Obama scientist sees strong consensus on climate

Wed Dec 2, 2009 6:13pm EST

* Obama science aides defend climate change research

* Hacked e-mails seized upon by global warming skeptics

* Key Republican decries 'scientific fascism'

By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON, Dec 2 (Reuters) - The science showing that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are causing a dangerous warming of the world's climate is sound, President Barack Obama's top scientists said on Wednesday, despite controversial e-mails stolen from climate researchers.

E-mails from Britain's University of East Anglia, made public last month after being obtained by hackers, show climate researchers deriding global warming skeptics, who argue that the messages show that the researchers manipulated data to make climate change appear more definitive.

In the messages, researchers also asked other scientists to delete e-mails, apparently to avoid having them become public.

"There will remain after the dust settles in this controversy a very strong scientific consensus on key characteristics of the problem: global climate is changing in highly unusual ways compared to long experienced and expected natural variations," John Holdren, Obama's science advisor, told a congressional hearing.

The hearing came as Democratic leaders in Congress try to push forward legislation aimed at controlling climate change by limiting greenhouse gas emissions. The House has passed its bill, but the legislation has bogged down in the Senate.

World leaders including Obama are meeting in Copenhagen starting next week for talks intended to reach political agreement on fighting climate change.

Global warming skeptics have seized on the e-mails as evidence that the science underpinning claims that human activities are warming up the world has been exaggerated.

Holdren said he would denounce the scientists who wrote the e-mails if it becomes clear there was a manipulation of data that was not scientifically legitimate.

But Holdren, who wrote one of the hundreds of stolen e-mails long before he worked at the White House, said he has seen no evidence of that yet.

"It's important to understand that these kinds of controversies and even accusations of bias and improper manipulation are not all that uncommon in all branches of science," Holdren told the House of Representatives Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

'SCIENTIFIC FASCISM'

Representative John Sensenbrenner, the top Republican on the committee, said the e-mails "read more like scientific fascism than the scientific process." He pointed to one e-mail in which a researcher said he used a "trick" in a graph to make evidence of rising temperatures look convincing.

Jane Lubchenco, the administrator for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told the committee that evidence that has come to light since 2004 shows carbon dioxide pollution makes the oceans more acidic as they absorb the gas.

That risks hurting the chain of life in the ocean because it corrodes the shells of tiny animals that commercial fish feed on and those of larger ones such as lobsters and crabs, Lubchenco said.

"At one time we talked about what human-induced climate change might look like at some point. Today we know it's happening now," Lubchenco told the committee.

Holdren said the bulk of climate science from the world's top research centers shows that many of the warmest years on record have occurred over the last 12 years and that in 2009 the world's oceans hit the warmest temperatures on record.

Since most of the e-mails were written years ago, new science has emerged on how carbon dioxide pollution is changing the planet in ways that could threaten a wide swath of life on Earth including livestock, crops and commercial fish, Lubchenco noted.

University of East Anglia has announced that Phil Jones, head of its climatic research unit, is stepping aside "until the completion of an independent review" of the controversy over the hacked e-mails.

(Editing by Will Dunham) ((For a TAKE A LOOK about the Road to Copenhagen, click on [ID:nLL527527]. For an overview of climate change stories, click [nCLIMATE])) ((timothy.gardner@thomsonreuters.com; RM: timothy.gardner.reuters.com@reuters.net; 202-898-8360))