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Whitehouse Threatens Scientific Freedom

March 24, 2015 in Economics

By Paul C. "Chip" Knappenberger

Paul C. “Chip” Knappenberger

Science is impossible without differing opinions. At the root of many of history’s scientific regressions are attempts by powerful people to silence minority opinions.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., has been sending letters to select energy companies, trade groups and think tanks to try to intimidate them into divulging the details of funding they may provide for climate change research activities. In a March 15 letter to editor (“ ‘Scientists’ may be engaged in fraud against public”), he dismissed the idea that this undermines scientific freedom.

He suggests the Cato Institute’s right to privacy is nefarious and that Cato’s funding, 95 percent of which comes from non-corporate donors, has turned me into a climate denier. His insinuation is demonstrably false in several ways.

Senator Whitehouse’s investigations are an attempt to further consolidate federal control over climate science by demonizing funding from non-government sources.”

As a climatologist who has researched climate change, its causes, and its impacts for nearly three decades, I can say quite confidently I don’t “deny” climate change. In fact, Mr. Whitehouse and I probably are in much closer agreement on the climate science than the senator realizes — or perhaps, cares to admit.

Mr. Whitehouse, who has made a name for himself on this issue by delivering weekly speeches on the topic from the Senate floor for the past three years, has said, “The atmosphere is warming; ice is melting; seas are warming, rising and acidifying.” I completely agree with this assessment. I also agree human emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouses gases — largely a result of humanity’s quest for accessible energy — play a significant role in these changes. In fact, there is consensus on these views, as Mr. Whitehouse frequently notes.

The level of agreement diverges, however, as we go from generalities to specifics. For example, Mr. Whitehouse confidently ascribes changes in frequency and ferocity of extreme weather events to human-caused climate changes, while the scientific literature is much more nuanced. The scientific consensus, such as that presented by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, holds that links between the occurrence of most types of extreme weather events and climate change are neither well-established nor well-supported. I stand close to the scientific majority on this issue, but apart from Mr. Whitehouse.

The biggest difference, however, between Mr. Whitehouse and me — and likely all the climate scientists whom Mr. Whitehouse decorates with derogatory …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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