Questioning House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith's Claims of NOAA Misconduct

November 19, 2015 | 5:36 pm
Michael Halpern
Former Contributor

For several months, House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith has been unable to justify his investigation into the work of NOAA climate scientists whose research finds that global warming has not slowed in recent years. Yesterday, in a letter to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, Smith offered up an explanation: there are “whistleblowers” working with his office who contend that NOAA rushed the study to publication.

This was a significant departure from previous claims made by Chairman Smith that scientists had “altered data.” This morning, my colleague Gretchen Goldman posted a critique of the chairman’s new line of thinking. The accusation came out of nowhere, and UCS confirmed yesterday with NOAA that no complaint related to the Karl paper had been filed under the agency’s scientific integrity policy. Dr. Goldman’s takeaway: “We’ve still yet to see any solid evidence of wrongdoing on NOAA’s part and it continues to appear that Chairman Smith’s crusade continues to be nothing more than a witch hunt.”

It appears that some members of the House Science Committee agree. In a strongly-worded letter sent today, Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson says that she and her colleagues had no knowledge of Chairman Smith’s alleged whistleblower complaints before yesterday. His shift in messaging was not lost on Rep. Johnson:

The rest of the letter details Chairman Smith’s previous inability to justify his investigation, his failure to bring up the “whistleblower” allegations in several previous meetings with NOAA staff dating back several months, and the exhaustive process that scientists go through to publish a paper in Science.

She calls his rhetoric “the most outrageous statements ever made by a Chair of the Committee on Science” (her emphasis added). It’s well worth a read.