In the coming weeks, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt is expected to announce a proposal that would limit the type of scientific studies and data the agency can use in crafting public health and environmental regulations.
The planned policy shift, first reported by E&E News, would require the EPA to only use scientific findings whose data and methodologies are made public and can be replicated.
The idea has long been championed by House Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas). The prominent climate change denier proposed a bill last year called the Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment (HONEST) Act, formerly known as The Secret Science Reform Act, that prohibits any future regulations from taking effect unless the underlying scientific data is public.
Smith's legislation, which is widely criticized by scientific organizations, passed in the House last March but hasn't left the Senate Environment And Public Works Committee.
Pruitt indicated at a closed-door meeting at the conservative Heritage Foundation last week that he would adopt elements of Smith's stalled bill, E&E News reported.
Also, in a recent interview with The Daily Caller, the EPA boss said his latest proposal was a transparency measure against what he and his Republican colleagues consider "secret science."
"We need to make sure their data and methodology are published as part of the record," Pruitt told the conservative news site. "Otherwise, it's not transparent. It's not objectively measured, and that's important."
Last year, the EPA head controversially announced a policy that would limit the presence of researchers who have received EPA research grants on the agency's Scientific Advisory Board.
Those in opposition to Pruitt's latest policy move say it would undermine the essential mission of the EPA.
Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, pointed out that the proposed changes would prohibit the use of personal health data such as private medial records, and confidential business information from even being considered in EPA policymaking.
"Companies could evade accountability for the pollution they create by declaring information about that pollution a 'trade secret,'" Rosenberg said.
"Fortunately, this nonsensical and dangerous proposal has never been able to make it out of Congress, but Pruitt seems intent on imposing it anyway."
The Mission of Scott Pruitt: End the #EPA as We Know It https://t.co/iAxWupGNqa #ScottPruitt @350 @foe_us… https://t.co/fJFy8gz70y— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1512761062.0
Sierra Club Associate Director of Federal & Administrative Advocacy Matthew Gravatt said, "By limiting what studies can be used to help keep our air and water clean, our climate safe, and our homes free of toxic chemicals, Pruitt is trying to make it harder for the EPA to protect the health and safety of American families."
"By limiting what studies can be used to help keep us safe, this reported policy would make it harder for EPA to protect American families from pollution, toxic chemicals, and other threats. The result would be more serious health impacts—from asthma to cancer—for communities across the country," said EDF Senior Attorney Martha Roberts.
- Scott Pruitt: California Can't 'Dictate' National Emissions Policy ›
- EPA Sued Over Failure to Release Correspondence With Heartland ... ›
- Pruitt Sees EPA As Political Stepping Stone ›
By Steve Horn
Geoengineering, hailed in some circles as a potential techno-fix to the climate change crisis, has taken a step closer to going mainstream.
The U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology held a rare joint subcommittee hearing on Nov. 8, only the second ever congressional hearing of its kind on the topic (the first was held in 2009). The committee invited expert witnesses to discuss the status of geoengineering research and development. Geoengineering is a broad term encompassing sophisticated scientific techniques meant to reverse the impacts of climate change or pull greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.
Ironically, the Committee on Science, Space and Technology is chaired by U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith—a climate science denier who has received tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from ExxonMobil throughout his political career. In fact, Smith actually mentioned "climate change" in his opening remarks for the hearing, in discussing his interest in geoengineering.
"As the climate continues to change, geoengineering could become a tool to curb resulting impacts," said Smith, who recently announced he will not run for relection in 2018. "Instead of forcing unworkable and costly government mandates on the American people, we should look to technology and innovation to lead the way to address climate change. Geoengineering should be considered when discussing technological advances to protect the environment."
In the past, Smith has denied climate change in stark terms, referring to those who believe in climate science as "alarmists" in a 2015 op-ed published by The Wall Street Journal.
"Climate alarmists have failed to explain the lack of global warming over the past 15 years," Smith said at the time. "They simply keep adjusting their malfunctioning climate models to push the supposedly looming disaster further into the future."
Smith has since pivoted to less skepticism about the science, saying at a March 2017 congressional hearing that "climate is changing and humans play a role" and that it's now just a question of the "extent" to which human activity is the culprit (it is).
So perhaps geoengineering, labeled by its critics for years now as a false solution to the climate crisis, will be a "pivot" of sorts for converted deniers and their bankrollers?
