Going on the offense.

It’s what a group of respected climate scientists — eight of them members of the National Academy of Sciences — did in a January 28 open letter to U.S. Senate and House members urging that they “take a fresh look at climate change” not only as an environmental issue but also from the standpoint of risks it poses to the economy, national security, and public health.

Emphasizing to the elected officials — many of them, particularly in the House, openly scornful of climate science concerns — that “the science is strong and that there is nothing abstract” about risks it poses, the 18 scientists played the George W. Bush card: They cited the former President’s having commissioned a series of recent “America’s Climate Choices” reports pointing to “unique challenges to human health” from climate change.

The scientists — whose effort was backed by an organization supported by the United Nations Foundation and two leading environmental organizations — said they want to steer away from policy matters and focus instead on “the science behind climate change.” They acknowledged the issue “has become increasingly ideological and partisan.” Shunning ideology and what they called “belief system,” they pointed to “scientific fact, and no amount of argument, coercion, or debate among talking heads in the media can alter the challenge of climate change …. There are no Democratic or Republican carbon dioxide molecules; they are all invisible and they all trap heat.”

Saying they welcome congressional hearings “to understand climate science and what it says about the likely costs and benefits of action and inaction,” the scientists cautioned against heeding the advice of “climate change deniers [who] cloak themselves in scientific language, selectively critiquing aspects of mainstream climate science.”

Their use of the term “deniers” — a term much dreaded among those “skeptics” (what to call them?) who see it as a severe put-down — is a term some have in fact applied to many in the very audience the scientists were writing for:  first-term legislators, and in particular new Republican or tea party-backed newly elected House members, many of whom have been widely critical of “consensus” scientific findings on climate.

Cautioning against risks of delay, the 18 scientists said they hope congressional hearings will focus on science and not “attempt to intimidate scientists or to substitute ideological judgments for scientific ones.” That appears to be a reference to some successful candidates’ having earlier said they would be interested in opening investigations into the hacked e-mails and IPCC/Himalayan glaciers controversies of last year.

The full letter is online at a site supported by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the World Wildlife Fund, and the United Nations Foundation.