Top science groups tell Congress to stop probing NOAA’s alleged misdeeds

Secretary of Commerce Penny PritzkerSecretary of Commerce Penny PritzkerSaying it will have a ‘chilling effect’ on science, eight scientific organizations have sent a letter this week to Rep. Lamar Smith (R) for investigating corruption at NOAA. Whistleblowers came forward during a congressional oversight hearing about data manipulation in a much-hyped global warming study. Rep. Smith, who chairs the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, has subpoenaed government-owned emails related to NOAA’s work to determine if a landmark global warming study was “rushed to publication” to fit Obama’s “aggressive climate agenda.”

The top scientific organizations opposed to this investigation, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Chemical Society, American Geophysical Union, American Meteorological Society, American Statistical Association, Ecological Society of America, Geological Society of America, and the Society for Conservation Biology, believe Smith’s investigation is an “affront to science” and a partisan witch hunt. All of the organizations ostensibly represent the will of its members, but surveys have shown that’s not necessarily the case.

At issue is a June paper (a.k.a. the Karl study) released by NOAA’s National Center for Environmental Information (NCEI) that claims the global warming pause for the last 18-26 years was a figment of “uncorrected” data. NOAA removed the pause by tinkering with the data to produce the desired outcome, leaving many top climate scientists bewildered. And not just skeptics.

And those that speak up or challenge the underlying science are quickly “tossed out of the global warming tribe,” writes The Spectator. Michael Mann, a climate scientist and professor at Penn State, is one of that tribe’s leaders. A “vociferous advocate of extreme measures to prevent a climatic Armageddon,” Mann calls anyone that questions it ‘anti-science.’ Much like the organizations attacking Rep. Smith’s congressional inquiry.

One reason Smith is investigating the whistleblowers’ accusations in the Karl study is because “businesses, governments, and academics rely heavily on NCEI data to make informed decisions to help grow the economy and protect public safety and the environment.” But if the data has been willfully tampered with, the outputted figures are essentially useless. Prior to the Karl study, NOAA and other scientific organizations have released numerous studies that acknowledge a global warming pause for the last 18-26 years, and there have been nearly 70 excuses trying to shoo it away.

Once NOAA rewrote its own temperature data, NASA announced a month later it would now supplant its own temperature data with those from NOAA. That brought the total to two government agencies saying the global warming pause never occurred and that 2015 was turning out to be the hottest year since recordkeeping began (with the Paris Climate Talks kicking off this weekend, its not surprising). This despite a severe lack of “extreme weather” or climatostrophies that scientists claimed would happen in a warming world.

But facts say differently. As laid out by the popular science blog Watts up with that?, this year has shown record sea ice in Antartica, Arctic sea ice extent rebounding, record snowfall across the country, record cold (e.g., Polar Vortex) across the globe, no increase in sea level rise, a thriving polar bear population (despite the so-called heat), CO2 levels rising less than 2 parts per million in 2014, and satellite data showing that 2014 (and 2015) has not been the warmest year ever. Most ground-based weather monitoring stations are affected by their surroundings, with many situated in cities where the Urban Heat Island effect makes them all but useless.

Another reason Rep. Smith may be asking for government-owned work emails related to the Karl study is the fiasco that happened in 2009. At that time, hackers (or possibly an insider) broke into the servers of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia/UK and released thousands of emails onto the web. The emails showed a disturbing trend to silence dissension, and “manipulated or suppressed evidence in order to support their cause.”

While it garnered worldwide attention and generated much debate, it also showed unbecoming behavior by many prominent climate scientists (and even inspired a scathing Law & Order episode). Internal investigations by the organizations impacted by the email scandal showed “no wrongdoing,” but all agreed that scientists needed to be more transparent and openly share their data (sound familiar?).

So far NOAA isn’t budging and is refusing to comply with Smith’s requests. So much so that Smith had to send a second letter to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, who oversees NOAA. In it he asks Pritzker to have her NOAA employees comply with his request or he will be forced to use a Congressional subpoena.

As of press time, Pritzker has refused to comply, and Smith subpoenaed the requested internal documents. What NOAA scientists are disputing is that government-owned emails are not the property of the government and cited ‘confidentiality concerns.’ This was the same justification the EPA used when they were asked to produce the “secret science” behind all the new rules and regulations it has imposed since Obama took office.

Ironically, Rush Holt, who is the CEO of the AAAS and who spearheaded the letter, told the Washington Post: “This is not just a few scientists grousing about somebody besmirching the work of a group of scientists. It’s an affront to the scientific process.” That was also one of the chief complaints by whistleblowers, who said the Karl study ignored the basic tenets of the scientific method, “rushed to publication despite concerns from other scientists,” ignored “established NOAA standards” and possibly violated its own “integrity policies.” Smith continues to wait for these internal documents.

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