supported the scientific assessment process of the IPCC and did so explicitly in my 2013 Congressional testimony.
One year later, Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) opened a formal investigation of me and six other professors (three of us are testifying here today). In his letter to my university’s president, Mr. Grijalva justified the investigation of me by relying on the science advisor’s false claims: “John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, has highlighted what he believes were serious misstatements by Prof. Pielke of the scientific consensus on climate change,” and cited Dr. Holdren’s essay on the White House website.3
In his letter, Mr. Grijalva introduced another false implication — that I, and the other academics, had “potential conflicts of interest and failure to disclose corporate funding sources.”4 Mr. Grijalva’s letter cited Exxon Mobil and the Koch Foundation as possible sources of undisclosed funding that I may have received.
The communications director for the House Natural Resources Committee explained how we seven academics were chosen to be investigated by Mr. Grijalva: “The way we chose the list of recipients [of Mr. Grijalva’s letter] is who has published widely, who has testified in Congress before, who seems to have the most impact on policy in the scientific community.”5
Publishing widely, testifying before Congress when asked and doing work with policy impact are usually held up as virtues among academics who are supported with public funds, but not in this circumstance.
My university conducted the investigation as requested by Mr. Grijalva, and (no surprise to me) found that I have never received any fossil fuel or Koch Foundation funding. In 2016, the University of Colorado’s elected Board of Regents issued a statement of support for me and academic freedom more generally.6
Despite being ultimately vindicated about the integrity my research and my funding sources, as well as receiving the strong support of my University’s leadership, the investigation proved extremely harmful to my ability to work in the field of climate.
I have academic tenure (thankfully) and have chosen to shift the focus of my research to other interesting subjects at the intersection of science, policy and politics.