Pushing Back on the Global Warming Hypothesis | Citizens Against Government Waste
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Pushing Back on the Global Warming Hypothesis

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


When it comes to global warming, President Obama has often said “the science is settled.”  If that is so then it does not make sense that 300 scientists, engineers, economists, and others sent a letter on January 25, 2016, supporting the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology for their efforts to “ensure that federal agencies complied with federal guidelines that implemented the Data Quality Act” in their examination of a hotly debated National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) study.  They wrote that the law, also called the Information Quality Act (IQA), “required government-wide guidelines to ‘ensure and maximize the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information, including statistical information,’ that was disseminated to the public.  Individual agencies, such as the EPA, NOAA and many others were required to issue corresponding guidelines and set up mechanisms to allow affected parties to seek to correct information considered erroneous.”  The signatories believe that NOAA, an agency within the Department of Commerce, has failed to follow the IQA and that this “is an issue of international relevance because of the weight given to U.S. Government assessments during international negotiations” such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a body created by the United Nations.

The NOAA study signatories are referring to “Possible Artifacts of Data Biases in the Recent Global Surface Warming Hiatus,” which was published in the June 4, 2015 edition of Science by Thomas Karl and eight other NOAA scientists.  The authors explained why their updated global surface temperature analysis proved there has not been a global warming hiatus since 1998 and that their new data shows that warming trends are higher than reported by the IPCC.  They wrote that the rate of warming in the first 15 years of the twenty-first century is at least as great as the last half of the twentieth century and that their new data does not “support the notion of a ‘slowdown’ in the increase of global surface temperature.”

A June 5, 2015 Investor’s Business Daily editorial highlighted some of the negative reactions to the NOAA study:  “To arrive at the conclusion they were surely looking for, the NOAA researchers put more weight on some parts of the temperature record while dismissing the importance of others” and “Climate scientists Patrick J. Michaels, Richard Lindzen and Paul C. Knappenberger say the NOAA researchers were ‘desperate’ and the ‘main claim’ that ‘they have uncovered a significant recent warming trend is dubious.’  The NOAA’s treatment of the data, they say, ‘guaranteed to create a warming trend.’”

Georgia Institute of Technology Chair and Professor at the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Judith Curry blogged in Climate Etc., “This short paper in Science is not adequate to explain and explore the very large changes that have been made to the NOAA data set.  The global surface temperature datasets are clearly a moving target.  So while I’m sure this latest analysis from NOAA will be regarded as politically useful for the Obama administration, I don’t regard it as a particularly useful contribution to our scientific understanding of what is going on.”

No doubt spurred on by numerous questions raised about the NOAA study, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) sent a letter on July 14, 2015, to NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan expressing concern that the new study is in “direct disagreement with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report, which found that the period from 1998-2012 showed less temperature increase when compared to 1951-2012.”  He noted that when “corrections to scientific data are made, the quality of the analysis and decision making is brought into question.  The conclusions brought forth in this new study have lasting impacts and provide the basis for further action through regulations.  With such broad implications, it is imperative that the underlying data and the analysis are made publicly available to ensure that the conclusion found and methods used are the highest quality.”

Smith’s letter asked for information concerning the NOAA report, including all data related to the study, the updated global datasets, the methods of analysis used to change the data, and any plans underway to make the research available to the public.  The agency responded with some information on August 20, but documents were missing.  The committee sent additional letters in September asking for the information that would help them in its oversight responsibilities, as well as called and emailed NOAA officials numerous times.  NOAA eventually provided some additional documents on October 2, but not to the extent that the committee had requested.  Frustrated with NOAA’s lack of response, the committee issued a subpoena on October 13, 2015 demanding all the documents, data, and communications related to the NOAA climate datasets in the study.

A November 3, 2015 editorial by Holman Jenkins in the Wall Street Journal discussed the committee’s subpoena.  He wrote, “With their latest subpoena to the Obama administration, House Republicans risk descending into a rabbit hole, albeit a useful one. ... Let’s just say, without prejudging the case, gut instinct has always indicated that, if there’s a major global warming scandal to be discovered anywhere, it will be found in the temperature record simply because the records are subject to so much opaque statistical manipulation.  But even if no scandal is found, it’s past time for politicians and the public to understand the nature of these records and the conditions under which they are manufactured.”

While NOAA gave Chairman Smith some of the material he wanted, such as the methodology used in readjusting the data, the agency still refused to hand over email records from its staff.  Six months after the committee’s initial request, a letter was sent on December 1, 2015, to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker demanding that subpoenaed communications be turned over.  The committee requested documents and communications by NOAA officials, with the exception of scientists acting in their official capacity, which referenced or were related to the NOAA study.  The request included officials within the Office of the Administrator, the Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs, the Office of Communications and External Affairs, and the Office of the Chief Information Officer.  The request essentially focused on the political and policy employees at the department.  Approximately two weeks later, an initial batch of emails was finally provided.

Unfortunately, NOAA is still stalling in regard to more emails and other information about its June 2015 study, forcing Chairman Smith to issue two more letters to the NOAA administrator on February 22 and to the Secretary of Commerce on March 15, expressing his frustration with the minimal amounts of documents provided and lack of cooperation.  And at a March 16 Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on the Environment budget hearing, Chairman Smith again expressed his frustration with the agency’s failure to comply with the subpoena.

Clearly, NOAA and the Department of Commerce are slow walking responses to the committee’s subpoena.  A March 3 editorial in the Washington Times laid out the reasons why NOAA may be reluctant to release communications between political appointees and bureaucrats concerning the release of the June 2015 study.  The editorial noted that whistleblowers at NOAA had complained that the study was rushed to publication, implying it was coordinated with Obama administration efforts to advance the president’s climate change agenda at the United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Paris in December 2015.  The study would comport with the president’s desire to restructure America’s energy industry to move quickly away from fossil fuels to renewable power.  The Times wrote that, “The argument was the basis for the Paris climate change agreement, endorsed by nearly 200 nations.  If documents were to emerge suggesting temperature data was doctored to reach an expedient conclusion in the NOAA study, and if White House officials were part of such a scheme, that would be proof that science had been recruited to serve politics.  Trust in government would be further eroded.”

Rather than provide the information the committee wants in order to dispel any notion that politics were involved in developing the study and that it has strong scientific merit, NOAA has behaved as if it has something to hide.  The agency’s actions support the notion that data is being manipulated to bolster a policy-driven agenda.

Politics play too large of a role in the global warming debate, mostly by those that strongly believe human activity is causing global warming.  They will often compare climate change “deniers,” those that challenge the global warming hypothesis, to how the Catholic Church questioned Galileo’s theory that the earth revolved around the sun.  The Church sentenced Galileo to house arrest for his beliefs.

In fact it is clear that science is not settled when it comes to global warming.  A study published in the February 24 edition of Nature reiterated the conclusion in the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report that there has been a 15-year hiatus.

Yet, a March 15 Wall Street Journal editorial described how Attorney General Loretta Lynch admitted during a March 2 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that the Justice Department has discussed whether to pursue civil action against climate change deniers and had referred the matter to the FBI on whether action could be taken.  Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) has been pushing for RICO charges to be used against them.  These actions unfortunately sound a lot like what the Catholic Church did to Galileo almost 400 years ago.

NOAA and the Department of Commerce should completely come clean rather than continuing to stonewall Congress and medieval threats of retribution should cease.  The real deniers appear to be those, like President Obama, who think the science of global warming is settled.

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