Dem Lawmaker Backtracks On Climate ‘Witch Hunt’

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, is backing down from his own investigation into the funding and communications of scientists who have expressed skepticism over man-made global warming.

Grijalva sent letters to seven universities housing alleged climate “skeptics” last week, but now is saying his investigation may have been an “overreach.” Grijalva even removed the letters from his congressional website, though they are still available online.

“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, told National Journal.

Despite Grijalva’s admission of overreach in asking for personal communications of climate scientists, he still wants universities to disclose any funding from energy companies going to research by skeptical scientists.

“I want the disclosure [of funding sources]. Then people can draw their own conclusions,” he said.

Grijalva’s request for “communications” of climate scientists has sparked harsh criticism from the scientific community. The American Meteorological Association says the investigation “sends a chilling message to all academic researchers.”

Republicans argued that Grijalva’s letter “could be viewed as an attempt to silence legitimate intellectual and scientific inquiry.”

One targeted scientist has even announce he was leaving climate research for good because of pressure from Democrats and environmentalists. That scientist, University of Colorado climate scientist Roger Pielke Jr. took to Twitter to criticize Grijalva’s effort to smear his reputation.

Grijalva’s investigation — and a separate one being conducted by Senate Democrats — came after The New York Times reported that Smithsonian climate scientist Willie Soon received $409,000 from Southern Company, an electric utility that uses coal power, without disclosing the information to scientific journals he was published in.

Documents showing Smithsonian receiving money from Southern to fund Soon’s research were obtained by Greenpeace in the wake of a 2009 Freedom of Information Act. It’s unclear if Soon not disclosing his funding from Southern Company actually constitutes a conflict of interest environmentalists and the Times have alleged.

Soon has since fired back, saying he is the victim of a smear campaign from environmental groups. He said financial gain has never influenced his research, which has ruffled feathers in the climate science community for linking solar cycles to global warming.

“I am saddened and appalled by this effort, not only because of the personal hurt it causes me and my family and friends, but also because of the damage it does to the integrity of the scientific process,” Soon said in a statement. “I am willing to debate the substance of my research and competing views of climate change with anyone, anytime, anywhere. It is a shame that those who disagree with me resolutely decline all public debate and stoop instead to underhanded and unscientific ad hominem tactics.”

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