More White House science suppression?

By Phil Plait | September 19, 2006 4:02 pm

Salon magazine’s website has a lot of articles I disagree with (like trying to link autism with vaccines) and a lot I agree with. They just posted an article indicating the Bush White House may have been controlling media access to climate scientists. This article makes an interesting case, but it’s not as solid as what happened earlier this year (oh, just search for "Deutsch" in my blog search engine), so I’m not sure what to think about it.

Evidently, WH emails indicate that they were controlling what media could access which scientists, the implication being that the WH was trying to spin global warming. We know for a fact they’ve done that in other cases, so more evidence isn’t surprising. My question is how strong this evidence is. My Senator, Barbara Boxer, is looking into this. I might send her an email about it as well.

Update: British scientists have written a letter to ExxonMobile asking the company to stop funding groups that lie about the science of global warming. Very cool.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Debunking, Science, Skepticism

Comments (16)

  1. What?!?! The Bush administration hasn’t been entirely honest?!?!

    “I think I’m gonna have a heart attack from not surprised.”

  2. Crap. That quote is

    “I think I’m gonna have a heart attack and die from not surprise”

  3. Max Fagin

    That is just sick. . .

    There are tiems when I’m ashaimed to be living in a country where it’s leaders think that they should, or even can, control information, especially on something as big as global warming.

    Now I’ve made my views on global warming perfectlly clear, but I hold the constitution and especially the first amendment above all else. We don’t solve debates by censoring one side of the issue.

    Thats called media censorship, and it’s wrong . . .

  4. I luv Collage!

    The media isn’t very truthful. =| Ifyou believe anything the media has to say, especially about President Bush then you’re an utter fool. You have to question things and you need to remember that the media is VERY VERY biased.

    “OMG! Brad Pitt is accually gay! At 2300 hours a MAN was seen walking out of the house with a plate of cheese on it! Today we confront the issue, Brad Pitt, gay or not? What Angelina has to say about this, and uncovering the truth!”

    =| Seriously, don’t be like ignorant children and soak in everything you hear like a sponge.

  5. csrster

    Call me a cynic (again) but I wonder how many of the people praising the Royal Society for
    its latest action on global warming were among those condemning it as “the voice of the
    scientific establishment” when it supported the MMR vaccine.

    Personally I support it on both counts.

  6. The Royal Society is threading on thin ice indeed (pun intended).

    As it cannot go beyond statements like “most of the observed warming of the past 50 years is LIKELY to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gases”, it will be easy for people “on the other side” to state that it remains a matter of “expert judgment rather than objective, reproducible statistical methods” (in Exxon Mobil’s own words)

    The only future for such a debate appears to be little more than splitting hairs.

    As most people appear to realize, the one thing needed to move things forwards is a “smoking gun”, a weather/climate phenomenon purely caused by man-made global warming. Claims for such a finding abound in newspapers on a weekly basis, but the search is still going on

  7. Speaking of anti-science, our pal Mike Janitch is on yet another anti-evolution rant:
    http://www.mikejanitch.com/blog/_archives/2006/9/17/2335605.html

  8. Stuart

    It isn’t just the Royal Society. The Government (the UK, not the US) are currently running a TV advert (also on YouTube) on the topic of climate change. It has quite an urgent tone to it.

  9. Aerimus

    On a related noted, has anyone read the Interview with Newt Gringrich in the latest Discover? I havn’t read the whole thing yet, but I did see him blast the current congress for their lack on insight and pursuit of scientific endeavors.

  10. JustinK

    “the one thing needed to move things forwards is a “smoking gun”, a weather/climate phenomenon purely caused by man-made global warming…”

    That’s true for me, at least. I am hardly an arch-conservative when it comes to the environment, but when I read about major natural (!) climate changes (and similar natural phenomena) nearly destroying all life on earth a number of times before, and then life springing back to action even better than it had been, I don’t really get too worked up about things. Heartless, purposeless nature will be killing things long after the human race has vanished from existence. If there’s a way to prevent humans from adding to the problem I’m willing to go along with it, but I’m less willing to *force* other people to go along with it.

  11. BMurray

    When enormous climatic changes occur large numbers of species disappear forever. That’s natural. One of them could quite plausibly be Homo sapiens sapiens next time. That’d be natural too. Hell, being eaten by a tiger is natural.

    Whether or not the effects are man-made, surely attempting to stabilize things in such a way as to sustain humans is a good plan for humans? Why do we need a smoking gun to confiorm that humans are the cause? Does it even seem reasonable in a vastly dynamic system like this to point, in principle, at a single thing and say that is the proximate cause? This is about maintenance and not about locating and eliminating the proximate cause, as though finding out whose fault it is would solve it.

    So to me the question is not so much “do humans cause global warming” as “can humans stabilize the climate by changing their behaviour”?

  12. BMurray asks “can humans stabilize the climate by changing their behaviour?”

    Hello? Hello? Is this the Religious Channel? Go forth, ye Sinners, repent and the land of milk and honey will be yours!

    ================

    Seriously, your question leads to more questions…can humans affect climate in any significant way? who knows? and how can we find out? for example, is there anything that has actually _changed_ in the past 10, 50 or 100 years or so? (And by “change” I mean “change”, not just “more of the same”)

    And so we are back to square one. As written in this week’s Economist’s special report on Climate Change, it remains a matter of expert opinion and politics, not “hard science”.

    That letter by the Royal Society sounds more futile by the minute…

    Careful also with thinking that “attempting to stabilize things in such a way as to sustain humans is a good plan for humans”. Well, it does depend on what attempts are made. There’s no point to risk cures worse than the problem we are trying to solve

  13. Chuck Anziulewicz and Phil …

    I’ve said it before, I will say it again. “Don’t hate the player… hate the game”…. and “don’t shoot the messenger”.

    Have a good one!

    -Mike Janitch

  14. Brant D.

    “As most people appear to realize, the one thing needed to move things forwards is a “smoking gun”, a weather/climate phenomenon purely caused by man-made global warming.”

    Unfortunately, we will probaly never find one. We have so-called “smoking guns” for anthropogenic global warming itself (a climate phenomenon), but as far as regional climate and short term weather are concerned, the atmosphere is too chaotic for us to separate out all the “natural” variables and noise and show a one-on-one relationship betwen human activity and the phenomenon in question. And, well, even if there was a way to do it, there would always be a degree of uncertainty that certain individuals with, um, questionable motives could exploit. The best we can do is build up the theory and use observations to validate the theory whenever we can. The atmosphere will not sound bells and whistles when the theory gets it right, either.

    There will always be uncertainty, with uncertainty increasing as the phenomena in question become smaller and shorter-lived, and I think people are just going to have to learn to deal with risk management instead of expecting everything important to be carved in stone.

  15. Stuart

    “As written in this week’s Economist’s special report on Climate Change, it remains a matter of expert opinion and politics, not “hard science”.”

    By “expert opinion” I assume you are referring to the huge majority of peer reviewed work on the topic which shows that the climate is indeed changing. Why does the increasing volume of evidence and statistics not count as “hard science” in this situation? This whole topic seems to be constantly turned into a “debate” and framed as just “opinion” as if the peer reviewed work of many government meterologists and university researchers was equivalent to the views of television pundits.

  16. Irishman

    BMurray said:
    >Whether or not the effects are man-made, surely attempting to stabilize things in such a way as to sustain humans is a good plan for humans? …

    >So to me the question is not so much “do humans cause global warming” as “can humans stabilize the climate by changing their behaviour”?

    But in order to answer that question, we need to determine how much of the effect is due to human action, or more specifically, how much can we alter things by changing human action. If human contributions only contribute a negligible amount to climate change features, then is it worth drastically changing our behaviour, lifestyle, and economic system to have marginal if not insignificant effects on the climate change? That is the question being asked by the AGW skeptics.

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