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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.
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And I'm Melissa Block.
Today, a congressional hearing that was supposed to be a routine recap of global warming science got a bit heated. Republicans on the committee raised the issue of emails that were stolen from prominent climate scientists. The Republicans said the emails cast doubt on all climate science.
NPR's Richard Harris reports.
RICHARD HARRIS: The emails were stolen from the University of East Anglia in Britain, from one of the three labs in the world that constructs global temperature records. The private exchanges have become a goldmine for skeptics who argue that global warming is a plot rather than a real, manmade problem.
At today's hearing, Republican Representative James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin said at best, official reports about global warming will now have to be reviewed.
Representative JAMES SENSENBRENNER (Republican, Wisconsin): And at worst, it's junk science, and it is a part of a massive, international scientific fraud.
HARRIS: And not just fraud, he said.
Rep. SENSENBRENNER: There's increasing evidence of scientific fascism that's going on. And I think, as policymakers who are making decisions about the state of the American economy for the next several generations, that we ought to have accurate science.
HARRIS: The president's top science adviser, John Holdren, agreed that the emails should be thoroughly investigated. At issue is whether they provide evidence of scientific malfeasance, or just bad manners.
Mr. JOHN HOLDREN (Director, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy): Scientists are human and from time to time, they display defensiveness and bias and even misbehavior of some kinds. They're like any other group of human beings. They are subject to human frailties. I think the facts are not entirely in on this particular case.
HARRIS: Holdren agreed that if the emails reveal inappropriate data manipulation, and that ended up in official reports, obviously, those reports would need to be corrected.
Mr. HOLDREN: However this particular controversy comes out, the result will not call into question the bulk of our understanding of how the climate works or how humans are affecting it.
HARRIS: Evidence from many different sources shows that the air and oceans are warming as a result of greenhouse gases that humans are putting into the atmosphere.
Jane Lubchenco, a scientist who heads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, gave a tabletop demonstration at the hearing to show how increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is also making the oceans more acidic.
Those explanations didn't reassure some Republican members of the committee and Democrat Jay Inslee, of Washington State, was stunned by their skepticism. He said, somewhat sarcastically: If global warming is a fraud, it must be perpetrated by a conspiracy of scientists from all around the world.
Representative JAY INSLEE (Democrat, Washington): So I just want to ask you if you're part of that massive, international conspiracy, are either one of you members of the Trilateral Commission, SPECTRE or KAOS?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Rep. INSLEE: I just need an answer.
Rep. HOLDREN: Congressman Inslee, I am not a member of any of those organizations, and I do not believe that there is a conspiracy. It would be an amazing thing indeed.
HARRIS: Holdren pointed out that national academies of science from all around the world accept the reality of human-induced global warming, as do other leading science organizations and the United Nations.
Inslee then noted that nobody else in the room had any other plausible way to explain why carbon dioxide is building up in the air and in the oceans.
Rep. INSLEE: And yet, people are trying to gin up this controversy because - you know why? It's not because they're not intelligent, it's because they're afraid that we can't solve this problem.
HARRIS: He says we can, but the challenge here is that most of the public, including members of Congress, struggle to understand even the basic science. And now, the leaked emails raise doubts about some of the climate scientists.
Richard Harris, NPR News.
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