Climate Change Talk Off the Table
U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment for the House Science Committee, explicitly took climate change debate off the table at the November 8 hearing, stating that conversation should only center around the future of geoengineering research.
"The purpose of this hearing is to discuss the viability of geoengineering and any early-stage research associated with this approach," said Biggs. "The hearing is not a platform to further the debate about climate change. Instead, its aim is to explore approaches and technologies that have been discussed in the scientific community and to assess the basic research needed to better understand the merits of these ideas."
Those testifying followed suit, with a consensus reached that a governance framework must be created to regulate geoengineering research and potential future deployment. The presenters all pushed the idea of geoengineering techniques such as solar radiation management, cloud seeding and marine cloud brightening.
Geoengineering, according to its critics, is a distraction from the actual challenge of halting dangerous levels of greenhouse gas emissions and subsequent runaway climate change. Critics also say the approach is a potential danger in and of itself because its techniques are a literal re-engineering of the atmospheric system, with unpredictable side effects.
"Geoengineering offers the tantalizing promise of a climate change fix that would allow us to continue our resource-exhausting way of life, indefinitely," wrote Klein in 2012 in The New York Times. "And then there is the fear. Every week seems to bring more terrifying climate news, from reports of ice sheets melting ahead of schedule to oceans acidifying far faster than expected."
DeSmog has also covered a proposed version of geoengineering called biochar in a multi-part investigative series, noting that much of the research on the topic so far has been funded by companies such as ConocoPhillips, Cenovus, ExxonMobil and others. Exxon, in fact, studied geoengineering at its research campus in Annandale, New Jersey, in the 1990s while also funding climate change denial.
"Not a Silver Bullet"
For now, even geoengineering proponents have become spooked over the interest climate science deniers have started showing in geoengineering. On the same day as the House Science Committee hearing, 24 researchers delivered a letter expressing concern about the premise of the congressional hearing and what could arise from it moving forward.
"Geoengineering is not a silver bullet, and treating it as one could greatly increase already severe climate change risks," they wrote to the committee. "While further research could help address questions about the proposed technologies' efficacy, risks and cost-effectiveness, we already know that geoengineering, including solar radiation management and carbon dioxide removal approaches, can at best be a supplement to reducing sources of greenhouse gas emissions and increasing our ability to cope with the effects of climate change."
Included among the 24 scientists is Harvard's pioneering geoengineering researcher David Keith, who has been among the most enthusiastic supporters of geoengineering within academia. Speaking as an individual, Keith also recently communicated his apprehension about the Trump administration potentially taking an unscrupulous interest in pushing geoengineering.
"In some ways the thing we fear the most is a tweet from Trump saying 'Solar geoengineering solves everything—it's great! We don't need to bother to cut emissions,'" Keith said at a Nov. 7 forum. "That would just really make it hard to proceed in a sensible way."
In fact, those close to the Trump administration, which is rife with climate science deniers, have shown some interest in geoengineering to a degree not seen in the Obama administration. Yet whether President Donald Trump is willing to finance geoengineering research to the tune of $5-10 million per year, as proposed by one hearing witness, remains to be seen.
Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
A climate activist and organizer is hoping to put "the worst climate denier in Congress" out of his job.
Derrick Crowe, a 36-year-old former staffer for senior Democrats in Congress, announced his bid for the 21st Congressional District of Texas last month. He hopes to unseat U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the notorious climate-denying chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.
"Our message is simple," the Austin-based challenger said. "We will replace a Trump-backing, climate change denier with a progressive who fights for constituents against the corporate interests ruining our future."
Smith has served Texas's 21st congressional district, which includes most of the wealthier sections of San Antonio and Austin, since 1987. In February, Smith held a hearing on Making EPA Great Again that featured a line-up of industry voices. Smith, who has a history of writing op-eds for Breitbart, has accused NOAA of altering climate data "to get politically correct results." The congressman also thinks you should get your news "directly" from President Trump over "the national liberal media."
Environmentalists have long expressed concerns about the Texas Republican's financial ties to the fossil fuels sector. Records show he has received more than $700,000 from the oil and industry since 1989.
"Smith has held his seat for 30 years, and in that time he's benefitted from an outrageously gerrymandered map, corporate PAC money, and the patronage of groups like Exxon and the Koch brothers," Crowe said. "The people of this district are wise to the game now. Anti-Trump energy is evident everywhere you look. It's clearly time for a change."
