The Heat Is Online

National Assessment Targeted By Skeptics (Aug. 2003)

Suit Challenges Climate Change Report by U.S.

The New York Times, Aug. 7, 2003

A conservative group sued the Bush administration yesterday in an effort to force the government to stop distributing a report on climate change that the group contends is inaccurate and biased.

It was filed in Federal Court in Washington by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a group with industry backing that contends global warming poses no significant risks.

The suit says the continued use of the report, which was published in 2000, violates the Federal Data Quality Act, a law enacted that year that requires information disseminated by the government to pass standards for objectivity, quality, and utility - meaning the data are reliable enough to be used by the public.

Officials at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, which was named along with President Bush, declined to comment yesterday, saying the White House had not yet received a copy of the lawsuit.

The challenged report is the National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change, a region-by-region analysis of likely impacts of rising temperatures that was commissioned by Congress in 1990. The aim was to generate scenarios showing possible impacts of global warming from building levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

It is available on the Web at

The suit says the report's results were generated by flawed computer models and portrayed some historical climate data without including ``error bars'' showing the potential range of error in temperature readings for past centuries.

The report in question was the product of nearly a decade of work by dozens of government and private scientists - mostly during the Clinton administration - who had a slim budget and tight deadlines that forced them to compromise sometimes on their choice of computer models and other tools, several study authors said.

Because of the inherent weaknesses, the study quickly became a prime target of industry lobbyists, conservatives, and a small group of scientists who deny that greenhouse emissions pose a significant threat.

Yesterday, Christopher C. Horner, a senior fellow and lawyer at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said that the suit would finally put ``alarmism'' on trial.

''They don't have to try to unring a bell,'' he said, noting that the report has already been broadly distributed and reprinted and posted on dozens of Web site. ``They just have to cease in disseminating it until they correct it.''