Time was when we just couldn't hear enough about the wonders of "adult" and umbilical-cord stem-cell research. Whenever the Christian right and its political allies wanted to argue against expanded funding for embryonic stem-cell work, they would quickly cite study of these other types of regenerative cells as an alternative. As recently as the May stem-cell debate in the House of Representatives, one heard this refrain constantly, often framed in terms that directly contradict prominent statements about the relative merits of "adult" and embryonic stem cells by our very own National Institutes of Health.
Following the G8 summit last week in Gleneagles, Scotland, some have tried to spin a clear failure on the issue of climate change into a partial triumph because President George W. Bush was at least forced to acknowledge that the phenomenon is actually happening. The sad truth, unfortunately, is that not even this slim level of optimism is justified. Bush has already acknowledged as much about global warming in the past as he did at the G8--but such admissions have hardly moved him any closer to endorsing the kind of mandatory steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions that have been embraced by other nations. In fact, at this point, there's little reason to expect such action on global warming before 2008, when a new president is elected in the United States.
The Bush administration has been repeatedly criticized for its disdainful approach to scientific information. But Bush's Republican allies in Congress are at least as empirically challenged as the administration, if not more so. Not only does Congress turn a blind eye when the White House interferes with the activities of scientists in the federal bureaucracy; even worse, Republican members of Congress themselves are doing their part to harass and intimidate members of the nation's scientific community.
Given the renewed attention being paid to global warming, it was probably inevitable that, sooner or later, some prominent conservative outlet would arch back its head and emit a barbaric yawp of climate-science skepticism. Forget the fact that virtually every week, new scientific work strengthens the conclusion that humans beings are heating the planet. Basic denial of the global-warming problem remains a core right-wing instinct, waiting to be unleashed.
There are few who understand the ins and outs of the U.S. government's climate-change research program better than Rick Piltz. A political scientist by training, Piltz moved to Washington, D.C., from Texas during the scorching summer of 1988, when NASA climatologist James Hansen put global warming on the map with his famous congressional testimony warning that the greenhouse effect had been triggered by humans. Piltz eventually wound up working for a decade as a senior official in the climate research program, launched in 1989 and now a $ 2 billion dollar a year enterprise. An insider who coordinated the editing of many program documents, Piltz resigned in March, charging that White House politics has undermined the credibility and integrity of the program.