The Trump administration's indifference on climate change, firing of scientists, purging of data and continued efforts to slash environmental regulations has inspired many scientists and science advocates to run for office. Other Democrats are considering a bid in the historically Republican district in 2018.
"When you have been in Congress for over 30 years and you have no formidable challenger, you have no reason to work hard," Joseph Kopser, another potential Democrat considering a run, told Smith's hometown paper, The San Antonio News-Express. "Just like any company in a private sector that would gain a monopoly, and they would then have no reason to innovate."
Kopser, a West Point graduate with a degree in aerospace engineering, added that he is also concerned about climate change and is baffled by Smith's positions due to Texas' abundance of wind, solar and natural gas.
In an editorial last month, Crowe highlighted the perils of our warming climate and political inaction.
"I've felt increasing alarm at how the escalating warnings from climate scientists about how bad the indicators are for our planet have been met with escalating denialism from people like Trump and Lamar Smith, the congressman who currently holds this seat," Crowe wrote. "To cut right to the chase, if we don't have carbon emissions slashed to nearly zero by the time my son graduates high school, we will virtually guarantee that we'll see catastrophic climate changes in our lifetimes."
Crowe is not a scientist but the self-proclaimed science "nerd" and told the Huffington Post he agrees with the vast majority of climate scientists who say that human activity is the primary cause of climate change.
"If 97 percent of doctors told you that you were going to die without a surgery, you would have that surgery, no problem," Crowe said. "And you would be a very unwise person to say that those 97 percent of doctors are engaged in a conspiracy against you."
So what are the chances that the longtime incumbent could lose his seat? As Fusion pointed out, the San Antonio News-Express withdrew its longstanding endorsement for Smith last year over what was described as an "abuse of his position as chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee."
"Specifically, it is his bullying on the issue of climate change that should concern all Americans," wrote the paper's editorial board.
Smith went on to win the election but with only 57 percent of the vote, the first time it dropped below 60 percent.
Smith's loss of the newspaper's endorsement, his slip in votes as well as more Democrat-voters moving into the heavily gerrymandered district are all optimistic signs for Crowe.
As Crowe told the Huffington Post, "there's a lot of indicators in this race to show that it's winnable and that [Smith] has finally gone too far in this anti-climate change science crusade."
No one thought that Lamar "my career has been funded by fossil fuels" Smith was going to put on an unbiased hearing on climate science. After all, the minority Democrats on Smith's House Committee on Science, Space, & Technology published a report this month, Much Ado About Nothing, which details Smith's "crusade to attempt to undermine and invalidate" Tom Karl's pause-buster study. (Yet Smith still can't get NOAA's name right)!
Although little was said about Karl, Wednesday's House Science Committee hearing with Drs. Michael Mann, John Christy, Judith Curry and Roger Pielke Jr. was a quite a circus. Which is exactly why someone who's been through Smith's nonsense, Dr. David Titley, wrote for the Washington Post that scientists should boycott these biased hearings.
That would be nice, if that meant that Smith would stop holding them. But since he shows no sign of slowing his inquisition, someone needs to show up to set the record straight and push back on all the denial packed into the hearing like so many clowns in a tiny car.
And that's exactly what Dr. Mann did, successfully walking the tight-rope between correcting other witnesses and coming off as a jerk. Most notably and most clearly getting under Smith's skin, Mann cited a recent Science Magazine article describing Smith's comments at the Heartland conference. Mann read the killer quote about how Smith "acknowledged that the committee is now a tool to advance his political agenda rather than a forum to examine important issues facing the U.S. research community."
In response, Lamar Smith, the esteemed media critic who cited the Daily Mail's bogus Bates story, who has written for Breitbart and said that people should get their news directly from Trump, claimed that Science Magazine is "not known as an objective magazine." As Emily Atkin of the New Republic aptly put it, "The fact that the chairman of the House Science committee doesn't consider that source 'objective' is ACTUALLY MIND BLOWING."
Smith, with pie on his face, also demonstrated his media savvy by citing the never-correct editorial page of the Wall Street Journal on heat records. This opinion is about as solid as cotton candy and has been contradicted by the paper's own reporting.
