GOP Exploits ClimateGate

| Thu Dec. 3, 2009 2:00 PM EST

Republicans in Congress are trying to use the recent release of hacked emails written by UK climate scientists to delay government action on climate change—despite the fact that nothing in the emails challenges the science of global warming. A group of GOPers wrote to the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday asking it to "conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the questions raised by the disclosure of emails from Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia" and to halt all work the agency is doing to address greenhouse gas emissions.

The letter comes from GOP Reps. Darrell Issa (Calif.) and James Sensenbrenner (Wisc.), and Senators John Barrasso (Wy.) David Vitter, all well-known climate-change skeptics. They want the EPA to withdraw a finding that greenhouse gases are a threat to human health, new emissions and fuel economy standards for automobiles, and a proposed rule on the scope of greenhouse gas regulations "until the Agency can demonstrate that the science underlying these regulatory decisions has not been compromised."

And because scientists involved in the leaked emails contributed to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—the preeminent scientific panel assessing global climate change—the Republicans want a reassessment of the entire body of climate science. They're also demanding that the EPA turn over "all documents and records related to the communications or other interactions" with the Climate Research Unit dating back to March 2007.

In an excellent post on the email incident (now being called ClimateGate or Swifthack, depending on where you stand) Kevin Drum makes the essential points: the emails don't challenge climate science, and skeptics are getting way more mileage out of this affair than it merits. And with the topic surfacing in both Senate and House climate hearings yesterday, ClimateGate isn't going away anytime soon.