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Ralph Hall Speaks Out on Climate Change

The chair of the House of Representatives science committee doesn't think much of the investigations exonerating the scientists involved in the 2009 Climategate e-mail scandal. He also believes that climate scientists are driven by hopes of financial gain in producing reports that provide evidence for global warming.

Representative Ralph Hall (R-TX) doesn't do many interviews. So it was a coup when the National Journal's (NJ) Coral Davenport was able to get the 88-year-old legislator to answer several questions about his views on climate change as part of a 1 December story on how congressional Republicans are reluctant to answer even the most basic questions about where they stand on the issue.

Hall told National Journal that he's "pretty close" to the views of his fellow Texan, Governor Rick Perry, in feeling that climate science may be an idea hatched by scientists to garner federal funding for their research. And when NJ pointed to an article saying that nearly all climate researchers think human activity has led to global warming by increasing greenhouse gas emissions, Hall replied, "And they each get $5000 for every report like that they give out." (Read the full interview below).

Hall's comments were so provocative that ScienceInsider asked his aides for a more detailed explanation. And he obliged with a four-paragraph comment (see below).

Hall told ScienceInsider that his use of a dollar amount refers to the size of research grants to scientists, not the amount they are paid for issuing a report. "$5000 appears to have been a low estimate of what many climate researchers actually receive," he wrote. "Average climate-related research grants supported by the National Science Foundation, for example, are well above $300,000."

The chair also said he believes that the leaked e-mails from scientists at the United Kingdom's University of East Anglia raise serious questions about the trustworthiness of the climate scientists involved in those exchanges. He referred to the numerous investigations into their conduct as "straw-man reviews [that] failed to address the real underlying allegations that continue to undermine the integrity of those involved." And he wrote that a second batch of similar e-mails released recently "highlight many of the same concerns."

Ralph Hall in an interview with Coral Davenport of the National Journal for her story in 1 December issue, "Heads in the Sand." (With the permission of National Journal.)

NJ: Do you think climate change is causing the earth to become warmer?

Hall: I can't say it doesn't have a percentage of effects on it - one percent, three percent, five percent. But I don't think it's the cause. I don't think we can control what God controls.

We put $32 billion into it and don't see very much change.

NJ: Last year the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science published a survey finding that 97 percent of scientists were in consensus that human activities lead to global warming.

Hall: And they each get $5,000 for every report like that they give out. That's just my guess. I don't have any proof of that. But I don't believe 'em. I still want to listen to 'em and believe what I believe I ought to believe.

NJ: Have you read Governor Perry's book, Fed Up?

Hall: Yes.

NJ: He essentially says climate science may be a conspiracy theory or may be put forth by scientists who are working together to put forth findings in order to get funding. Are you on the same page as Gov. Perry on this?

Hall: I'm pretty close. I think we ought to have an honest ear to science. They can come before my committee. I always put someone to come and testify when they're testifying against it to give them the other side. I think we oughta listen to 'em. I just don't think we oughta mind 'em.

Because what have we got for the $32 billion we spent?

NJ: Do you mean the $32 billion that was spent in the stimulus?

Hall: I mean everything that's been spent knocking and pushing global warming. I'm really more fearful of freezing. And I don't have any science to prove that. But we have a lot of science that tells us they're not basing it on real scientific facts. And we need to listen to more. I'm willing to listen for more.

If we believe everything they say, we can't clean China. They're producing six coal-fed operations a week. We can' t clean the world for them. We can't clean it for Russia. We can't clean it for India. We can't clean it for Mexico.

We're poorer now than we've ever been since the Great Depression.

NJ: Paul Krugman and other columnists have criticized Republicans and said that the party could become labeled anti-science.

Hall: I'm not anti-science, I'm pro-science. But we ought to have some believable science.

NJ: What's the appropriate role for government on the issue of climate change?

Hall: To listen to good science, proper science and know the difference. And not to use it for political thrust or political gain, because it's something that affects the world. But we can't be 9-11 for the world. I wish we could. We could have at one time. But we can't now. We have to be more careful what outlays we make for something that hasn't been proved.

Ralph Hall in a statement to ScienceInsider expanding on his comments to the NJ:

The current Administration continues to move ahead with regulations it justifies based on available science, and in this fiscal environment these actions have the potential to greatly affect our economy. It is necessary that Congress conduct strong oversight to insure the integrity of not only the information but also the process. I continue to hear from experts on climate science, including those who have testified before the Committee, and I continue to have concerns with respect to the processes used and the resulting information.

Recently released emails highlight many of the same concerns that initially emerged in the 2009 'ClimateGate' emails - a small cadre of scientists coordinating advocacy rather than communicating uncertainty; manipulating journals rather than facilitating peer review; and cherry-picking data rather than following transparency principles, which is a central tenant of science. While several groups have investigated the actions associated with the ClimateGate emails, these straw-man reviews failed to address the real underlying allegations that continue to undermine the integrity of those involved.

These same scientists are continually receiving huge sums of taxpayer dollars in the form of federal grants; $5000 appears to have been a low estimate of what many climate researchers actually receive. Average climate-related research grants supported by the National Science Foundation, for example, are well above $300,000.

The National Academies of Science report, 'Advancing the Science of Climate Change,' highlighted several uncertainties associated with climate change such as the role of forcings and feedback processes, climate sensitivity, and how climate change is manifested on a local or regional scale. As researchers work to address these uncertainties, it is important to ensure that they do so in a manner that keeps the public's trust.