GOP to NASA: Forget Climate Science, Focus on Space https://t.co/to11fy7ccS @OneWorld_News @YaleClimateComm— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1487628607.0
Speaking of dumb Wall Street Journal opinions, Mann also did a nice job of calling out Pielke's hypocrisy for whining in the Journal about being harassed, after sending threatening letters to Mann and Kevin Trenberth's bosses when they criticized his awful FiveThirtyEight piece that needed correction.
Also needing correction was John Christy, who trotted out his error-laden graph of models and observations. Again, Mann highlighted the foolishness of his fellow witnesses by pointing out how others have corrected Christy many times on the satellite record vs. the thermometer record. And more importantly, he cited the recent research that totally debunks Christy's false contention that models overestimate warming.
And then there's Judith Curry who, true to form, was there to talk about uncertainty (inappropriately). Again Mann was prepared, pointing out that uncertainty is actually a reason to take stronger action sooner. Uncertainty cuts both ways: while Curry and the GOP would have you believe maybe warming won't be so bad, it could actually be much worse than we fear.
Curry also bristled at being referred to as a "climate science denier" in Mann's written testimony. That's silly: She's teamed up with the Kochs, questioned the validity of the endangerment finding and said in her opening statement that it's time to "make the debate about climate change great again." So it is safe to say that "Judith Curry is absolutely a climate denier."
And she proved it in the hearing, denying the science and claiming we don't know how much is human versus natural. In 2014, NASA's Gavin Schmidt laid out the case for Curry that our best estimate is that humans are causing 110 percent of warming. (It's more than 100 percent because natural forces and particulate pollution cause cooling, which CO2 is overcoming to cause warming).
Other odds and ends that made an appearance include the 1998 documents showing Big Oil's plan to inject uncertainty into the climate debate, the long-debunked 70s cooling myth and Smith's tired denial of the consensus.
So like any good circus, there were plenty of clowns, people lion, tired grr-causing myths and bear-ly believable statements.
Here's the full hearing:
For years, Republican lawmakers have tried to scrap NASA's climate change research in favor of space exploration, but with President Trump and his cabinet of climate skeptics now in control, the space agency's earth sciences budget could finally be on the chopping block.
“I want to put images right in front of people that show that #globalwarming is, in fact, happening.” —@thaw2017 https://t.co/wBdo0Uoh7Z— NASA Climate (@NASA Climate)1487270691.0
"By rebalancing, I'd like for more funds to go into space exploration; we're not going to zero out earth sciences," he said. "Our weather satellites have been an immense help, for example, and that's from NASA, but I'd like for us to remember what our priorities are, and there are another dozen agencies that study earth science and climate change, and they can continue to do that. Meanwhile, we only have one agency that engages in space exploration, and they need every dollar they can muster for space exploration."
That means NASA's work on climate change could go to another agency, with or without funding, or possibly get cut, E&E News explained. Smith and other Republicans acknowledged that significant changes to NASA's earth sciences program could be introduced in the near future.
Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), who is running for NASA administrator, told E&E News that he was not committed to keeping climate research at NASA but may be open to transferring the program to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
'Shockingly Stupid': Trump to Eliminate NASA Climate Research https://t.co/O7MB9LBNWT @foeeurope @greenpeaceaustp— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1480077615.0
But ProPublica senior reporter Andrew Revkin in an interview with NPR said that NOAA might not be as well equipped to study climate change.
"If they say—well, we're just going to shift [climate science] over to, let's say, NOAA, the oceanic and atmospheric administration, that doesn't really work well because NOAA doesn't necessarily have the skill sets to do some of the work that would be easier done at NASA," he added.
Additionally, he highlighted how one of biggest proponents of scrapping NASA's climate science program is actually a lobbyist for rocket companies.
"There was someone who was part of the Trump campaign who was pushing for, you know, moving all this climate science out of NASA—that doesn't need to happen there—and making sure NASA's focused on its missions to other planets and back to the moon or that kind of thing," Revkin said. "And of course, he is a lobbyist for companies that build rockets and stuff then."
Former Republican Rep. Bob Walker, who is a senior Trump advisor has been actively involved in deliberating the administration's space policy. Walker told the Guardian in November that NASA's earth science program amounts to "politically correct environmental monitoring."
"We see NASA in an exploration role, in deep space research," he added. "Earth-centric science is better placed at other agencies where it is their prime mission."
There are many reasons why de-funding NASA's climate change science would be a major mistake. As James Dyke at The Conversation pointed out, NASA organizations such as the Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Jet Propulsion Laboratory have made significant contributions to our understanding of how humans are changing the Earth's climate.
