Eleven Senate Republicans wrote letters to universities Friday saying they’re “deeply concerned” with a Democratic investigation into industry funding of contrarian climate research.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, sent the letter to the same university officials who received letters earlier this week from Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.). The letter from Grijalva asked about seven researchers skeptical of popular scientific opinions on climate change and whether they get funding from fossil fuel interests.
The rest of the Republicans on the Environment Committee joined Inhofe, the Senate’s most vocal climate skeptic, in signing the letter.
“Rather than empower scientists and researchers to expand the public discourse on climate science and other environmental topics, the letter could be viewed as an attempt to silence legitimate intellectual and scientific inquiry,” the Republicans wrote.
Inhofe and his colleagues sought to justify private funding of scientific research, saying government funding has limits.
“At the core of American ingenuity are those researchers who challenge the status quo whether in matters of climate, economics, medicine, or any field of study,” they said.
The letter is just the latest indicator that Grijalva, ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, hit a nerve with his investigation, launched in the wake of news that prominent climate skeptic researcher Willie Soon allegedly took more than $1.2 million in fossil fuel funding and sometimes did not properly disclose it.
Earlier Friday, the American Meteorological Society warned that Grijalva’s probe “sends a chilling message to all academic researchers.”
The researchers themselves and their employers have also shot back.
“I know with complete certainty that this investigation is a politically-motivated ‘witch hunt’ designed to intimidate me (and others) and to smear my name,” Colorado University researcher Roger Pielke Jr. wrote on his blog.
Russell Moore, the university’s provost, told the Boulder Daily Camera that Pielke “is a highly regarded faculty member who is clearly operating under the principles of academic freedom, which we strongly defend.”
“It looks like it is ‘open season’ on anyone who deviates even slightly from the consensus,” wrote Judith Curry of Georgia Tech.