‘Climategate’ hasn't swayed swing votes on climate change bill

Centrist Republican Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) argues that the "climategate" e-mails should be probed on Capitol Hill, but the e-mails haven't changed her views on global warming.

“There appears to be sufficient controversy and concern that I think it warrants the Environment and Public Works Committee taking a look at it,” said Collins, a swing vote in the looming Senate fight on cap-and-trade, in the Capitol on Sunday.

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She told The Hill that the e-mails, hacked from a British research institute, led her to check in with two scientists at the University of Maine on the matter. “They are disappointed at what appears may have happened, but they tell me it does not change their own conclusions or their own research,” she said. Collins still believes humans are causing climate change.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said he does not believe the e-mails are jeopardizing Democratic swing votes. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) hopes to bring a climate and energy package to the floor in the spring.

“I am not hearing anybody on our side, even the people who are more economically concerned about the climate legislation who come from coal states, that sort of thing, saying, 'What are we going to say about this, is this a problem?’ ” said Whitehouse, a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee who backs fast action on mandatory emissions curbs.

Whitehouse said GOP members will use the messages to try and slow climate legislation, but predicts it will not work.

The messages appear to show scientists discussing ways to massage data and squelch views of researchers who do not agree that humans are warming the planet. They also show the scientists deriding climate skeptics. Both the University of East Anglia in the U.K., which houses the Climatic Research Institute, and the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have vowed reviews.

But the researchers and their supporters say the e-mails have been taken out of context, and do nothing to dent powerful evidence that the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation are causing climate change.

Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.), the top Republican on the Senate Environment panel, as well as Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and David Vitter (R-La.), have called for various inquiries into the matter, including a committee hearing.

Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) on Sunday said she isn’t planning a hearing, although she did not entirely shut the door on the question.

“The main thing is, is there any change in the underlying science? If I believed there was a change in an underlying science, I think that would be worth looking at because one would want to know, is the science right?” she told The Hill. “At this point it looks as if all of the scientists who have been engaged in this global warming issue who were not involved in the e-mails say there is nothing that changes their mind.”

Boxer said, however, that she is continuing to collect information, and also reiterated her view that any committee hearing should also explore criminal dimensions of the hacking. “If I were to hold a hearing, it would be on the entire issue, but right now, I don’t see reason to do it,” she said.

Look for Republicans, meanwhile, to keep raising the issue as Senate action on slow-moving climate legislation draws closer.

“I expect there will be a lot more learned about it and I think before we transform the American economy in such a dramatic way, and impose such huge additional costs on taxpayer[s], I think we ought to do it on sound science,” said Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee.