The Chair of the House Science Committee Is Harassing NOAA Climate Scientists Again

, former deputy director, Center for Science & Democracy | February 26, 2016, 10:21 am EDT
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House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith has revived his misguided crusade against climate change scientists who work for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In a letter to NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan dated February 22, obtained by the Union of Concerned Scientists earlier this week, the chairman demands reams of deliberative materials among scientists related to their work. UCS has previously explained the dangerous precedent that compliance with such a subpoena would set.

My colleague Andrew Rosenberg today replied to the chairman’s letter, again urging him to drop the investigation. “Political meddling in the process of scientific research will not improve our understanding of the global climate, and harms not only that research but also our nation and our nation’s scientific enterprise,” he wrote. “Congressional oversight should prevent such meddling, not exacerbate it.”

House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith is reviving his efforts to harassing NOAA scientists who study climate change by demanding their internal deliberations.

House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith is reviving his efforts to harassing NOAA scientists who study climate change by demanding their internal deliberations.

At the end of 2016, after voicing objection to a NOAA peer-reviewed climate change study published in Science, Chairman Smith subpoenaed NOAA for years of scientists’ emails, draft papers, peer review comments, and more related to the study of surface temperature records. The subpoena came even though NOAA staff had provided several briefings for committee staff and the chairman had already received all of the data and methodology related to the study in question.

Seven scientific societies expressed “grave concern” about the chairman’s actions, stating that “scientists should not be subjected to fraud investigations or harassment simply for providing scientific results that some may see as politically controversial.” Hundreds of scientists wrote in support of NOAA’s efforts to protect its scientists. The chairman subsequently walked back his request, saying that he was only really interested in communication among political appointees.

But Chairman Smith appears not to have heard the mainstream scientists. Instead, he refers to a letter led by individuals who have long been associated with the climate denial movement. His new demands are for records from several new areas of the agency, including the chief scientist’s office and the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Services Office, and asks for any records that include the following terms:

“Karl,” “buoy,” “ship,” “Night Marine Air Temperature,” “temperature,” “climate,” “change,” “Paris,” “U.N.” “United Nations,” “clean power plan,” “regulations,” “Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),” “President,” “Obama,” “White House,” and “Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).”

Yes, he wants NOAA to search for “change” and “temperature.” This would likely require NOAA staff to go through hundreds of thousands of documents, including a lot of material where disclosure could compromise the scientific process. Dr. Rosenberg urged NOAA to hold firm:

“The use of a sledgehammer of a congressional subpoena to cast so wide a net is unprecedented and unjustified; at the same time it harasses and distracts scientists who are just doing their jobs… To protect the independence of its scientists, we believe that NOAA is justified in resisting this newest demand. Further, it is our hope that you will decide to stop this burdensome and unwarranted fishing expedition by rescinding your latest inquiry, as well as withdrawing your original subpoena.”

Meanwhile, the process of science is playing out. Yesterday, several prominent scientists published a commentary in Nature Climate that had a different take on the data used in the Karl study. And one of those scientists, Michael Mann, wanted the public to know that their new interpretation does not cast aspersions on the Karl study:

It seems like that this is what should be happening: a vigorous debate about the science by scientists and experts who are best positioned to appreciate the nuances of the latest research.

Featured photo: Ryan J. Reilly

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  • Rick Kramer

    Citing Mann is a poor choice. Anyone who falsely claims to be a Nobel Laureate loses credibility to anyone with any common sense, never mind the problems with his hockey stick graph. Why does this biased article show links to all the letters to the NOAA director from CAGW proponents but fails to properly link the letter from the “deniers” and their reason for writing Smith? Why the ad hominem attacks on Dr. Happer at Princeton? What were Peterson and Karl DOING at NOAA that prompted the 300+ to write Smith? Why is THAT omitted? Why and how did they change data that their own datasets were not showing? An article that omits these things starts to take on the odor of propaganda. Enquiring minds would like to know, and we APPLAUD Chairman Smith for what he is doing.
    Is it fair to say that all of the respondents on the letter to the NOAA director have a “long history of unsupported alarmism on climate” if the 300+ have a long history of being “deniers?” What EXACTLY are they denying? That the climate changes? NO. That mankind contributes to a changing climate? NO. Anyone purporting to be a scientist and uses that word is a sham in my opinion. It has no place in legitimate science. Do they deny that there is legitimate science that supports the notion of catastrophic warming? Yes, they have a problem with that poppycock, and for good reason. There is NO SCIENCE (observed, empirical data) supporting that nonsense. They have a problem with copious evidence of manipulation of the terrestrial temperature datasets kept by a handful of “scientists” at NASA/GISS and NOAA. They have a problem with computer modeling that has proven to be wildly inaccurate in predicting warming. Computer modeling is not science, as even Trenberth noted. They have a problem with phony alarmism. They have a problem with proposed “solutions” to a non-problem that will not work, involving the fleecing of citizens worldwide out of trillions of dollars.

  • I am proposing a bold new program to not only stop climate change, but hurricanes, volcanoes, tornadoes, tsunamis, and earthquakes as well. All are equally easy to control once you have the right science in hand. We all know that carbon causes climate change, but did you know that you can stop a volcano from erupting by tossing in a Virgin? And Tsunamis can probably be controlled by bringing Moses out of retirement. Join me in a totally integrated Junk Science Adventure to tax everything in sight to save the planet.

  • Turboblocke

    Keep it up. Thanks to the climate change deniers, the USA is falling behind the rest of the world in renewable technology. If a foreign country did as much damage to your country as the deniers in your government are doing, you would probably invade them.

  • Dale

    Once a writer feels that they have to stoop to name-calling in an attempt to make a point, all credibility is lost. This is the case in the above diatribe.
    Incidentally, who are these people who deny climate?

    • How can anyone deny the climate? As long as I can tell, the only “climate deniers” are those who deny the natural cycles and solar impact on those natural cycles.

      • tonylurker

        I’ve never encountered one of those. I only encounter those who claim that there are some magical un-explainable “natural cycles” who’s cause have no known basis in physics and are therefore completely un-quantifieable, but somehow cause exactly the same amount of warming we would expect based on known physics and the increase of greenhouse gasses pumped into the atmosphere by man.

        “natural cycles” have physical causes. These causes and solar impact are measurable and their effects can be calculated. These calculations have been done (repeatedly), and they do not explain the warming observed over the last many decades. Interestingly, we can also calculate a range of warming due to the greenhouse effect, and that does explain the recent warming.

      • Obviously you are an amateur warmist. Who can calculate a range of warming based on CO2 and the inexistent “greenhouse effect”? Of course not one out of about 175 climate models available. Haven’t you heard about all those peer reviewed studies showing that 95% of climate models are so wrong that are utterly worthless. And the other 5% are overpredicting the warming by 3 to 8º C. You should know that even the IPCC has a disclaimer in their AR5 report about climate models explaining that, as the climate system (atmosphere and oceans) is a chaotic system, there is no way a model could mimic chaos and forecast or predict what will happen with those almost infinite positive and negative feedbacks.

      • tonylurker

        Obviously you are not constrained by facts, as everything you just wrote is demonstrably incorrect. But don’t take my word for it, check out the actual IPCC reports.

        Note the comparison of models and data:

      • So you like model graphs. Then this graph should make your day. It should mean an epiphany for you because it shows that not a single climate model used by the IPCC has predicted nothing close to the real world observations. Now you can step down safely from the Man Made Global Warming bandwagon and join the sceptic ranks…

      • tonylurker

        So I present a published graph produced and reviewed by multiple scientists showing that global temperatures have been within the predicted range of the models. You reply with a dishonest, non-published, non-reviewed graph that compares model projections of GLOBAL SURFACE temperatures with measurements of TROPICAL MID-TROPOSPHERIC temperatures. Of course things don’t match when you compare apples and oranges.

      • Peer review of climate models? Are you kidding? What do referees review? Algorythms that are completely wrong, computer models that cannot hindcast past climate when fed present temperatures and run in reverse. And referees that cannot access Cray supercomputers to input the model program and its data to see if it gves the same results. A series of serious runs and iteration would cost a couple of million dollars.

        My graph is an analysis of temperature records from HadCRUT and UAH, showing actual hard data, not prophecies. Let the data speak for itself and stop giving authority fallacies.This is a variation on the same data presenting model outputs and their trends versus actual temperatures by satellite and balloon data:

        Ideology influences on knowledge and not vice versa as it should be. The observer changes the observed. Said Shermer, American sociologist and historian, founder of the magazine “Skeptic” and the Skeptical Society: “What we believe affects what we perceive.”

        Educated, intelligent and successful adults rarely change their fundamental assumptions that have a strong “ideological immune system.” Francis Bacon already said in 1620, “Once adopted an opinion, the human mind makes all other things support it and agree with it.”

