Benghazi-ing Climate Science: House “Science” Committee Subpoenas NOAA

October 26, 2015

Not content to let the House Benghazi committee grab all the pointless, partisan investigation glory, the Republican controlled House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, noted for a membership not comfortable with findings of modern science, is seeking to harrass government scientists whose findings conflict with current conservative political doctrine.

Washington Post:

The head of a congressional committee on science has issued subpoenas to the Obama administration over a recent scientific study refuting claims that global warming had “paused” or slowed over the last decade.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology and a prominent congressional skeptic on climate change, issued the subpoenas two weeks ago demanding e-mails and records from U.S. scientists who participated in the study, which undercut a popular argument used by critics who reject the scientific consensus that man-made pollution is behind the planet’s recent warming.

Smith’s document request to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ordered the agency to turn over scientific data as well as internal “communications between or among employees” involved in the study, according to a letter Friday by the House committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (Tex.).  Johnson accused Smith of “furthering a fishing expedition” by looking for ways to discredit NOAA’s study, which was published in June in the peer-reviewed journal Science.

“It is a disturbing trend for the legitimacy of this committee,” Johnson said in the letter to Smith. She linked the subpoena to previous requests by the committee’s Republican staff seeking information about NOAA’s climate researchers, which Johnson called “a serious misuse of Congressional oversight powers.” Noting that NOAA routinely publishes supporting data for its studies, Johnson said Smith had “not articulated a legitimate need for anything beyond what NOAA has already provided.”

Smith, responding to Johnson’s letter, said the subpoena was not “harassment” but “appropriate constitutional oversight.

NOAA:

A new study published online today in the journal Science finds that the rate of global warming during the last 15 years has been as fast as or faster than that seen during the latter half of the 20th Century. The study refutes the notion that there has been a slowdown or “hiatus” in the rate of global warming in recent years.

The study is the work of a team of scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information* (NCEI) using the latest global surface temperature data.

“Adding in the last two years of global surface temperature data and other improvements in the quality of the observed record provide evidence that contradict the notion of a hiatus in recent global warming trends,” said Thomas R. Karl, L.H.D., Director, NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. “Our new analysis suggests that the apparent hiatus may have been largely the result of limitations in past datasets, and that the rate of warming over the first 15 years of this century has, in fact, been as fast or faster than that seen over the last half of the 20th century.”

Karl et al, Science June 26, 2015:

Much study has been devoted to the possible causes of an apparent decrease in the upward trend of global surface temperatures since 1998, a phenomenon that has been dubbed the global warming “hiatus.”

Here, we present an updated global surfacetemperature analysis that reveals that global trends are higher than those reported by theIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, especially in recent decades, and that the central estimate for the rate of warming during the first 15 years of the 21st century is at least as great as the last half of the 20th century. These results do not support thenotion of a “slowdown” in the increase of global surface temperature.

As a reminder, FactCheck.org recently reviewed an article that Rep. Smith wrote for the Wall Street Journal, recycling climate denial myths.

Fact Check.org:

Rep. Lamar Smith made several incorrect claims in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece regarding connections between climate change and severe weather.

  • Smith wrote that a connection between worsening storms and climate change has been “widely debunked,” and that the United Nations doesn’t believe that warming is related to “more severe weather disasters.” Both claims are incorrect. There is some evidence linking climate change to worsening hurricanes, droughts and other disasters.
  • He mentioned an oft-repeated claim that there has been a “lack of global warming over the past 15 years.” Though the rate of warming has slowed, the world does indeed continue to warm, and cherry-picked data underlie the claims that warming has stopped. See update below.
  • Smith quoted an InterAcademy Council report as saying the U.N.’s climate reports had “significant shortcomings in each major step” of the U.N.’s assessment process. That’s misleading. The report found that though there is certainly room for improvement, the U.N.’s process has been “successful overall.”
In a response letter to Rep. Smith, House committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (Tex.), wrote:

It is important to note what is and what is not contained in this history of requests and responses.  Your requests repeatedly asked for data and methodologies used in the study, and also requested that this information be made publicly available. NOAA, through its tow response letters, pointed the Committee to the publicly accessible locations where all of the underlying data and methodologies can be accessed.  Moreover, NOAA attempted to explain certain aspect of the methodology about which the Majority was apparently confused.

