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In the past couple of weeks there has been a spate of newspaper articles reporting that the House passed Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer’s (R-9) budget bill amendement to deny funding to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which he characterizes as “engaged in dubious science.” I admit that I did not do a comprehensive survey, but few of the newspaper articles that I saw bothered to examine Luetkemeyer’s rationale for that belief.

This St. Louis Post-Dispatch article is typical. It summarizes Luetkemeyer’s assertions, briefly quotes another congressman, Rep. Henry Waxman,  who, predictably, criticizes Luetkemeyer, and leaves the issue there.  The reader can be forgiven for thinking that this is just another partisan squabble. Some articles actually get a quote from a scientist who, naturally, finds Luetkemeyer’s actions disturbing. But nobody evaluates the evidence either way.

For example, many of Luetkemeyer’s assertions about the IPCC hinge on his embrace of the “climategate” scam. In the Post-Dispatch article cited above he references the manufactured controversy to justify his claim that the IPCC is “nefarious”:

Scientists manipulated climate data, suppressed legitimate arguments in peer-reviewed journals, and researchers were asked to destroy emails so that a small number of climate alarmists could continue to advance their environmental agenda

Climategate gave rise to no substantive criticism of the IPCC findings  – just efforts to cast aspersions on the group’s impartiality, based on a few casual emails from IPCC participants at the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit (CRU). The Post-Dispatch article said nothing about the fact that half a dozen investigations of the alleged wrongdoing have vindicated the scientists involved. Most recently, the U.S. Commerce Department Inspector General, who initiated an investigation into the Climategate accusations at the behest the the notorious denialist, Senator James Inhoffe (R-OK), concluded that:

In our review of the CRU emails, we did not find any evidence that NOAA inappropriately manipulated data comprising the [Global Historical Climatology Network] dataset or failed to adhere to appropriate peer review procedures.

In his press release on the topic, Luetkemeyer also touts a report in which he says “more than 700 acclaimed international scientists have challenged the claims made by the IPCC.” Several news reports on Luetkemeyer’s legislation also mention his promotion of this report. The Dake Page, a science blog, describes the contents in less enthusiastic terms than Luetkemeyer:

… The report is the list of quotes and abstracts compiled by Marc Morano (a lobbyist funded non-scientist) when he worked for James Inhofe during Inhofe’s previous chairmanship of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.  While some of the scientists listed are in fact acclaimed, mostly they are in completely separate fields of study and have never done any climate research.  Others are not scientists at all.  And many of the quotes and abstracts have been edited to suggest positions many of the scientists say they do not hold.

It shouldn’t really have been too difficult to come up with this information. Especially since several of the “700 scientists,” such as Steve Rayner from Oxford, have very publicly repudiated the report and asked that their names, included without their permission, be removed.

The fact is that the basis upon which Rep. Luetkemeyer suggests we withhold vital support from the IPCC is easily demonstrated to be false. The real tragedy is that we desperately need the type of unified research effort that only a cooperative body like the IPCC can provide. Yet our press allows misguided and ignorant politicians like Luetkemeyer to besmirch its reputation with impunity.

Given the importance of the issue, would it have been too much to have expected the Post-Dispatch reporter to go just a little deeper? None of the facts above are hard to find or to verify. He wouldn’t have to say that Luetkemeyer is peddling hokum; he should just do a little more fact checking. We rely on newspapers for truth about what our leaders are doing and saying. Reporting what is authoritatively known about important questions – and climate change is indisputably important – does not constitute bias – unless you think that a bias in favor of the truth is wrong.