        The “confirmation bias” is the tendency to seek or interpret evidence for existing beliefs and ignore or reinterpret the evidence against them. It is an effective way of self-deception that is unrelated to IQ as famous intellectuals and crackpots suffer them both in equal proportion. So you are immune, impervious to even the most solid and sound scientific argument. It is your ideological or religious sentiment that prevents you to accept a different view, analyze it and see if you were right or wrong. Impervious to reason.

      • tonylurker

        wow you don’t even know what your posting none of your data comes from hadCRUT, and none of it is surface temperature.

        nor do you understand what I posted which was actual measurements versus actual models. An apples to apples comparison. stop spouting off blog nonsense, And read the actual science

      • cliff

        Eduardo, are currently receiving funding from the fossil fuel industry or any organization funded by them. What about presenting at or for think-tanks? Did you publish in support of the tobacco industry? I think that you are a fraud.

      • Are you asking me or are you telling others that I am currently receiving money from fossil fuel industry? No, I have never received any money from fossil fuel industries. On the contrary, I pay fossil fuel industries for the gas and other supplies for my car and my home.

        It is not clear what you mean by presenting ‘what’? at o for think-tanks. If you mean I make presentations at or for think-tanks, the answer is NO. Never. I usually give presentations and lectures to high school students, invited by provincial and municipal governments in my country, Argentina, and no salary, fees or any kind of money is given to me other than a bus ticket and the lunch. In October 2010 I was invited by the government of Spain, through the city of Madrid to present my views on climate at a yearly gathering in Casa de América, where people from Latin America is invited to give presentations or talks about their field of expertise, be it arts, music, journalism, or science.

        That was the only opportunity I got a present from anyone: a roundtrip plane ticket and a 4 day staying at a nearby hotel. Below is a picture during my presentation on October 9th, 2010, in a debate with the head of Greenpeace Spain, Juan López de Uralde, and another very famous and respected Argentinean journalist, Martín Caparrós, that had been commissioned by the U.N. for making a worldwide survey on changes already seen in the world because of Global Warming. Mr. Caparrós wrote a book about it called: “Contra el Cambio” (or Against the Change ISBN: 978-84-339-2591-6, Editorial Anagrama, Barcelona, Spain) where he report that no change was seen in the way people are living in places as the Amazon, Mongolia, Australia, Nigeria, Niger, Morocco, Manila, Salomon Islands, Hawaii and New Orleans. His closing words in his report are:

        “…I believe that the enormous attention that governments and businessmen in rich countries are giving to the threat of climate change is related to three political and economic advantages they can profit from those fears:”

        * Delay industrialization in new emerging powers and thus keep their hegemony a few more decades.

        * Change the global energy model in order to modify certain geopolitical relations, and get new actors to get stronger in one of the biggest markets in the world.

        * Earn fortunes in the market of carbon bonds, (ask Al Gore…)

        “And I believe their major win is ideological: convince us that the best is what we already have, something that we are about to lose if we don’t pay attention of what they say: that there is nothing more dangerous than the change.”

        So I am a fraud. A quite normal tag given by warmists to somebody you know nothing about, based on what is usual on warmist fearmongers: I dare think in a different way as you do.

      • Rick Kramer

        What gives you the impression that the IPCC can be relied upon to provide ANYTHING factual? The founder, Maurice Strong, was a billionaire and an avowed socialist He has said that the mission of the IPCC is to use a UN platform to sell global environmental crises and global governance as a solution. He has commented that the goal, in effect, is to destabilize large industrial nations by any means necessary. Apparently that includes being loose with the truth. The IPCC charter states that the assumption is that mankind is harming the environment and all of their work will be to “prove” that assessment. Pardon me, but anyone with a brain and a lick of common sense has already dumped this as propaganda. There are numerous examples of corruption at the IPCC…not the least of which is the glaring disparity from their scientific assessments from neutral scientists and the resulting Summary for Policy Makers, which is written by journalist advocates and politicians. The SPM frequently has no resemblance to what the scientists actually said. This makes it propaganda with the veneer of being backed by science.

