House Democrat Backs Away From Climate-Change Witch Hunt

From National Journal comes word that Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), the grand inquisitor of the Great Global Warming Witch Hunt, has decided his probe of seven university professors who didn’t get with the climate-change program was a bit of “overreach.”

The Arizona Democrat sent letters last week to seven universities seeking information on the sources and amounts of external funding for research, consulting, travel, and more.

The letters also broadly asked for “communication” regarding the funding, and communication related to testimony to Congress and other bodies prepared by the professors.

“The communications back-and-forth is honestly secondary, and I would even on my own say that that was an overreach in that letter,” Grijalva, the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, told National Journal on Monday. “I want the disclosure [of funding sources]. Then people can draw their own conclusions.”

His probe follows revelations that Wei-Hock (Willie) Soon of the 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.

Yes, when people poke holes in a theory that cannot be answered with facts and reason, SCIENCE! demands they be hounded into silence by making it clear that speaking up is far more trouble than it’s worth. The tactic sadly appears to have been effective with one of the seven targets, Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado, who frankly admitted he has “shifted all of my academic work away from climate issues” due to the “incessant attacks and smears.” Others, such as Dr. Judith Curry of the Georgia Institute of Technology, along with the institutions targeted by Grijalva and observers in the academic community, pushed back hard enough to get him to back down:

Grijalva’s probe has drawn fire in recent days from critics who call it an affront to academic freedom, and the request for communications has been one of the focal points.

“[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 American Meteorological Society said in a letter to Grijalva Friday.

Also on Friday, the head of another scientific group, the American Geophysical Union, said in ablog post that seeking disclosure of funders is appropriate but that “asking them [professors] to share drafts of testimony or communications about that testimony goes too far.”

Grijalva played down his interest in receiving copies of the communications. “As long as we get a response as to the funding sources, I think everything else is secondary and not necessary,” he said in the Capitol on Monday evening.

Grijalva said he was willing to “eliminate that request” for communications if it becomes a barrier to the other disclosures that he is seeking.

The letters also seek information on the universities’ policies on financial disclosure and copies of the financial-disclosure forms that the professors have filed.

But don’t worry, it’s not a witch hunt, because Grijalva says it isn’t. “This is not a witch hunt. We are not asking for all their data, for all their research. We are asking for disclosure, simple as that.”

Dr. Curry disagrees, as quoted from an interview with Watchdog.org: “Absolutely, this letter is intimidation. Whenever you testify, you are required to submit a financial disclosure. All of us have complied with this. Now, in some cases, decades after the testimony we are asked to submit all sorts of additional financial information, including travel information. Exactly how is someone ‘bribed’ by accepting reimbursement for a trip?”

Watchdog also has more from the American Meteorological Society letter referenced by National Journal: “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.”

That’s exactly what this is all about.

The global warming movement is very good at chilling, at least when it comes to skeptical inquiry and free speech. As Dr. Curry has pointed out, younger academics are especially vulnerable to these intimidation tactics. They’ll be assured they are technically free to pursue heretical lines of inquiry… but look at the costs and difficulty they’ll incur, and the hassles any prospective employer or sponsor will be forced to endure! Better to find less expensive ways to practice science, especially knowing how much money and power the vengeful cartel of climate-changers and their political patrons derive from their fashionable theories.

That’s why the same Democrat Party that slips on rubber noses and clown costumes when it’s time to investigate the IRS abuse of power is ready to launch detailed investigations of a few churlish scientists, stretching back for decades, on the theory that Big Oil covering someone’s cab fare automatically invalidates their scientific research. (But only when that research runs contrary to global warming theory, of course! The money Big Oil donates to politically correct scientists carries no taint whatsoever!) Hundreds of millions of foreign dollars pouring into the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of Sate puts no crease in the Democrat brow, but modest amounts of funding to the wrong scientists from the wrong corporate entities is a threat that justifies releasing the Kraken.

Speaking of the hassles endured by the patrons of heretical scientists, Watchdog.org mentions a parallel witch hunt against dissident foundations: “Just one day after Grijalva sent his letters, Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., on the Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works, sent letters to free-market think tanks and energy companies asking them to turn over funding records related to any research they’ve conducted on climate change.”

Sounds as if we’re not quite done with the “overreaching” yet.


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