WASHINGTON — Climate science and politics too often reverts into name calling and bullying, which can get in the way of real work.
That was the only thing House Science Committee members, three scientists who often clash with mainstream science and a prominent climate scientist could agree to at a contentious hearing Wednesday.
They couldn't agree on who was doing the name calling, though.
Republicans and three scientists accused mainstream climate scientist, Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University, and major international science panels of trying to quiet researchers who disagree about the magnitude of global warming.
Mann, meanwhile, said he was harassed by people trying to stifle science.
"For a while I thought you all were in the Republican conference debating Obamacare," Republican Rep. Barry Loudermilk of Georgia joked about four scientists talking about being insulted by others.
Mann and Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California both compared the other side's behaviour to the former Soviet Union under Josef Stalin. Mann first raised the Stalin analogy, then Rohrabacher used the comparison four times after that to talk about Mann and other mainstream climate scientists.
"For scientists to call names to beat someone into submission, that's a Stalinist tactic," Rohrabacher said.
Former Georgia Tech climate scientist Judith Curry, who often clashes with mainstream science, said she was the victim of "gutter tactics" by "scientists who demonize their opponents."
She pointed to the way she and Mann have clashed, saying the Penn State professor wrongly called her a climate denier, when she acknowledges that the world is warming and humans play a role. She disagrees with mainstream climate science over implications of global change, the size of the warming, how much is human-caused and its certainty.
At first Mann said he didn't call Curry a denier. But in his written not oral testimony he called Curry "a climate science denier." Mann said there's a difference between denying climate change and "denying established science" on how much humans cause climate change, which he said Curry did.
Mann said the chance that humans are causing less than half of the global warming now going on is less than 1 in 10,000, citing an international panel of scientists convened by the United Nations. Curry said that's not clear. "I just don't know how much is human versus how much is natural," she said.
When pressed by Loudermilk on whether humans are mostly to blame, Mann replied: "I go with physics. You can go with opinion."
The American Meteorological Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science both said in email statements to The Associated Press that the overwhelming scientific evidence is clear that global warming is primarily caused by humans.
Republican committee Chairman Lamar Smith of Texas, a lawyer, said, "much of climate science today appears to be based more on exaggerations, personal agendas and questionable predictions than on the scientific method."
The panel of three scientists who often clash with mainstream science and Mann was not representative of the peer reviewed research in the field, which overwhelmingly finds climate change to be real, human caused and a problem, Democrats said.
Retired Adm. David Titley, now a Penn State meteorology professor, said in an email to AP that scientists should boycott House hearings because it is a "charade" and perpetuates the myth that there is a legitimate scientific debate on the issue.
Democratic Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia asked, "Why can't we all just get along?" and then answered his own question: "It's because the stakes are so large."
Seth Borenstein, The Associated Press