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Utah House Passes Resolution Implying Climate Change Conspiracy

State's Scientists Get a Hostile Reception

Feb 10, 2010

Utah’s House of Representatives passed a resolution on Tuesday that implies climate change science is a conspiracy and urges the EPA to stop all carbon dioxide reduction policies and programs.

As a resolution, it holds no legal weight, but it sends a message from — and about — Utah’s lawmakers.

Among other things, the resolution claims there is "a well organized and ongoing effort to manipulate global temperature data in order to produce a global warming outcome."

A last-minute amendment removed the words “conspiracy,” “gravy train” and “tricks," but the statements remaining are still inflammatory, echoing the claims of conservative groups such as the Heartland Institute, Science and Public Policy Institute (SPPI), and Utah’s Sutherland Institute.

A group of Brigham Young University scientists were so disturbed by the wording of the resolution, HJR 12, that they wrote to the legislature last week highlighting several inaccuracies and urging the legislature to reconsider.

“Even if all the political solutions proposed so far are flawed, this does not justify politicians in attacking the science that indicates there is almost certainly a serious problem," the scientists told lawmakers.

The Utah capitol has become a hostile venue for scientists when it comes to climate change, though.

Robert Davies, an associate physics professor from Utah State University, discovered the danger last fall when, answering a reporter’s question about climate science, he said former NASA scientist Roy Spencer’s conclusions from computer modeling on clouds had been discredited in the scientific community and his analysis deemed "fringe." Republican Rep. Mike Noel, who had invited Spencer to testify to the legislature, responded by calling the president of Utah State University, a state-funded school, to complain about Davies.

Eighteen BYU scientists wrote to the legislature then, expressing their concern about the treatment of science and scientists by lawmakers during that hearing.

"We feel it is irresponsible for some of our legislators to attempt to manipulate the scientific evidence in order to support a political agenda," they wrote.

More recently, Noel tried to twist the words of a University of Utah bioengineering professor who was the only person to publicly speak out against HJR 12 at last week’s committee hearing. The professor, Joseph Andrade, said he worried that the legislature was encouraging fossil fuel use and slowing efforts to diversify the state's portfolio with clean energy sources. That led to this exchange:

    Rep. Noel: "Are you stating on record that CO2 is a pollutant? Are you saying that CO2, carbon dioxide, is a pollutant, are you saying that?”

    Professor Andrade: "I'm saying that carbon dioxide has a unique molecular structure which absorbs infrared radiation, and that that is in part responsible for the effects that you're concerned with, Representative Gibson is concerned with, and Representative ...."

    Noel: "I want to get this on the record, ok? Are you saying that we have to rid the planet of carbon dioxide?"

    Andrade: "Of course not!"

    Noel: "It's not a pollutant then, it's not going to kill you. It's not going to kill plants. Is that correct? I also have a degree too, professor. So I want to get this straight. Is it a pollutant?"

    (The conversation becomes a verbal skirmish, and the committee chairman breaks it up.)

    Noel: "I'm sorry, I'm sorry ... It got out of hand."

Whose Conspiracy?

The resolution begs the question, who’s conspiring and why? At one point during last week’s hearing, the only member to vote against the resolution in committee, Rep. Phil Riesen, asked that.

Noel’s response involved a book from the 1970s about population co-authored by presidential science advisor John Holdren.

“If you can’t see a connection to that, you’re absolutely blind to what’s going on,” Noel said. “This is a conspiracy to limit population, not only in this country, but across the globe.”

The resolution’s sponsor, Rep. Kerry Gibson, responded to the conspiracy question:

“I’m not sure we even know the depths of it.”

During the hearing, Kerry turned the microphone over to Utah Farm Bureau Federation CEO Randy Parker to explain the resolution item by item and its more inflammatory declarations.

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