1/30/2007

Information vs Image: Political Pressure and Science

Recently, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and Government Accountability Project (GAP) released a detailed Report regarding political pressure in the scientific study of climate change. This report, entitled "Atmosphere of Pressure", targets politicians and federal forces alike who have (and continue to) impede the study and communication of scientific research on global warning and other major climate changes. This report was highlighted in today's House Oversight Committee hearing, citing some of the following information:

In the report's survey of 1,600 scientists, 279 of which responded:

"Forty-six percent of respondents perceived or personally experienced pressure to eliminate the words “climate change,” “global warming,” or other similar terms from a variety of communications. "

"Forty-three percent of respondents reported they had perceived or personally experienced changes or edits during review of their work that changed the meaning of their scientific findings."

"Forty-six percent of respondents perceived or personally experienced new or unusual administrative requirements that impair climate-related work."

"Twenty-five percent of respondents perceived or personally experienced situations in which scientists have objected to, resigned from, or removed themselves from a project because of pressure to change scientific findings."

"Fifty-eight percent stated that they had personally experienced one or more incidents of interference over the past five years. The number of incidents totaled at least 435"

(Excerpts courtesy of GAP)

Here's a quote from within the report from an anonymous scientist in the USDA:

"Policy should be based on sound science; results of science should not be diluted or... adjusted to justify policy. This particular Administration has gone beyond reasonable boundaries, on this issue. To be in denial on climate change is a crime against the Nation."

The report also contains in-depth interviews with 40 climate scientists and government officials. These interviews pinpoint a major source of political pressure emanating from within the Bush administration. The report refers to this as "...a large pattern of attacks on scientific integrity". The report goes on to list recommendations for ensuring that scientific freedoms and integrity are maintained, calling on Congress to guarantee a federally employed scientist's right to express their findings in private to colleagues and associates. It also states that scientists should assume a greater role in allocation of federal funding and have the final say regarding their own publications, establishing a so-called "Right of last review".

The Report itself goes into far more depth on all of these issues. It's a tremendously important read and I suggest everyone take a look.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link, Jeff.

Isn't it amazing how reality doesn't go away, no matter how much you try to ignore it?

2+2 is never going to equal 5. That may be the only part of Orwell's 1984 that doesn't serve the Bush administration.

Barbara said...

In Bush's State of the Union address, I noticed he used the phrase "climate change" instead of "global warming". His continued denial of the significant problems with the environment is beyond belief and yet another example of his strong allegiance to corporate America. This is not only a crime against the nation, but a crime against the people of the world. Could Bush really believe that what he is doing is right? I believe that history will see his presidency as scandalous. Thanks for raising this important issue. Political pressure is often short-sighted.

Jeff Hudecek said...

Barb,

Thanks a bunch for posting. I have to point out, however, that the term "climate change" isn't a rhetorical means of hiding global warning, and is commonly used phrase within the scientific community to describe that very phenomenon. That said, the Bush Administration's formal stance has always been that climate change and global warming are occurring, but that there isn't enough evidence to deem it a man-made problem (which is ridiculous). I couldn't agree more with everything else you said.

Barbara said...

Jeff,

Here's my take on this term: The term "climate change" seems to me (and others in the environmental movement) as a term that suggests a "natural" occurance and a softening of the term "global warming". Perhaps some scientists feel that it more accurately describes the long term consequences of global warming. However, to me it smacks of a "politically corrected" term that will not alarm the public. Words are very powerful. In my opinion, the use of this term is a direct reflection of political pressure on scientists.