The Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder, Colorado, home of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, reported in a March 18 article on our story about how “U.S. Senator James Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, has asked for detailed information regarding the employees, research projects and funding sources of Boulder’s National Center for Atmospheric Research and its parent organization, the University Center for Atmospheric Research.” But should the Senator really be called a global warming “skeptic”?

The Daily Camera article (copyright 2006 The Daily Camera), by Todd Neff, Camera Staff Writer, notes that:  “The request, made to National Science Foundation Director Arden Bement Jr. on Feb. 24, was brought to light March 11 by Climate Science Watch, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group founded by Rick Piltz, a former UCAR employee.”

The article refers to Sen. Inhofe as “an outspoken global-warming skeptic. In a 2003 speech on the Senate floor, he said: ‘With all of the hysteria, all of the fear, all of the phony science, could it be that manmade global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people? It sure sounds like it.’”

We must note here, with all due respect to the good reporting at the Daily Camera, that we consider it a misnomer to describe Sen. Inhofe as a “skeptic.”  All good scientists are skeptics by training, and new scientific developments are subjected to rigorous and “skeptical” analysis within the scientific community before they achieve mainstream acceptance.  In contrast, Sen. Inhofe’s ideological spin-doctoring of climate science shows such stark disrespect for the well-established work of the science community, his statements have repeatedly shown such a lack of concern for intellectual accuracy, that he shouldn’t be given the honorable label of “skeptic.” 

Perhaps our readers can come up with a useful and appropriate alternative label for those who engage in politically-driven attacks on mainstream science.  What term should we suggest that reporters use? 

The article quotes one of the numerous leading scientists at NCAR:

William Collins, an NCAR scientist specializing in climate modeling, reserved comment on Inhofe’s request. But the conclusions of the overwhelming majority of climate-change research are clear, he said.

“The lines of evidence are all reinforcing, and they are all consistent,” Collins said. “I can’t imagine how anyone can conclude it’s a hoax.”

The article also reports thats U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colorado, a member of the U.S. House Science Committee, said in a statement:

“[Senator Inhofe’s] request for the names of NCAR and UCAR employees and a list of their research projects raises the question whether this is about the conclusions these scientists have reached or whether this is an attempt to influence the outcome of their research. It would be completely inappropriate for Congress to attempt to determine the outcome of scientific research or to penalize scientists for conclusions because they might present a political problem.”

Piltz, who posted the letter, said it was unusual for a senator to “get down into the weeds” of such personnel information. Plus, Piltz said, jurisdiction for science and climate change usually falls under the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, not Inhofe’s.

Note:  Buget authorization and oversight jurisdiction over the National Science Foundation falls under the jurisdiction of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.