Wash. senators hear from global warming skeptic

OLYMPIA — A new Republican-dominated majority in the state Senate dedicated a rare block of time Tuesday to hear the views of a global warming skeptic who argued that federal scientists have been manipulating climate data to inflate temperatures.

The views of retired geology professor Don Easterbrook are considered outside of mainstream science.

A 2010 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that 97 percent of the most cited and published climate scientists said climate change was a man-made problem.

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee has championed the issue of climate change as one of the primary concerns, but Republican Sen. Doug Ericksen said lawmakers needed to examine the issues raised by Easterbrook, a professor emeritus at Western Washington University. Ericksen said Easterbrook provided solid data, and the committee should be open to hearing all perspectives — something Ericksen felt wouldn’t have happened previously.

“I guarantee you: In the past eight years, that hearing could not have taken place,” Ericksen said after the work session. A Republican-dominated coalition seized control of the state Senate this year.

Democratic Sen. Kevin Ranker said the testimony was disappointing and the Legislature shouldn’t spend time exploring whether climate change is real.

“We should be debating what we’re going to do about it,” Ranker said.

Easterbrook argued the climate has actually been cooling in recent years, and that carbon dioxide does not contribute to global warming. He said his climate numbers were different from those used by other scientists because, he argues, federal agencies — NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — tamper with the data and artificially inflate temperatures.

Easterbrook said he did not know why federal scientists would manipulate the numbers.

Western Washington University’s geology faculty said in a position statement that they concur with rigorous, peer-reviewed assessments by the National Academies of Science, the National Research Council and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that global climate has warmed significantly and that human activities — mainly greenhouse-gas emissions — account for most of the warming since the middle 1900s.

“I think it’s unfortunate that someone who really isn’t an active expert in their field is being chosen to discuss this important topic,” said Bernie Housen, chairman of Western Washington University’s geology department.

A measure passed by the Legislature this year would lead to a study of the best practices for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The original bill included a warning of the perils of climate change, but senators removed the language that Ericksen called “loaded.”

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