"It seems more like Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union than the United States," Hansen was reported as saying at a public panel about science and the environment Feb. 10 in New York City.
Last fall, administration officials ordered Hansen to remove data from the Internet that suggested 2005 could be the warmest year on record. A few months later, 2005 was confirmed as the warmest ever by several scientific institutions. Officials have also prevented journalists from interviewing the scientist about his research.
"Things are even worse at NOAA and the Environmental Protection Agency," Hansen said in a television interview.
NOAA has consistently discounted any connection to global warming in its scientific summaries about the record number and destructiveness of hurricanes in 2005, despite ample evidence of a likely connection from other leading climate scientists. On Wednesday, NOAA announced that several of its scientists disagreed with that official position.
"The Bush administration rejects the scientific method," said Lewis Lapham, the editor of Harper's Magazine and author of the recent book "Gag Rule," which looks at how the U.S. government suppresses dissent and stifles democracy.
"Global warming doesn't fit into their current belief structure," Lapham told IPS.
The United States is entering into an era where faith is more important than fact and dissent is considered betrayal, he said. When it comes to research, the current administration has gone well beyond the traditional practice of politicians fudging the numbers to get the results they want, Lapham noted.
"If science doesn't prove what it's been told to prove, then they (the Bush administration) believe it has been tampered with by Satan or the Democratic Party," he said.
Two years ago, 60 prominent scientists signed a petition stating that unless their views or evidence complied with the ideology of the Bush administration, their testimony was ignored or dismissed. Since then more than 8,500 scientists have also signed that petition.
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), a U.S.-based alliance of scientists and citizens, has said that Pres. Bush has consistently misrepresented the findings of the National Academy of Sciences, government scientists, and the expert community on climate change.
The UCS has compiled a compelling list of instances of political interference in research, including the removal of highly qualified scientists from advisory committees dealing with childhood lead poisoning, environmental and reproductive health, and drug abuse. Those scientists were then replaced by individuals associated with or working for industries subject to regulation.
Funding has also been withheld from scientists who have been outspoken or pursue research that may contradict White House policy.
Scientists investigating the environmental impact of hydrogen fuel cells lost their funding from NASA after their preliminary research indicated a potential to cause serious environmental damage. The Bush administration has heavily promoted and financed research into hydrogen fuel cells as a future replacement for gasoline-powered vehicles.
Early this month, the Bureau of Land Management, a federal agency, refused to continue to fund an Oregon State University study that suggested that logging was not the best way to restore national forests burned by wildfires. The Bush administration has strongly supported the logging industry's contention that this so-called "salvage logging" was good for forest ecology and to prevent future fires.
"Science has always been influenced by the politics of the day," noted Stephen Bocking, an associate professor of Environmental Studies at Canada's Trent University.
In the 1950s and 1960s, chemical companies persuaded governments to fund research into the use of chemicals in agriculture. In the 1980s and 1990s, many of the same companies used their influence to get public monies to do research on genetically engineered (GE) crops, Bocking said in an interview.
Corporate influence over government has always been present, but Bocking acknowledges that influence is stronger than ever. For example, much of the public research carried out in areas like agriculture only meets the needs of large corporations.
Although it would serve the public good, neither the Canadian nor the U.S. governments have spent adequate research dollars on the environmental impacts of GE organisms, critics say.
Outright attempts by governments to muzzle scientists doing public research is not that common, Bocking said. "There are much more subtle ways to direct research."
Decisions about what projects are funded, for how long, the methodology used, and the assumptions made all influence the eventual outcome, he says: "Research results tends to reflect who's paying for it."
This has nothing to do with scientists' personal integrity, he insists. The ample proof is that credible scientists financed by pharmaceutical companies have produced results that were later overturned by publicly-funded scientists.
Publicly-funded research is critical to counterbalance corporate-financed research, he said. And much more of the former is needed.
"Decisions about publicly-funded research should also be made in collaboration with scientists and the public," Bocking concluded.
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February 16, 2006 (http://www.albionmonitor.com)
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