- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 27, 2005

When talking science, especially global-warming science, civility is a word rarely used these days. Take, for instance, what happened to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton recently. In June, Mr. Barton requested research information from the authors of a controversial global-warming study, because “this dispute surrounding your studies bears directly on important questions about the federally funded work upon which climate studies rely.”

Sounds reasonable, but to House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert, this constituted “intimidation” of the scientific community. The New York Republican responded to Mr. Barton’s inquiry with another letter, saying that it was a “misguided and illegitimate investigation.” The Washington Post and columnist David Ignatius quickly followed. “This is a bizarre episode that deserves much wider condemnation from congressional leaders,” The Post editorialized. Nonsense.

Using historical climate data and computer models, the study claims that for the past thousand years the earth had experienced relative little change in temperature until the 20th century, when temperatures suddenly spiked — a phenomenon called the “hockey stick.” It was principally authored by Michael Mann of the University of Virginia, who was a co-author of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2001 report. It isn’t surprising, then, that that report claimed the 1990s was the warmest decade in a thousand years, citing Mr. Mann’s research.

The problem is that the study is an outlier — it dramatically overturns the accepted view of paleoclimatologists, who generally believe that the planet has experienced many warming and cooling trends in the past 1,000 years. Some scientists think that the 14th century, which came at the beginning of the Little Ice Age, was warmer than the 20th century. Other critics have found flaws in the study’s use of certain data sets and methodology. But since the study fits perfectly with the argument of global-warming supporters, they don’t want to see it robustly debated.

As chairman, Mr. Barton is responsible for making absolutely sure that the science used to justify legislation is thoroughly vetted. Any changes to the energy policy of the country to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions would cost trillions of dollars and thousands of American jobs. President Bush wasn’t exaggerating when he said that the Kyoto Protocol would derail the U.S. economy. So, instead of angry condemnations, how about a little more civility?

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