WASHINGTON -- Faced with increasing political attacks, hundreds of climate scientists
are joining a broad campaign to push back against congressional
conservatives who have threatened prominent researchers with
investigations and have vowed to kill regulations to rein in man-made greenhouse gas emissions.
The efforts reveal a shift among climate scientists, many of whom have traditionally stayed out of politics and avoided the news media. Many now say they are willing to go toe-to-toe with their
critics, some of whom gained new power after the Republicans won control
of the House in last Tuesday's election.
On Monday, the American Geophysical Union, the country's largest association of climate scientists, plans to announce that 700 climate scientists have agreed to speak out as experts on questions about global warming and the role of man-made air pollution.
Some are prepared to go before what they consider potentially hostile audiences on conservative talk-radio and television shows.
John Abraham of St. Thomas University in Minnesota, who last May wrote a widely disseminated response to climate-change skeptics, is organizing a "Climate Rapid Response Team," which so far
has more than three dozen leading scientists to defend the consensus on
global warming in the scientific community. Some are also preparing a
handbook on the human causes of climate change, which they plan to start sending to U.S. high schools as soon as this fall.
"This group feels strongly that science and politics can't be divorced and that we need to take bold measures to not only communicate
science but also to aggressively engage the denialists and politicians
who attack climate science and its scientists," said Scott Mandia, professor of physical sciences at Suffolk County Community College in New York.
"We are taking the fight to them because we are . . . tired of taking the hits. The notion that truth will prevail is not working. The
truth has been out there for the past two decades, and nothing has
During the recent election campaigns, skepticism about climate change became a rallying cry for many Republican candidates. Of the more than 100 new Republican members of Congress, 50 percent are climate-change skeptics, according to an analysis of campaign statements by the Center for American Progress, a liberal research group.
Prominent Republican congressmen such as Darrell Issa, R-Calif., Joe L. Barton, R-Texas, and F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wis., have pledged to investigate the Environmental Protection Agency's regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. They say they also intend to probe the so-called Climategate scandal, in which thousands of e-mails
of leading climate scientists were hacked and released to the public late last year.
Climate-change skeptics argued that the sniping in some e-mails showed that scientists suppressed research by skeptics and manipulated
data. Five independent panels subsequently cleared the researchers
involved and validated the science.
"People who ask and accept taxpayer dollars shouldn't get bent of shape when asked to account for the money," said James M. Taylor, a senior fellow and a specialist in global warming at the conservative Heartland Institute in Chicago. "The budget is spiraling out of control while government is handing out billions of dollars in grants to climate scientists, many of whom are unabashed activists."
Ongoing public interest in Climategate has prompted climate scientists to act.
The American Geological Union plan has attracted a large number of scientists in a short time because they were eager to address what they
see as climate misinformation, said Jeffrey Taylor, research fellow at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado and manager of the project.
Still, the scope of the group's work is limited, reflecting the ongoing reluctance by many scientists to venture into politics.
In the week that Abraham and others have been organizing the rapid-response team, 39 scientists agreed to participate, including Richard Feely, senior scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Kevin Trenberth, head of the climate analysis section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research; and Michael Oppenheimer, professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University.
"People who've already dug their heels in, we're not going to change their opinions," Mandia said. "We're trying to reach people who
may not have an opinion or opinion based on limited information."