Energy & Environment

Professor who has questioned climate science hired at NOAA


David Legates, a professor of climatology at the University of Delaware who is known for questioning climate science, has been hired for a top position at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The professor told NPR that he’s joining NOAA as their new deputy assistant secretary of commerce for observation and prediction. It’s not immediately clear what his specific responsibilities are or why he was hired, according to the news site. 

Neither NOAA or Legates immediately responded to inquiries from The Hill. 

Legates is known for using his position as an academic at the University of Delaware to cast doubt on climate science. In 2007, he was one of the authors of an academic paper that refuted previous findings about the role climate change plays in destroying the habitat of polar bears. 

He has also pushed a discredited theory that the sun is responsible for climate change and disputed findings by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that found that human activity is responsible for global warming. 

Legates also writes for the Heartland Institute, a right-wing think tank that is known to promote climate change denial. The organization often posts rebuttals to climate information released by government agencies, including NOAA.

A member of President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency transition team who is also a member at the Heartland Institute, Steve Milloy, celebrated Legates’s hiring. 

“David Legates is a true climate scientist and will bring a great deal of much-needed science to NOAA,” Milloy wrote to the news outlet via email. 

However, climate researches have slammed the decision to hire Legates. 

“He’s not just in left field, he’s not even near the ballpark,” Jane Lubchenco, professor of marine biology at Oregon State University and head of NOAA under President Obama, told the outlet.

Professor of atmospheric science at the Pennsylvania State University, Michael Mann, told NPR that during his career Legates has “misrepresented the science of climate change”, and has served as an advocate for “polluting interests.” 

“At a time when those impacts are playing out before our very eyes in the form of unprecedented wildfires out West and super-storms back East, I cannot imagine a more misguided decision than to appoint someone like Legates to a position of leadership at an agency that is tasked with assessing the risks we face from extreme weather events,” Mann said, according to NPR. 

Updated 7:57 p.m. 

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