    • Turboblocke

      LOL, haven’t heard that “who are these people who deny climate?” line before /sarc

  • Richard Cronin

    I am a retired Chemical Engineer , 40+ years experience, all in private industry, none in oil or gas. I have been a Professional Engineer since 1979. How is it that “scientists” feel they are above detailed scrutiny when they are funded by the taxpayer ? Praise be and all best to Rep. Lamar Smith, Judith Curry, Mark Steyn, Richard Lindzen, John Christy, Roy Spencer, and all those who challenge the travesty of “science” called Anthropogenic Global Warming. The work of John Tyndall (1859) and the “heat trapping” properties of a non-condensible gas like CO2 were disproven by Knut Angstrom (1900), Robert W, Wood (1909), as well as Joseph Postma and Nasif Nahle (2011). Tyndall radiated his gas sample and concluded the gas “trapped the heat”. It was the glass of his flask that “trapped the heat”. Just like the glass panels of a real greenhouse.

    • Michael Halpern

      Your description of the situation is inaccurate. Taxpayer-funded scientists are not above scrutiny (no scientist should be). But leaving the reality of climate change aside, these particular scientists have made all of their data and methodology publicly available for anyone to analyze and debate. Critics are free to publish their critiques in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. Having access to hundreds of thousands of pages of scientists’ emails will waste resources, intimidate scientists from having frank discussions, and provide little benefit to understanding the science.

      • Having access to the emails required by Rep. Smith could result in a new Climategate. And that’s what NOAA’s public employees are afraid of. There is no way by which NOAA research work can be compromised by complying with the FOI request. It is the law, and giving spurious excuses to not complying with the law makes NOAA’s refusal the proof of its wrongdoings.

      • tonylurker

        So you are saying that when Lamar’s staff deliberately misrepresents the scientist’s email statements, takes sections of emails out of context to claim they mean something that they do not it won’t adversely effect future NOAA research? It’s exactly what happened in fake controversy known as “climategate”.

        ps. this isn’t a FOI request.

      • I did not say anything of the sort. I didn’t imply that Lamar Smith’s staff was misrepresenting anything, that’s YOUR flawed understanding of a very clear statement. And Climatgegate was very clear. And about Climategate the only ones that misrepresented (and falsified) science were those corrok, called Mann, Phil Jones, Kevir Trenberth, etc…Then came the notorious whitewash by corrupt judges and “scientists” too worried for the prospective of losing their research grants. It is quite clear you cannot read well; go back to school and take a crash course on Text Comprehension 101.

      • Alan Macphail

        You’re flogging a dead horse. The major oil companies have already admitted that everything about climate change is true and they have known that for 35 years. Climate disruption denial is dead, You are only embarrassing yourself.

      • Embarrasing myself… ha! Have you taken a look of yourself in the mirror? Major oil companies have not climatologists on their payroll. They are not experts in climate. 35 years ago there were few scientists that new something about climate, except Hubert Lamb, and Marcel Leroux, the father of modern climatology, and the amount of new data since then has proved beyond dodubt that there is not the slightest connection between CO2 and climate change. Get a degree in physics and then speak out.

        Below a table of what happens when you add CO2 to the atmosphere. Because its logarithmic properties, CO2 doubling barely makes any difference on temperature.

      • Ron

        Actually he read everything you wrote with excellent comprehension. Because there was no “Climategate” in the first place. As overwhelming empirical evidence proved beyond a shadow of a doubt. Nor was any of the evidence “whitewashed”. You really need to do something called RESEARCH, that is NOT limited to climate denier idiots.

      • Rick Kramer

        What EXACTLY is the “reality of climate change?” Pardon me, but that has a strong whiff of propaganda. The reality is that the climate has been changing for 4.5 billion years. The reality is that mankind affects climate but it can be in more ways than carbon dioxide…UHI for example. The atmosphere’s sensitivity to CO2 is proving to be negligible. There is no legitimate scientific evidence that mankind is causing catastrophic warming. None. You can protest all you want to but that is a fact. You are entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts. There is not even evidence that man is causing significant warming. Only in the computer models and in the tampered with temperature records to get them more in line with the wildly inaccurate computer models. Even the NASA propaganda site which hasn’t been updated in at least five years says the planet has warmed by 1.4 degrees F since 1880. Is that alarming you? No, it has not accelerated recently. Garbage in, garbage out was never more true than in alarmist’s computer models.

  • Zosha123

    No matter how hard you eagerly “believe” CO2 is the new Y2K².

    The last 35 years of climate action delay is proof why climate change science only agreed a CO2 he!! was; “99% real” and not; “as real as smoking causing cancer and 35 more years is certain and unstoppable.

    Real progressives are happy not disappointed a crisis for billions of innocent children was thankfully just exaggerated and abused vague climate science.

    Spread love not hate and fear.

    *Even Occupy no longer mentions CO2 in it’s list of demands so follow the herd sheeple.