Energy & Environment

GOP chair says report vindicates probe into climate study

Climate Change
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The chairman of the House Science Committee is hailing a new report in a British newspaper as vindication of his probe into a major federal climate study.

In a weekend report from the Daily Mail, a former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) researcher outlined concerns he has about the data underpinning a major 2015 federal study refuting a potential pause in the rate of warming around the globe.

Dr. John Bates told the Daily Mail that the study — called the “Karl study,” after its lead author — was rushed out so as to have an impact on international climate negotiations. He also questioned the quality of the data used to reach the conclusions in the report.

{mosads}Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the House Science Committee chairman who was butted heads with NOAA and other federal scientists over climate issues, said Bates’s statements justify the probe he has launched into the study.

“Now that Dr. Bates has confirmed that there were heated disagreements within NOAA about the quality and transparency of the data before publication, we know why NOAA fought transparency and oversight at every turn,” he said in a statement.  

“Dr. Bates’ revelations and NOAA’s obstruction certainly lend credence to what I’ve expected all along – that the Karl study used flawed data, was rushed to publication in an effort to support the president’s climate change agenda, and ignored NOAA’s own standards for scientific study.”

Shortly after the Karl study came out, Smith requested documents from NOAA asking how researchers came to their conclusions. He eventually issued the agency a subpoena for more information.

Democrats have defended NOAA’s research and called Smith’s efforts a “fishing expedition.”

The Daily Mail report and Smith’s reaction to it come as Congress begins to mull the future of federal environmental research and regulations under President Trump.

White House transition advisers have reportedly pushed Trump to support deep cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency and NASA’s Earth Science department, both of which deal with federal climate work.

Smith himself is hosting a committee hearing on Tuesday called “Making EPA Great Again,” which will “examine the Environmental Protection Agency’s process for evaluating and using science during its regulatory decision making activities.”

Environmentalists and scientists have worried the GOP will use its power to gut federal climate research and move away from the scientific and regulatory approach of the Obama administration.

Several former government scientists have rushed to defend the Karl study since the Daily Mail story came out.

A co-author of the Karl paper questioned Bates’s conclusions in an interview with Ars Technica. The researcher, Thomas Peterson, said the study wasn’t rushed out for publication, and that he and others within NOAA had actually been pushing to release new climate information more quickly.

In a post at Carbon Brief, a Berkley Earth researcher noted that the results of the Karl study — primarily its new figures on warm ocean temperatures — have been verified by other scientists.

“The “astonishing evidence” that David Rose purports to reveal in no way changes our understanding of modern warming or our best estimates of recent rates of warming,” the researcher, Zeke Hausfather, wrote.

“It does not in any way change the evidence that policymakers have at their disposal when deciding how to address the threats posed by climate change.”

NOAA and NASA in January concluded that 2016 was the warmest year on record, beating the mark established in 2015 and capping an observed, decades-long warming trend that started in the 1970s.

Tags Climate change Lamar Smith National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

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