GOP chairman stepping up crusade against climate change study

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Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is stepping up his crusade against a federal climate change study that challenges a key talking point of climate skeptics.

Smith, chairman of the House Science Committee, faced off on Wednesday with the head of the agency that produced last summer's study.

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It’s just the latest step in Smith’s fight against the study, which he sais is wrong, politically motivated and  not scientifically valid. That fight has included Smith sending broad subpoenas to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for internal documents related to the research.

“The study, led by NOAA meteorologist Mr. Thomas Karl, used controversial new methods to readjust historical temperature data upward,” Smith said at the hearing of a Science Committee subpanel. “The goal was clear from the start: remove a weakness in the administration's climate change agenda.”

NOAA, Smith said, “should adhere to the scientific standards of being objective, independent of political considerations, timely and having findings based on all available source of information. Instead, NOAA ignores legitimate sources of objective information such as satellite data to promote the administration’s biased climate change agenda.”

The research, published in the journal Science, argues that after fixing certain problems with temperature data, there was no 18-year pause in global warming.

It angered Republicans and others who disagree with the idea that humans significantly contribute to climate change, since it challenged a key argument in their favor.

NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan, who was the sole witness at the hearing on the agency’s budget request for 2017, stood by the research and her agency’s response to the committee.

“My staff continues to work on the details of these matters with your staff on an almost daily basis, and I assure you, we will continue to move forward on the path that they have agreed to make sure that we satisfy your needs,” she told Smith.

“We fully respect the committee’s oversight responsibilities and have been working diligently since your very first letter to do precisely that.”

Smith repeatedly brought up a recent study published in Nature that disagrees with the NOAA study and says that the pause did happen.

“Do you feel that the NOAA study is correct, or do you feel that the Nature article is correct?” Smith asked.

Sullivan avoided directly saying whether one study or the other is right, but she said the methods NOAA scientists used are sound.

“I stand by the quality and integrity of the scientific analysis that was published for all to challenge, confirm or verify in the Karl study, and I’d be interested to follow the scientific debate as it goes forward,” she said.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), the committee’s ranking member, stood by Sullivan and NOAA.

“It is clear to me that this investigation is unfounded, and it is being driven by ideology and other agendas,” Johnson said.

“The majority has asserted, without offering any credible evidence, that NOAA and the climate science community at large are part of some grand conspiracy to falsify data in support of the significant role humans play in climate change. However, the overwhelming body of scientific evidence across many different fields has shown that this is not the case.”

Johnson asked if Sullivan had rushed the study to publication to support the Obama administration’s climate agenda, and Sullivan said her agency had little say in the timing of the publication.

“I had nothing to do with the timing of the report, so I can’t speak in detail to that,” she said. “I do know, in this instance, the journal Science is one of the most highly respected journals globally.”

NOAA has provided scores of pages of communications regarding the pause study to Smith and his staff. But Sullivan has refused to provide internal messages among the scientists themselves, something Smith wants.