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Op-Ed: GOP says NOAA manipulated data on climate change, demands emails

Republican Representative Lamar Smith of Texas is chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and is one of the country’s biggest and most vocal climate change deniers. He seems to have a personal vendetta against NOAA simply because the agency understands that climate change is very real.

In October last year, according to Slate, Smith used his Congressional power of subpoena to demand that the head of NOAA, Kathryn Sullivan, hand over all data and emails from scientists at the agency on their use of global satellite data. Well, Sullivan not only refused, but said they “has no intention of handing over documents that reveal its internal deliberations.”

Debunking Smith’s conspiracy theory
Refusing to turn over scientific documents to a group of lay people was one thing, but to further incense the congressman was another, because Smith now had it in his mind that the agency was conspiring to manipulate the scientific data to benefit their own political agenda, or in other words, to make it look good for the Obama administration. But NOAA did end up sending over about 300 emails.

Smith’s claims of a “conspiracy” by NOAA are based on a study published in the journal Science on June 4, 2015, and entitled, “Climate-change ‘hiatus’ disappears with new data.” Basically, the new report contradicted a 2013 report that had said climate change had slowed to a near stop.

The revised report showed that global temperatures had continued to rise, and the report included data from satellites and the corrections made to that data based on known biases in sea-surface-temperature records, and data from new land-based monitoring stations that extended into the Arctic.

And NOAA wasn’t the only scientific agency to refute the hiatus in global warming. In a bombshell issued this week, the European Commission released a paper describing evidence that confirms humans are causing global warming. The study, “On the causal structure between CO2 and global temperature,” was published in Nature Scientific Reports on February 22.

The report does not say global warming has slowed or even stopped. It does say this: “This warming trend is observed in both field and model data, and affects the atmosphere both over the land and over the ocean.” The report concludes that based on their studies, the scientists say the study: “not only provides complementary support for the results of modeling activities on global climate, but also indicates that further research should be carried out in regions of increased sensitivity to global warming caused by anthropogenic activities.”
Searching for emails using “key” search words
On Friday, Smith decided the 300 emails NOAA had sent over to his committee wasn’t enough. He wants documents from other agency officials and committees, including chief scientist Richard Spinrad. And to add a little mania to the search for a conspiracy somewhere within the confines of NOAA, he wants the agency to use search words, such as “temperature,” “climate”, “change,” “Obama” and “Paris”. Smith has asked the agency to deliver all documents by Monday, February 29.

“There is nothing in these materials that would support the notion that substance or timing of the paper was politically motivated. Science at NOAA is conducted independently and rigorously, and is protected by a robust scientific integrity policy,” said NOAA’s director of communications, Ciaran Clayton.

Before all the climate change deniers get too upset, There was a commentary posted in the journal Nature Climate Change last week that claims that even with the changes in calculations made by NOAA, there had been a slowdown in warming.

Lead author John Fyfe, a climate modeller at the Canadian Center for Climate Modelling and Analysis in Victoria, British Columbia, said, “There is this mismatch between what the climate models are producing and what the observations are showing. We can’t ignore it.” Frye uses the term “slowdown” rather than “hiatus,” and he stresses that it in no way undermines the global-warming theory.

It seems that the biggest problem with the congressional committee is the chairman of the group. We have heard from Smith before, and he is a close caricature of someone I vaguely remember from the McCarthy era in this country.

For those too young to know, Joseph McCarthy was a Republican Senator from Wisconsin who instigated a search and destroy mission on thousands of Americans, accusing them of being communists. Now we have another McCarthy, and he is doing the same thing, instilling fear and doubt in the public.

Written By

Karen Graham is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for environmental news. Karen's view of what is happening in our world is colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in man's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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