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Warming science critic Michael Crichton to appear before Senate panel
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Darren Samuelsohn, E&E Daily senior reporter
Monday, September 26, 2005

Best-selling author Michael Critchon will serve as the lead witness
this week at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing
aimed at dissecting the touchy intersection between science and
politics. Hurricanes and the growing body of evidence indicating
storms are becoming more intense because of global warming are the
main drivers for the hearing.

Crichton wrote the 2004 novel "State of Fear," which depicted
environmentalists falsifying the scientific record on global warming.
Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe, the committee's chairman and
an outspoken critic of environmental groups and the science behind
global warming, has long touted Crichton's book as a must read for
the public and especially lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Besides Crichton's testimony, details on the Inhofe-led hearing were
difficult to uncover Friday. Both Republicans and Democrats kept
their witness lists and hearing strategies close to their chests.

A hearing on politics and science comes just days after the second
major hurricane strike in a month on the U.S. Gulf Coast. While
Inhofe has been busy touting statements from scientists and others
who say there is no link, several peer-reviewed studies have been
published in recent months that tie warming sea temperatures with
increases in the severity of hurricanes, with predictions of worse
storms in the future.

The latest study, published in the journal Science, found that the
number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes worldwide has nearly doubled in
35 years, although the total number has dropped since the 1990s.
Scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the National
Center for Atmospheric Research conducted the analysis.

John Marburger, head of the White House Office of Science and
Technology Policy, acknowledged in an interview earlier this month
that a link can be made between climate change and growing hurricane
strength. But Marburger also said the administration's approach to
global warming -- focusing on greenhouse gas intensity reductions and
low and zero-carbon technology development -- amply reflects those

"There's a debate about what the appropriate way is to go about
reducing carbon dioxide, but I don't think there's a debate about
something needs to be done," Marburger said.

At a Senate hearing last week, National Hurricane Center Director Max
Mayfield offered a different view when he said that warmer
temperatures caused by greenhouse gas emissions will not make future
hurricanes appreciably stronger. Citing a study by the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics
Laboratory, Mayfield explained that a doubling of atmospheric carbon
dioxide would increase hurricane intensity just 5 percent by 2080.

"There's a very, very small chance that intensity will increase,"
Mayfield said. "We couldn't even measure this with the tools we have

(questionable remarks, see * below -T)

Furthermore, while the number of Atlantic Ocean hurricanes has
increased markedly since 1995 -- "like somebody threw a switch,"
Mayfield said -- he attributed the rise to natural climate cycles.
The 1940s, '50s and '60s experienced strong hurricane activity, while
the period from the 1970s to 1995 was much calmer, he said. "Natural
variability alone is what this can be attributed to."

Schedule: The hearing is set for 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 28, in
406 Dirksen.

Witnesses: Michael Crichton, author; other witnesses TBA.

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Last updated: September 27, 2005