The scandal involving leaked or purloined emails from the Climatic Research Unit at Britain's University of East Anglia finally reached Capitol Hill this week, but not in the way you'd expect. Democratic committee chairmen ignored the evidence of scientific skullduggery at the influential research unit, even as its head Phil Jones stepped aside this week to make way for an investigation.
Senator Barbara Boxer, chair of the Environment Committee, did rouse herself to comment on the emails, saying their release should be treated as a criminal matter. "You call it 'Climategate'; I call it 'Email-theft-gate,'" she said. "Part of our looking at this will be looking at a criminal activity which could have well been coordinated."
In the House, the Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming held a hearing on what Chairman Ed Markey said was "the urgent consensus view . . . that global warming is real, and the science indicates it is getting worse." But the only witnesses were officials from the Obama administration, who support dramatic action on climate change. Republicans asked to have a global-warming skeptic appear but were denied.
Committee Republicans nonetheless gamely read excerpts from the East Anglia emails and asked the witnesses about them. "These emails show a pattern of suppression, manipulation and secrecy that was inspired by ideology, condescension and profit," claimed Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin.
John Holdren, President Obama's science adviser, held firm, saying the disputed scientific research mentioned in the emails is a small fraction of the total research on climate change. He defended a 2003 email he wrote to one of the East Anglia scientists in which he had ridiculed global warming skeptics.
Rep. Jay Inslee, a Washington Democrat, tried to make light of the emails by saying they weren't stopping the Arctic from shrinking, oceans from getting more acidic, and glaciers from melting. He sarcastically asked Mr. Holdren if he was part of a giant worldwide conspiracy that included fictional movie villain organizations bent on dominating the planet. Mr. Holdren, playing along, denied being part of such a conspiracy.
After the hearing, Rep. Sensenbrenner said the refusal of committee Democrats or President Obama's representatives to take the leaked emails seriously indicated that the "the President's science advisers are at the bottom of the whole climate change debate," and just as intent as the East Anglia scientists in not having a full and open airing of the issue.