American Meteorological Society: Dem’s Climate-Funding Probe Sends “˜Chilling Message’

Group says Rep. Raul Grijalva’s inquiry is a risk to academic freedom.

TUSCON, AZ - APRIL 24: U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) denounces Arizona's tough new immigration law on April 24, 2010 in Tuscon, Arizona. Grijalva, who shut his Tuscon office the day before because of death threats, called for an economic boycott of Arizona because of the new law, which he called racist. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
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Ben Geman
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Ben Geman
Feb. 27, 2015, 8:51 a.m.

The Amer­ic­an Met­eor­o­lo­gic­al So­ci­ety is con­demning a prom­in­ent Demo­crat’s in­vest­ig­a­tion of uni­versity pro­fess­ors who stake out skep­tic­al or con­trari­an po­s­i­tions on cli­mate change.

“Pub­licly singling out spe­cif­ic re­search­ers based on per­spect­ives they have ex­pressed and im­ply­ing a fail­ure to ap­pro­pri­ately dis­close fund­ing sources — and thereby ques­tion­ing their sci­entif­ic in­teg­rity — sends a chilling mes­sage to all aca­dem­ic re­search­ers,” the group wrote Fri­day to Rep. Raul Gri­jalva, the top Demo­crat on the Nat­ur­al Re­sources Com­mit­tee.

The let­ter marks the latest cri­ti­cism of the Ari­zona law­maker’s search for ties between fossil-fuel in­terests and pro­fess­ors at sev­er­al schools who have test­i­fied be­fore Con­gress at the in­vit­a­tion of Re­pub­lic­ans.

Na­tion­al Journ­al has much more on the con­tro­versy over Gri­jalva’s in­quiry here.

His probe fol­lows rev­el­a­tions that Wei-Hock (Wil­lie) Soon of Har­vard-Smith­so­ni­an Cen­ter for As­tro­phys­ics, who dis­putes the sci­entif­ic con­sensus that hu­man activ­it­ies are the main driver of glob­al warm­ing, failed to dis­close re­search fund­ing from Ex­xon, South­ern Com­pany, and oth­er fossil-fuel in­dustry sources.

The Smith­so­ni­an an­nounced this week that it has launched an in­tern­al probe of Soon.

Cri­ti­cism of Gri­jalva has fo­cused on part on his ef­fort to ob­tain pro­fess­ors’ cor­res­pond­ence with fun­ders in pre­par­a­tion of testi­mony.

“[R]equest­ing cop­ies of the re­search­er’s com­mu­nic­a­tions re­lated to ex­tern­al fund­ing op­por­tun­it­ies or the pre­par­a­tion of testi­mony im­pinges on the free pur­suit of ideas that is cent­ral to the concept of aca­dem­ic free­dom,” the AMS let­ter states.

A spokes­man for Gri­jalva did not provide im­me­di­ate com­ment on Fri­day.

The AMS let­ter shows the ex­tent to which Gri­jalva has touched a nerve even with sci­ent­ists and ad­voc­ates who do not agree with the tar­gets of the probe, who are gen­er­ally pro­fess­ors who break with most sci­ent­ists on the ex­tent or risks of hu­man-in­duced warm­ing.

The AMS’s form­al po­s­i­tion is that warm­ing of the cli­mate is “un­equi­voc­al” and that the dom­in­ant cause over the last half-cen­tury are hu­man-driv­en in­creases in green­house-gas emis­sions.

Three Sen­ate Demo­crats — Ed Mar­key, Bar­bara Box­er, and Shel­don White­house — have launched a sep­ar­ate probe of the links between the fossil fuel in­dustry and cli­mate re­search. They wrote to scores of com­pan­ies, trade as­so­ci­ations, and con­ser­vat­ive groups this week to ask wheth­er they have fun­ded cli­mate-re­lated re­search.

The Demo­crat­ic probes on both sides of the Cap­it­ol drew push­back from Re­pub­lic­ans on the Sen­ate En­vir­on­ment and Pub­lic Works Com­mit­tee on Fri­day. They wrote their own let­ters — like this one — to the re­cip­i­ents of the probes.

“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 GOP let­ters state.

The let­ters re­but­ting the Demo­crat­ic probes also state: “Above all, we ask that you con­tin­ue to sup­port sci­entif­ic in­quiry and dis­cov­ery, and pro­tect aca­dem­ic free­dom des­pite ef­forts to chill free speech.”

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