Cluster’s Last Stand: Lamar Smith Sounds the Charge

October 29, 2015

custerThe outlines are now clear.
The major play by climate deniers to derail an agreement on climate action in coming months will be Rep. Lamar Smith’s initiative to intimidate climate scientists at NOAA, one of the world’s most respected research agencies, and to surveil and intrude on scientists personal conversations in hopes of finding quotes that can be cherry picked or distorted to suit the science denial agenda.

There are a lot of reasons why this might not turn out so well for the Committee.

Inside Climate News:

Citing confidentiality and the integrity of the scientific process, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) chose not to turn over all the documents demanded in a subpoena from the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

“Because the confidentiality of these communications among scientists is essential to frank discourse among scientists, those documents were not provided to the Committee,” NOAA said in a statement. “It is the end product of exchanges between scientists – the detailed publication of scientific work and the data that underpins the authors’ findings– that are key to understanding the conclusions reached.”

Lauren Kurtz, executive director of the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund, said Smith’s request for NOAA emails is another example of a politically-motivated attack that aims to take scientists’ words out of context. Many climate researchers at public universities, for example, have been subject to extensive Freedom of Information requests for the contents of their inboxes.

“When you have the data, there’s no need to look at a scientist’s email correspondence,” Kurtz said. Her organization provides legal support for climate scientists who face harassment and lawsuits. “A lot of what science is is batting around ideas. You could suggest something kind of zany in an email…and to have it taken out of context publicly is very disturbing.”

The subpoena prompted Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.), the ranking minority member on the committee, to send Smith a letter calling his actions “a fishing expedition” and “a serious misuse of Congressional oversight powers.”

(Climate Scientist Ben) Santer had even stronger words for it. “This is not a fishing expedition—this is a trawling expedition,” he said. They’re “looking for an unfortunate phrasing in emails to cast doubt on an entire scientific endeavor.”

Johnson and Santer also questioned whether the committee has the expertise to analyze NOAA’s data.

“I don’t think this is the kind of issue a congressional staffer with little or no scientific training can adjudicate on,” Santer said. “I don’t think that’s credible at all.”

Let’s review: We’ve just come off 2014, the warmest year in the modern record, we are in the closing months of an even warmer year, fueled by a gigantic El Nino event that is, crucially, jacking up temperatures over the most populated and electorally critically areas of the US going into an election year.  (I know it’s not rational and should not be important but research and experience show that it is…)

weatherforcast2016, at least the first few critical months, looks to continue the accelerated warming.

Open Mind:

When it comes to global temperature data from the Climate Research Unit (annual averages, with 2015 year-to-date), here’s what I think you should be looking at, at the very least:


But here, inside the red box, is the only thing Lamar Smith wants you to think about:


A spate of recent climate related extreme events is underlining the growing impacts of climate change, as voters, including GOP voters, now look to be at an historic inflection point where climate change has become self evident, and support for solutions becomes a moral imperative.

Among the most widely covered recent weather extremes –

– The strongest hurricane ever recorded explodes in the eastern Pacific, following a long string of powerful storms throughout the summer

– a “1000 year rain event” in the Southeast, a byproduct of Hurricane Joaquin

– widespread tidal flooding, not associated with any storm, along the southeast and gulf coasts

– The ongoing drought and associated wildfires in the western and northwestern US

– a European refugee crisis fueled by drought and climate change in the middle east


Maybe it’s the pope. Or the freakish year in extreme climate records. It might even be explained by the United Nations climate talks and the bright lights of the presidential election cycle. Whatever the cause, U.S. views on climate change are shifting—fast.

Three-quarters of Americans now accept the scientific consensus on climate change, the highest level in four years of surveys conducted by the University of Texas at Austin. The biggest shocker is what’s happening inside the GOP. In a remarkable turnabout, 59 percent of Republicans now say climate change is happening, up from 47 percent just six months ago.

Last year in the U.S., Bloomberg interviewed dozens of former senior Republican congressional aides, lobbyists, and staff at nongovernmental organizations. Many Republicans privately recognized the need to address climate change—in stark contrast to their party’s public stance—but saw little political benefit in speaking out. Maybe it’s time to reconsider.

In recent polling on behalf of ClearPath, an organization funded by Republican billionaire Jay Faison, shows that climate denial and opposition to renewable energy, while nearly imperative for GOP presidential candidates in the right-wing-skewed early primaries, will not play well with all-important independents in the general election.



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