However, obtaining all of the data and methods used in this study seemingly was not enough for the Majority. You also demanded internal communications by NOAA scientists regarding their scientific research.  NOAA, rightfully,  has been reluctant to waste their time and resources, not to mention break confidence with their superb research scientists by responding to this demand.

Though I can find no legitimate purpose for your demands for these communications in any of your letters to NOAA, I am concerned that the Majority has a different and wholly illegitimate purpose for this request.  I cannot help but note that your requests in this case echo the tactics of notable climate change skeptics, who frequently submit similar FOIA requests of climate scientists in both the federal government and in state universities.  One of the most publicized occasions of harassment occurred when then-Virgina state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and the American Tradition Institute (ATI) sought email communication of former University of Virginia climate scientist Michael Mann.  At the time, the Washington Post editorial board summed up the issue succinctly, stating:

“Going after Mr. Mann only discourages the sort of scientific inquiry that, over time, sorts out the fact from speculation good science from bad. Academics must feel comfortable sharing research, disagreeing with colleagues, and proposing conclusions – not all of which will be correct – without fear that those who dislike their findings will conduct invasive fishing expeditions in search of a pretext to discredit them That give-and-take should be unhindered by how popular a professor’s ideas are or whose ideological convictions might be hurt.”

The above-mentioned fishing expedition by climate denier Ken Cuccinelli was roundly criticized by the Virginia media, and Mr. Cuccinelli was subsequently dumped by Virginia voters in his attempt to run for governor, in part because of his rabidly anti-science views.
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8 Responses to “Benghazi-ing Climate Science: House “Science” Committee Subpoenas NOAA”

  1. earlosatrun Says:

    I cannot imagine what those people might have said about politicians like Lamar Smith, but I can imagine why they would not want their private convos read.

    But, correct me if I’m wrong, doesn’t the NSA already have copies of those documents/emails? Certainly Lamar can ask his friendly spies to send him that information. Right?


  2. Pbbblease… I can’t read the wörd “sceptics” anymore. These are dementics. (Not corruptics. You need to be demented to play that crazy.) Don’t you have some sane corrupted politicians over there? What about horses?


  3. […] Lamar Smith is Chairman of what has become the Anti-Science Committee in Congress. He’s unhappy that the most recent NOAA research has shown one of denier-dom’s most […]


  4. […] the larger picture. While red-state ideologues like Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) continue their assaulton climate science, Republicans in less wingnutty parts of the country are finally beginning to understand that if […]

  5. Sean Munger Says:

    Reblogged this on http://www.seanmunger.com and commented:
    A little drama is playing out on Capitol Hill involving climate change. This article from the Climate Denial Crock of the Week blog, from October 26, describes how a Congressional committee with an unfair and biased anti-science agenda has issued subpoenas to NOAA for internal documents on climate change research–in a fairly obvious attempt to set up the agency for another “Climategate” PR stunt that committee members evidently hope will cause uninformed members of the public to doubt that climate change is real. Unfortunately since this article came out, this is exactly what’s happening, as Media Matters reports that conservative media outlets are already portraying this as a “scandal.” (http://mediamatters.org/research/2015/11/03/conservative-media-rally-around-house-committee/206597) This is a really shocking abuse of the legislative process and a brazen attack on climate change science. If you don’t know this is going on, you should! Thanks to Climate Crock for keeping us up to date.

  6. dumboldguy Says:

    The Repugnant deniers just can’t seem to stop recycling tired old arguments and behaviors. Did they not learn anything from the Michael Mann Fiasco here in VA? Ken “Kooky Nelly” Cuccinelli wasted taxpayer dollars and was laughed out of court when he tried to “do a Lamer” on Mann. Kooky Nelly subsequently got laughed at by the voters as he lost the gubernatorial election. He is now an oyster farmer.

    Perhaps Lamer Smith will be laughed out of office as well. Maybe he can become a grits farmer.

    And kudos to Rep. Johnson for laying out the truth so clearly for all to see.


  7. […] profile science denial initiative is another attempt to replicate the climategate model, with the US House Science Committee’s move to access personal email communications from government […]


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