5 Reasons Eliminating @NASA’s Climate Research Would Be a Huge Mistake @EcoWatch https://t.co/X7QGpZ6xPc #NASA @ScienceNews @ClimateNexus— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1480355255.0
NASA also has more than a dozen satellites that
orbit the Earth and remotely sense ocean, land and atmospheric conditions. Its research encompasses solar activity, sea level rise, the temperature of the atmosphere and the oceans, the ozone layer, air pollution, and changes in sea and land ice.
Despite the Republicans and the Trump administration's seemingly hostile feelings about the established science of climate change, NASA has been frequently posting tweets about the topic on its Twitter page.
Despite a line-up of three industry voices against a lone voice of reason in Dr. Rush Holt of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the hearing failed to land any substantial blows against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Instead, Holt and the pro-science members of the committee explained the many ways in which Smith's "sound science" fixation sounds stupid to those who know science.
While Smith did his best to use this weekend's fake news about the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to stir up drama, the fact that the "whistleblower" told E&E there was no data manipulation took the wind right out of his sails. Instead of problems with the conclusion of the study, the concern Bates had was that the data wasn't archived properly because the paper was rushed, which isn't true. So when Smith asked if Science would retract the paper, Holt reiterated these points. He added, "This is not the making of a big scandal" and "there is nothing in the Karl paper that, in our current analysis, suggests retraction." Score one for science!
3 Reasons the Mail on Sunday’s #Climate Claims Are Bogus https://t.co/M0yTv54wl2 @WorldResources @MichaelEMann @billmckibben @NaomiAKlein— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1486562215.0
The industry speakers, on the other hand, made relatively drab and inconsequential statements in the form of vague platitudes about the need for "sound science" instead of "secret science." For those who missed it, The Intercept had a great piece the other day on this Orwellian term and its tobacco industry-origins (which the ever-awesome Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson entered into the record to close the hearing). Because while Smith claims it will make science at the EPA better, what it would really do is prevent the EPA from using studies that rely on confidential health records or studies of individual events, which by definition can't be replicated.
Dr. Holt made it clear that, "The Secret Science Act, as it has been previously introduced, has been based on a misunderstanding of how science works." Though, given its design as a vehicle for the tobacco (and now fossil fuel) industry to prevent regulation, one might believe that it is less a misunderstanding of science than a deliberate attempt to cripple it.
The second aspect of "making the EPA great again" was proposed reform to the EPA's Scientific Advisory Boards. This idea was deceptively described by the industry speakers as an effort to increase "diversity" and "balance" and provide more "perspective" to these review boards. What they really do is give industry a seat at the table so they can do what industry wants- fight regulation. That Smith called on Jeffrey Holmstead, who was once disqualified as an expert witness by a judge due to his multiple conflicts of interest, namely lobbying for coal and other energy companies, tells you everything you need to know.
The third witness was Dr. Richard Belzer, an economist and president of "Regulatory Checkbook," who seems to be in the outer orbit of the Koch universe and whose Twitter feed appears to be a bizarre advertisement for a wine website. His main contribution was that cost-benefit analyses should be called benefit-cost Analyses because ... benefits are better? It wasn't really clear.
The last witness on Smith's side was Dr. Kimberly White of the American Chemistry Council. She made a valiant effort to portray the injection of biased industry voices into the federal peer review process as a matter of balance and perspective, which one would expect from someone representing an industry group.
Our favorite part of the hearing, though, came not from any of the witnesses but from Rep. Don Beyer, who donned a red "Keep The EPA Great" hat after saying that, "We will not help anyone by disputing climate science with stories from white nationalist websites like Breitbart.com or tabloids like the Daily Mail."
Given Rep. Smith's history of writing op-eds for Breitbart and reliance on the Mail to attack NOAA, we couldn't have put it better ourselves.
Watch the hearing here:
Ocean buoy (green) and satellite data (orange) measuring sea surface temperatures compared to updated NOAA predictions concluded in 2015 (red) after adjusting for a cold bias in buoy temperature measurements. NOAA's earlier assessment (blue) underestimated sea surface temperature changes. Zeke Hausfather/ UC Berkeley
In July of 2015, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a paper correcting some of its data on ocean temperatures and suggesting a larger range of warming since 2000. Deniers seized the opportunity to accuse the agency of altering data for political purposes, and the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, led by the famously science-averse Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), filed a subpoena for all communications on the study.
