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Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa

WATERLOO - Anticipating perhaps the next major policy debate in Congress, Sen. Charles Grassley on Tuesday cast doubt on the science supporting human-driven climate change.

During a noon visit to Kiwanis Club of Waterloo, the Iowa senator cited hundreds of e-mails from climate researchers hacked from a British university and made public in November as proof a lack of evidence on the subject may exist.

"It brings attention to a lot of the scientists that are saying global warming is more natural than man-made, although they don't exclude man-made as being some addition to it, but is it enough to make a difference?" he said.

Sandee Schwickerath of Waterloo, who said she used to teach one of Grassley's daughters, raised the issue and told the senator that natural causes, not humans, are driving the Earth's rising temperatures.

Grassley, who lives in New Hartford just west of Waterloo-Cedar Falls, appeared to know many of the approximately 50 people in the audience. Before starting, he asked a man in the audience how a recent surgery had gone and called on several people by their first names during a question-and-answer session.

Responding to the woman's statement on climate change, Grassley said science depends on peer review, a process that has been thrown into question by the stolen e-mails.

Some of the e-mails showed researchers insulting those who disagree with them, and discussing ways to best present data to silence skeptics.

"And see that's what the e-mails coming out of the British university seem to raise questions about - is the intellectual honesty of the peer review process. Because they very openly say they want to quash some of the opposition and the publishing of the opposition," Grassley said.

Many agencies around the world have reached the same conclusion - that humans contribute significantly to climate change - independent of researchers at the British university.

Though near the top of President Barack Obama's agenda, Grassley said legislation addressing climate change may not pass in 2010. He said crafting a bill that would drive up energy prices amidst an economic recession could prove politically difficult.

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