GOP links climate emails to EPA policy, but White House defends warming data



-- Several House and Senate Republicans are pressing the Obama administration to pull back on its climate policies in light of the emails, which were lifted from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

In a letter to EPA today, they call for a “thorough and transparent investigation into questions raised” by the messages.

The letter calls on EPA to withdraw several regulatory initiatives until it can show the science underlying them has not been compromised. They want the agency to pull back its proposed endangerment finding that greenhouse gas emissions threaten human health and welfare, a precursor to regulatory emissions limits. They also want to halt planned rules on emissions from cars and light trucks.

The letter was sent by Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), and Sens. David Vitter (R-La.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). Issa is the ranking Republican on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, while Sensenbrenner holds that spot on the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

Separately, two senior Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce  Committee – Reps. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Greg Walden (R-Ore.) – wrote letters to Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke on the issue.

The letters say some of the messages raise questions about the agencies’ compliance with freedom of information laws, and the integrity of federally-funded research.

-- Obama administration officials strongly defended the science behind global warming today, calling evidence of dangerous, human-induced climate changes powerful.

At a House hearing, top White House scientist John Holdren said there is a “very strong scientific consensus on the key characteristics of the problem.”

“The current state of knowledge about it, even though incomplete, as science always is, and even though controversial in some details, as science almost always is, is sufficient to make clear that failure to act promptly to reduce global emissions . . . is overwhelmingly likely to lead to changes in climate too extreme and damaging to be adequately addressed by any adaptation measures that can be foreseen,” said Holdren, who heads the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

He spoke at a hearing on climate science convened by the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

Holdren pointed to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data on temperature records going back to 1880 showing that nine of the 10 warmest years have occurred since 1998, and all 15 of the warmest have been since 1990. The lack of warming in recent years does not alter what has been a consistently upward trend, he said, comments echoed by NOAA head Jane Lubchenco. “The overall record is an upward trajectory,” she said.

But Holdren also acknowledged that questions remain about what some of the emails mean. “If there was manipulation of data that was not scientifically legitimate, I regard that as a problem and I would denounce it,” he said. Nonetheless, the whole affair does not reveal any game-changing information, he argued.

“However this particular controversy comes out, the result will not call into question the bulk of our understanding of how the climate works,” he said.

But Republicans at the hearing disagreed.

“At worst it’s junk science and part of a massive international scientific fraud,” said Sensenbrenner, later adding that “there is increasing evidence of scientific fascism that is going on.” Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.) said “there seems to be a culture of corruption in the scientific community.”