Why We Should Never Get Over the House Science Committee's Breitbart Tweet via @EcoWatch https://t.co/bNUELMAvxt @350 @sierraclub @NRDC— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1480962313.0
However, a new analysis published yesterday in Science Advances independently confirms the "cool bias" in NOAA's previous data and supports the assertion that the planet is warming consistently.
"We pretty robustly showed that NOAA got it right," said study author Zeke Hausfather, a Ph.D. student at the University of California-Berkeley and a researcher with Berkeley Earth, a nonprofit consortium that has reanalyzed the Earth's temperatures. "There was no cooking of the books, there's no politically motivated twisting of the data."
For a deeper dive:
In a bluntly titled blog post, Note to Breitbart: Earth Is Not Cooling, Climate Change Is Real and Please Stop Using Our Video to Mislead Americans, The Weather Channel took Breitbart to task for using a Weather.com video in an article about "global cooling."
The post lays out the misleading science behind the Breitbart piece and tells the outlet to "please call" the Weather Channel the next time they need a fact check on a climate-related piece.
The Breitbart article—a prime example of cherry picking, or pulling a single item out of context to build a misleading case—includes this statement: "The last three years may eventually come to be seen as the final death rattle of the global warming scare."
In fact, thousands of researchers and scientific societies are in agreement that greenhouse gases produced by human activity are warming the planet's climate and will keep doing so.
⚡️ “Note to Breitbart: Earth Is Not Cooling, Climate Change Is Real” https://t.co/UfjMoFuiRq— The Weather Channel (@The Weather Channel)1481060409.0
The Breitbart article was tweeted out from the official U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology account last week, leading to furious backlash from the scientific community.
Why We Should Never Get Over the House Science Committee's Breitbart Tweet https://t.co/dHJSYYlUgC @BusinessGreen @GreenCollarGuy— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1480978834.0
Where'd you get your PhD? Trump University? https://t.co/P5Ez5fVEwD— Bernie Sanders (@Bernie Sanders)1480626590.0
For a deeper dive:
By Gretchen Goldman
Last week the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology tweeted some good ole fashioned climate denial—you know, the old tired long discredited nonsensical claim that cold weather negates the global consensus of scientists that climate change is happening (It doesn't.). The scientific community and the news media did not let this go unnoticed and that's a good thing for our continuing to hold decision makers accountable for respecting science under a Trump administration.
Here was the tweet:
[email protected]: Global Temperatures Plunge. Icy Silence from Climate Alarmists https://t.co/uLUPW4o93V— Sci,Space,&Tech Cmte (@Sci,Space,&Tech Cmte)1480619566.0
It was quickly followed by a multitude of responses from other decision makers, scientists and others. Think Progress has a nice summary of responses. I especially liked this one from House Science Committee member Representative Don Beyer:
This isn't factual, it's embarrassing, and Breitbart is not a credible news source. We need to bring *science* back… https://t.co/3nTTVtpXHr— Rep. Don Beyer (@Rep. Don Beyer)1480623365.0
Another Day, Another Lamar Smith Attack on Science
I saw the House Science tweet and didn't think much of it. Perhaps I'm cynical. Perhaps I've been following science in Washington, DC for too long. But it didn't seem notable to me. This is because the House Science Committee and particularly its Chairman Lamar Smith, now have a broad and consistent record of denying climate science, bullying scientists across disciplines and otherwise disparaging the scientific enterprise it's supposed to be supporting.
Not that I'm keeping a running list (I am actually), but here are some highlights:
- The committee attacked scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for producing policy relevant climate science, demanding to see their email communications.
- Currently, the committee is targeting this scientist, well, the Union of Concerned Scientists, for having spoken with state attorneys general about the role of ExxonMobil selling a product they knew to be harmful due to the risks of climate change.
- Chairman Smith previously attempted to interfere in the National Science Foundation's grant process, ridiculing scientists' work that he found silly.
- Chairman Smith tried to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from doing its job of science-based public health and environmental protections via the Secret Science Act.
And last Thursday's climate-denying tweet was not even its first science-attacking tweet of the week. The day prior, the committee's handle had trolled Yale Climate Connections.
