July 18, 2005
Abuse of Congressional Power -- Investigation of Climate Change Studies
For What its Worth
The investigation launched last month by the House Energy and Commerce Committee against individual scientists [House Committee Global Warming Letters] who have published key climate change studies has run into some substantial opposition -- prominent climate change scientists, the President of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the House Science Committee chair. House Science Committee climate science dispute letters ; Realclimate website report
The committee's spokesman has explained that such requests are commonly used by the committee to garner knowledge about matters within its jurisdiction. From my experience serving in the government and observing the House Subcommittee on Oversight and investigations, it is true that the committee commonly makes those requests. That's the problem. Congressional investigations by their nature are intimidating. That fact gave rise to a nickname for an entire era in Congress -- the McCarthy era. When that tool of intimidation is aimed at small, apolitical fish -- trial lawyers in the Justice Department or individual scientists working on government research -- it is fundamentally unfair and, in my opinion, an abuse of power.
Update: reaction in Science Science commentary
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