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Climate Scientists May Have Committed ‘Criminal Offence’, US Congressman Warns

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Lisa Rein, The Washington Post

A nasty fight between a senior House Republican and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration over a recent climate change study is getting nastier.

The country’s chief society of meteorologists weighed in this week with a letter to Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), warning the prominent congressional skeptic on climate change that his demands for internal communications and documents from NOAA “can be viewed as a form of intimidation” that could thwart federally funded research.

Smith, chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, stepped up his pressure on agency Administrator Kathryn Sullivan to divulge its scientists’ internal deliberations, demanding in a letter that she turn over the documents requested in a House subpoena by Friday.

“Your failure to comply with a duly issued subpoena may expose you to civil and/or criminal enforcement mechanisms,” the congressman wrote.

What has exploded into a very public dispute started in October, when Smith issued subpoenas demanding e-mails, correspondence and other records of internal deliberations from NOAA scientists who participated in a study refuting claims that global warming had “paused” or slowed over the last decade.

The study, released in the peer-reviewed journal Science in June, undercut a popular argument used by critics who reject the scientific consensus that man-made pollution is behind global warming.

The subpoenas ordered NOAA to turn over scientific data as well as internal “communications between or among employees” involved in the study. The demand was immediately denounced by the science committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (Tex.) as an effort to discredit the study and its authors.

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