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Internal watchdog to probe Trump officials who cast doubt on climate science

Internal watchdog to probe Trump officials who cast doubt on climate science
© DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images

An internal government watchdog is investigating after two Trump administration officials apparently published papers purporting to be from the White House that promoted climate change skepticism. 

“After careful consideration, we decided to review this matter further,” the inspector general’s office at the Commerce Department wrote to Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoOvernight Defense: Capitol Police may ask National Guard to stay | Biden's Pentagon policy nominee faces criticism | Naval Academy midshipmen moved to hotels Republicans blast Pentagon policy nominee over tweets, Iran nuclear deal OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats reintroduce road map to carbon neutrality by 2050 | Kerry presses oil companies to tackle climate change | Biden delays transfer of sacred lands for copper mine MORE (D-Hawaii). 

Hirono asked for the investigation along with several other Democrats.

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The New York Times first reported the probe on Friday. 

The two Trump administration officials, David Legates and Ryan Maue, had been on detail at the White House when their names appeared on papers in a series that cast doubt on the science behind climate change and its impacts. 

These papers purported to be copyrighted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) but appeared on a third-party website and were disavowed by the office

Then-OSTP spokesperson Kristina Baum said in a statement posted on Twitter that Kelvin Droegemeier, who led the office at the time, “was outraged to learn of the materials that were not shared with or approved by OSTP leadership.”

"He first became aware of the documents when contacted by the press,” Baum said. 

Following this, Legates and Maue were ousted from the White House and returned to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), where they were initially hired. 

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An NOAA spokesperson declined to comment on the probe, but confirmed that the two officials left the government “on or before” Jan. 20, the day of President Biden's inauguration, like other Trump political appointees. 

Papers included in the series promoted discredited theories including one blaming climate change on the sun. 

The paper attributed to Maue cast doubt on whether human-caused climate change was conclusively impacting hurricane activity in the Atlantic. There has been research finding that climate change is making hurricanes more intense. 

Legates apparently wrote an introductory piece, and one of the other authors said on his website that Legates had asked him and others to write “brochures that supported the general view that there is no climate crisis or climate emergency.”

Prior to the incident, the appointees were already controversial officials. 

Legates has disputed findings by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that found that human activity is responsible for global warming and Maue has questioned the science connecting climate change to extreme weather events.