Polar bear scientist transcript reveals bizarre nature of investigation
- 04 Aug 2011, 13:42
- Christian Hunt
The scientist whose work discovered polar bears drowning as a
result of melting ice in the Arctic - spawning millions of cuddly
climate change images - is being cross examined by criminal
investigators five years after the study was published.
Dr Charles Monnett of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management,
Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) in the United States has been
questioned by staff from the Office of the Inspector General at the
Department of Interior about whether he sighted three or four dead
polar bears before his
Climate sceptics are already claiming the investigation reveals
once again that the science of global warming is suspect, while his
supporters fear Dr Monnett is victim of a "witch
hunt" - he was suspended as BOEMRE considers permits for oil
companies to expand drilling in Alaska.
The scientist was sent home on July 18 this year with the
department citing "integrity issues" relating to his current $50
million study of polar bears. He returned to work on Monday.
A transcript of his initial interview in February, which we have
edited and posted today shows that the investigators had a
particular interest in the 2006 study and the number of polar
bears. It appears they aimed to challenge the science behind the
claim bears were dying as a result of climate change.
However, the transcript also shows Dr Monnett's belief that his
own department did not want to find evidence of climate change
damaging native species, and were hostile to the findings of the
This specific allegation come in the same month a report to the US
Congress revealed that the Department of Interior was itself at
"high risk" of fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement. The US
government has also failed to collect billions in
royalties from oil companies, according to the Guardian.
The transcripts reveal that the investigators chosen to cross
examine Dr Monnett have no scientific training, barely have "fifth
grade maths" and are themselves confused about whether three or
four polar bears were seen dead in the ocean.
Dr Monnett asks his inquisitors: "Okay, and, and just so I know
how to put my answers, do you have scientific credentials of any
sort? Uh, what, what, what level of scientist am I speaking
with here that's going to be evaluating my science?"
Eric May, one of the two interviewers answers: "No, we're criminal
investigators". Dr Monnett responds, "I assume with no formal
training in, in science or biology" and is told: "That's
Later in the interview, Dr Monnett states of his interlocutor,
"somebody is deficient in fifth grade math." He adds: "Seriously. I
mean, give me a break."
When asked what the investigation is focusing on, Mr May responds:
"Well, the scientif- - well, scientific misconduct, basically, uh,
wrong numbers, uh, miscalculations."
Dr Monnett replies: "Well, that's not scientific misconduct
anyway. If anything, it's sloppy. I mean, that's not -
I mean, I mean, the level of criticism that they seem to have
leveled here, scientific misconduct, uh, suggests that we did
something deliberately to deceive or to, to change it. Um, I
sure don't see any indication of that in what you're asking me
Toward the end of the interview Dr Monnett directly responds to
the implication that he would have been able to falsify data,
suggesting that hostility to his work from within the department
meant that the pressure was to downplay the impacts of climate
change on the region.
Lynn Gibson from the department asks: "So what was your
[management's] motivation to not want you to ensure that this was
statistically correct, by doing all those things? I mean,
what - why?"
Dr Monnett answers: "Oh, you didn't want to get me started
(laughing). Well, why do you think? They, they, they
don't want any impediment to, um, you know, what they view as their
mission, which is to, uh, you know, drill wells up there, I mean,
and, you know, put areas into production.
"The bowhead whale is extremely political, and the Native
community is very powerful, and they're very concerned about, uh,
you know, any impacts that we might have on the whale.
"So what MMS has done has created, um, the perception that we're
monitoring this, and we're finding negative results all the time,
when I would argue we're not monitoring at all. We're just
doing this study."
The transcript appears to show evidence that an experienced and
qualified scientist feels his work is being misrepresented by a
government department to support the interests of the oil
And yet climate skeptics have argued that Monnett's suspension
somehow undermines the integrity of climate science, because the
same government department has launched an investigation into the
scientist the evidence of global warming must be in doubt. Ann
Widdecombe wrote in her Express column yesterday: "That scientists
are now being challenged is a sure sign that somebody somewhere
knows they may have been getting it wrong."
A post at the Media Matters blog states the "conservative media
have claimed that the case exposes 'the global
warming fraud' and that polar bears are not threatened by
"In fact, extensive research establishes that polar bears are
vulnerable to extinction due to decreasing sea ice, and
human-induced global warming is supported by a robust body of
evidence independent of any polar bear studies."
The US based National Wildlife Federation goes even further in a
blog post by Miles Grant. He states: "
Big Oil is using deceptive tactics to confuse the public about
climate science. And this time, the attack threatens polar bears.
We need your help to see through their smokescreen and to stand up
for the truth."
It seems clear that further developments should be expected from