Another group ‘dealing’ w/ climate change in a non-scientific way, along w/ the other green groups who value politi… https://t.co/UE2z1dP2gS— Sci,Space,&Tech Cmte (@Sci,Space,&Tech Cmte)1480542687.0
We Cannot Normalize Science Denial
Despite this pervasive record of science-slamming, the House Science Committee was still taken to task for the recent climate-denying tweet and this is a good thing. We cannot normalize science denial. It is entirely inappropriate for members of Congress to be peddling misinformation on climate science—especially when they are in charge of the House Science Committee. The world noticed this and called them on it.
We need to do more of this. When science is denied by our decision makers, this cannot stand. We must persist in calling out such misinformation when we see it, whether it will come from the House Science Committee, the Trump administration or other decision makers in the future. Americans deserve leaders who respect science and scientists. I promise to be a little less cynical moving forward and I hope you will too.
By Deirdre Fulton
The Republican-led House Science Committee on Wednesday held an "unusual" hearing, alleged to have been "orchestrated on behalf of ExxonMobil" and criticized as an abuse of congressional power.
Environmentalists and elected officials alike decried the sideshow event, called by committee chair Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) in an attempt to justify subpoenas he recently issued to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and eight organizations and foundations regarding their investigations into whether Exxon deceived on the public and its investors on the issue of climate change. All of the entities that have been subpoenaed have refused to comply.
Members of Congress, including Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), spoke out in Washington, DC, on Wednesday against the House Science Committee's hearing. 350.org
Ahead of the hearing on Wednesday morning, climate action group 350.org noted that at least two of Smith's witnesses, law professors Ronald Rotunda and Elizabeth Price Foley, have significant ties to fossil fuel industry-funded groups such as the Heartland Institute and the Koch-funded Cato Institute.
What's more, 350.org and others pointed out, Smith himself has received hundreds of thousands in donations from the fossil fuel industry over the years—including $24,770 directly from ExxonMobil—"making oil and gas his most generous industry contributor throughout his career."
LIVE on #Periscope: Investigate Exxon, Not the American People. #ExxonKnew w/ Re. Ted W. Lieu https://t.co/fC5doyLdFK— Parachute TV (@Parachute TV)1473858315.0
That's why it's "no surprise he's willing to trample our First Amendment rights in his mad dash to their defense," 350.org executive director May Boeve said Wednesday. "The bottom line is that this hearing is nothing but Smith's attempt to distract us from the real issue: Exxon knew the truth about climate change and Exxon lied."
"This hearing, orchestrated on behalf of ExxonMobil, is a perversion of this important congressional procedure and a complete distraction," added Tamar Lawrence-Samuel of the group Corporate Accountability International.
"The only thing this hearing will prove is that Rep. Smith is capable of cherry-picking a panel of witnesses that validate his views," Lawrence-Samuel said. "Mr. Smith and his denialist colleagues on the House Science Committee are once again using our government to carry out the head-in-sand agenda of their Big Oil campaign funders and it needs to stop. It's time for Rep. Smith to end this charade and let AGs do what they were elected to do."
Watch the hearing below (starting at minute 26:00):
People were tweeting about the hearing and its implications under the hashtag #ExxonKnew, which itself grew out of dual investigations that showed the oil giant spent decades and millions of dollars misleading the public about the threat posed by global warming.
"But instead of investigating ExxonMobil's decades-long deception on climate change, Republicans in charge of the House Science Committee are attacking attorneys general and nonprofits who are trying to protect the public by holding ExxonMobil accountable for their fraud and deceit," Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) said on Wednesday. "The American people—who are facing the toll of climate change every single day—deserve leaders in Congress who believe in science. We deserve leaders who will protect the people, rather than ExxonMobil."
This article was reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Science Committee, has subpoenaed two state attorneys general to obtain records of their investigations into whether ExxonMobil misled investors and the public on climate change risks.
Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Science Committee
Smith is among a group of GOP lawmakers who say the oil giant's statements on climate change—regardless of whether they were known to be factually inaccurate—should be regarded as "free speech" and therefore free of any accountability.
Smith also subpoenaed eight environmental and legal groups.
This Congressman is trying to subpoena us. @LamarSmithTX21: #ExxonKnew--we won't back down. https://t.co/N2BP4jZglB https://t.co/wsWHN9eYon— 350 dot org (@350 dot org)1468421597.0
"Chairman Smith's subpoena is an abuse of power that goes way beyond the House Science Committee's jurisdiction and amounts to nothing more than harassment," Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement.