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Senior Advisor

Modern day Salem witch trials

Questions will not be tolerated. One of the signs of an empire



Democrats may be flustered after a week of being accused of engineering an anti-science “witch hunt,” but they aren’t backing down from their investigations into the financial backing of climate-change researchers who challenge the movement’s doomsday scenarios.

U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, told National Journal earlier this week that he may have been guilty of “overreach” even as he defended his probe into the funding sources of seven professors, now known as the “Grijalva seven.”

“I think that us asking for empirical, fact-based science is not trying to stop research,” Mr. Grijalva told MSNBC’s Ed Schultz on Monday night’s show. “Research can be done. If the Koch brothers or Exxon want to fund their research, fine. Just disclose that that’s who’s funding it so the American people can make their own decisions.”


His investigation comes as three Senate Democrats — Barbara Boxer of California, Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island — conduct their own probe of 100 fossil-fuel companies and trade associations funding climate research.

Their objective? To find out whether the organizations “are funding scientific studies designed to confuse the public and avoid taking action to cut carbon pollution, and whether the funded scientists fail to disclose the sources of their funding in scientific publications or in testimony to legislators.”

The result is that Democrats find themselves facing the kind of criticism usually reserved for Republicans in academic circles, even at left-leaning institutions such as the University of Colorado Boulder, where environmental studies professor Roger Pielke Jr. is among those under investigation.


“We stand behind him,” said a university official last week, referring to Mr. Pielke, leading the Denver Post to declare in a Tuesday editorial, “CU rightly defends Roger Pielke Jr. against political bully.”

“I think the Democrats, any time you’re trying to enforce group-think or punish a professor for their scientific and legitimate views — and if you listen to this professor’s [views], they sound fairly reasonable, frankly — I think the Democrats look very bad on this,” Denver political analyst Floyd Ciruli said Sunday on KUSA-TV’s “Between the Lines” with Brandon Rittiman.

Mr. Grijalva said in letters to universities that he wants to ascertain whether the professors have financial conflicts of interest, but his probe has lawmakers, academics and scientists outraged by the potential for a “chilling effect” on research.

The professors have challenged the theory that climate change is driving extreme weather events such as hurricanes and blizzards.

“Publicly singling out specific researchers based on perspectives they have expressed and implying a failure to appropriately disclose funding sources — and thereby questioning their scientific integrity — sends a chilling message to all academic researchers,” said Keith L. Seitter, executive director of the American Meteorological Society, in a letter last week to Mr. Grijalva.

Mr. Grijalva argues the inquiry is necessary to ensure the impartiality of the professors’ past congressional testimony. The dual probes come days after a flap over documents released by Greenpeace that showed Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics aerospace engineer Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon had received $1.2 million in research funding since 2008 from fossil-fuel interests, including Exxon Mobil and the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.

Mr. Soon, who has challenged computer models that predict increases in global warming, did not disclose his funding source in at least 11 papers since 2008, according to the New York Times.

At the same time, Mr. Soon has acknowledged as recently as 2013 that he receives funding from fossil-fuel companies while insisting that he is not motivated by money.

“Climate Change on Campus: Research for Hire?” says an ominous-looking post on the House Natural Resources Committee minority website overlaying a photo of factory smokestacks.

Mr. Seitter countered that “peer-review is the appropriate mechanism to assess the validity and quality of scientific research, regardless of the funding sources supporting that research as long as those funding sources and any potential conflicts of interest are fully disclosed.”

The uproar comes with the White House pushing for tougher emissions standards in the name of combating climate change even as some scientists, dubbed by critics as “deniers,” question how much impact increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has on specific weather events.

Mr. Pielke and others have described the House investigation as an attempt to discredit those who challenge the climate-change movement’s contention that rising levels of carbon dioxide are driving natural disasters such as hurricanes and blizzards.

“Before continuing, let me make one point abundantly clear: I have no funding, declared or undeclared, with any fossil fuel company or interest. I never have,” Mr. Pielke said in a Wednesday post on his website the Climate Fix that appeared under a photo of former Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

Representative Grijalva knows this too, because when I have testified before the U.S. Congress, I have disclosed my funding and possible conflicts of interest,” he said. “So I know with complete certainty that this investigation is a politically-motivated ‘witch hunt’ designed to intimidate me (and others) and to smear my name.”

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