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Administration official apparently leads series of papers casting doubt on climate change

Administration official apparently leads series of papers casting doubt on climate change
© DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images

A Trump administration apparently led a group of researchers in writing papers casting doubt on the scientific evidence for climate change. 

David Legates, an administration official with a history of questioning humans’ influence on global warming, appears to have written an introduction to a series of papers aimed at casting doubt on the scientific consensus that climate change is occurring and caused by human activity. 

Roy Spencer, a climate-change skeptic research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, said on his website that Legates asked him and others to write “brochures that supported the general view that there is no climate crisis or climate emergency.”

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Spencer, on his website, also said that Legates “hopes to be able to get these posted on the White House website by January 20...but there is no guarantee given recent events.”

The papers bear a White House logo and say they are copyrighted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

The OSTP did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment, but distanced itself from the missives to other news outlets. 

Office spokesperson Kristina Baum told The Washington Post that  “These papers were not created at the direction of The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy nor were they cleared or approved by OSTP leadership.”

“OSTP has no intention to formalize these,” she added, saying that they were being handled internally. 

Two sources told The New York Times that officials with the White House Personnel Office asked Legates to put together research for President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot Intelligence community investigating links between lawmakers, Capitol rioters Michelle Obama slams 'partisan actions' to 'curtail access to ballot box' MORE for an internal project. 

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The brochures, which were also posted on the website of a group called, the Center for Environmental Research and Earth Sciences, attempt to downplay the significance of climate change or humans’ impacts on it. 

One paper aims to link climate change to sun cycles (according to NASA, recent warming is too great to be caused by the sun). Another argues that the last 126 years in which climate has been measured is only a “tiny slice of time” (NASA’s website notes that it’s “extremely likely” that climate change is the result o human activity and “proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia.”)

A European Union climate organization recently found that 2020 was tied for the warmest year on record globally. 

John Christy, one of the authors and a professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, said in an email that he was “asked to write a short report on a topic with which I had considerable experience.”

“I chose the incidence of extreme temperatures in the conterminous U.S. because the average person has been led to believe records, particularly of hottest days, are increasing.  The analysis is straightforward and demonstrates this is not the case,” he said. 

Legates was named to a top post at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last year. He has reportedly since been tapped to help oversee the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which is in charge of putting together the Fifth National Climate Assessment. 

The assessment involves drafting hundreds of top scientists to weigh in on climate change and typically produces serious warnings about the limited time the U.S. has to act in order to prevent the most significant consequences of climate change.