Gibbs: Despite research dispute, 'climate change is happening'

The White House on Monday made exceptionally clear that it wants nothing to do with the furor over documents that global warming skeptics say prove the phenomenon is not a threat.

Despite the incident, which rocked international headlines last week, climate science is sound, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs stressed this afternoon, and the White House nonetheless believes "climate change is happening."

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"I don't think that's anything that is, quite frankly, among most people, in dispute anymore," he said during Monday's press briefing.

Climate change skeptics have asserted over the past week that the publication of more than 1,000 private e-mails and documents once housed in the University of East Anglia's computer system refutes most modern global warming evidence.

The documents, unearthed by a blogger who hacked into Climate Research Unit's (CRU) private system, have since touched off an international debate over the veracity of those scientists' works.

But the dispute is proving especially troublesome for the Obama administration as it prepares to head to Copenhagen next week for a climate change summit -- a forum the president will attend.

Not only has the White House faced criticism from the left for offering too few concessions ahead of the meet, it is now fielding dissatisfaction from the right for participating in a summit sponsored in part by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) -- one of the research organs touched by the CRU spat.

"I think there's no real scientific basis for the dispute of this," responded Gibbs to questions about those scientists' credibility.

Nevertheless, congressional Republicans this week hope to ramp up their criticism of both global warming policy and the science that informs it.

Most vocal seems to be Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. Inhofe demanded on Friday a hearing into the IPCC's research to determine whether it "cooked the science to make this thing look as if the science was settled, when all the time of course we knew it was not."

"[T]his thing is serious, you think about the literally millions of dollars that have been thrown away on some of this stuff that they came out with," he told reporters, noting it was "interesting" the e-mails surfaced before the Copenhagen summit.