U.S. Lawmakers Expand Probe Of Hiatus-Denying NOAA Study

NatureRepublicans in the US House of Representatives are expanding their request for documents related to a major climate study by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In a 22 February letter to NOAA, Congressman Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who leads the House science committee, expressed disappoint with the “slow pace and limited scope” of NOAA’s response to his initial request. “The speed with which NOAA has conducted these searches and produced documents creates the perception that the Agency is deliberately attempting to impede and hinder the Committee’s oversight,” he wrote. Smith is now asking that NOAA provide his committee documents from other agency officials and offices, including chief scientist Richard Spinrad. Smith has asked the agency to deliver all documents by 29 February. — Jeff Tolleson, Nature, 26 February 2016

Were any Obama administration officials communicating with NOAA prior to issuing press releases? The House Committee’s investigation should provide insight into the following questions that deserve answers. To what extent did internal discussions occur about the more questionable choices made in adjusting the ocean temperature data? Was any concern raised about the discrepancies of the new ocean temperature data set and NOAA’s other ocean temperature data set (OISST) that shows no warming since 2003? Were any Obama administration officials communicating with NOAA about these statements prior to issuing press releases? Was the release of the land and ocean temperature data sets, which were documented in papers previously published, delayed to follow Karl’s June press release? –Judith Curry, Fox News, 5 November 2015

The study of the warming hiatus is cutting-edge climate science not the “settled science” of the greenhouse effect and mankind’s input of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. The hiatus is good for science. It tells us about natural climate variability of which our knowledge is still very limited. It holds valuable scientific information and in climate science, with it huge political and economic implications, we need all the information we can get. There are over 40 explanations for the warming hiatus proposed by scientists from small volcanoes, ocean movements, effects in the stratosphere, data gathering problems and many more. They can’t all be right, [but] they are all a valuable contribution to a scientific mystery. It shows us that the real science is not settled. And another thing. About those sceptics who are seeking to deny and undermine climate science. It was the sceptics, not the scientists, who discovered the hiatus, this so-called biggest problem in climate science. –David Whitehouse, The Spectator, 25 February 2016

UK scientists may be prevented from arguing for changes in national legislation or policy — if research grants are not exempted from a government ban on the use of public funds for political lobbying. Days after scientists raised the alarm about the government’s anti-lobbying move, the situation is mired in confusion. The BIS, which is responsible for the research councils and HEFCE, could not confirm to Nature whether or not an exception would be granted for science funding. “The government is taking steps through this clause to ensure taxpayer funds are not misused. Guidance published by the Cabinet Office outlines how departments are able to make qualifications to the clause, and we are working with stakeholders to determine how this might apply to the research base,” a spokesperson said. –Daniel Cressy, Nature. 26 February 2016

It’s not just right-wing populists who are worried that some academic humanities and social science fields are veering into irrelevance. The latest issue of the left-of-center magazine American Prospect has a depressing report by the leftist Occidental professor Peter Dreier on his experience submitting a bogus paper to a humanities conference and getting it accepted. Most of this “postmodern” analysis is taking place within the context of a hermetically sealed political bubble. —The American Interest, 27 February 2016