House Republicans vs. The Weather: Part 845742

Representative Lamar Smith (R – TX), chair of House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, is mad about a thing. Specifically, he is mad that the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is refusing to give him records of their internal deliberations pertaining to a study they published in July — a study that Smith doesn’t like.

You see, Smith had taken to citing a study suggesting that climate change had slowed in the 1990s, and NOAA’s new research shows that that study is wrong. Smith, being one part baffled and one part angry about the concept that science is a non-dogmatic, self-correcting exercise, is demanding that NOAA turn over any and all internal communication the organization had pertaining to that study. Because there is almost certainly a conspiracy afoot. As he said, in a statement to Nature, “NOAA needs to come clean about why they altered the data to get the results they needed to advance this administration’s extreme climate change agenda. The Committee intends to use all tools at its disposal to undertake its Constitutionally-mandated oversight responsibilities.”

Except that’s exactly the opposite of what this study represents. From Nature:

Global climate change, via Creative Commons

Global climate change, via Creative Commons

Karl and his colleagues adjusted for known biases in ocean temperature readings from ships and buoys, while also adding measurements from other land-based monitoring stations — expanding the range of those stations into the Arctic. The revised record showed temperatures rising consistently.

Smith’s subpoena came to light on 23 October when the highest-ranking Democrat on the science committee, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, released a letter accusing Smith and his fellow Republicans of using the subpoena to advance a “fishing expedition”. Democrats on the committee, Johnson wrote, “won’t be complicit in the illegitimate harassment of our Nation’s research scientists”.

To NOAA’s credit, they have told Smith to take his subpoena and conduct an experiment testing its effects on his mood when shoved up his own ass, saying in their own statement to Nature that, “Because the confidentiality of these communications among scientists is essential to frank discourse among scientists, those documents were not provided to the Committee. It is a long-standing practice in the scientific community to protect the confidentiality of deliberative scientific discussions.”

What’s more, Smith shouldn’t need to see NOAA’s internal communications to be able to determine whether the study holds up under scrutiny. Not only was it peer-reviewed and published in Science, one of the largest and most-respected academic journals in the world, but NOAA has already provided Smith and his committee with the temperature data and other briefings on the research. The data are what they are; you don’t get to freak out just because you wish it weren’t the case:

Public policy only works if it’s based in good data, and good data is hard to come by if the people responsible for collecting it are under constant fear of reprisal from the government if their data doesn’t jive with what the governing party wants it to say. We’ve already been through this at the state level. It doesn’t end well.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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24 Responses to “House Republicans vs. The Weather: Part 845742”

  1. Badgerite says:

    This is a scientist who worked on the Hubble telescope. Not just some website.

  2. Badgerite says:

    If you had bothered to check the website, Bad Astronomy at Slate magazine, I referred you to you would have noticed a chart of the warming trends based on adjusted and/or calibrated data versus the line based on un-calibrated data and as the author points out, there is virtually no real difference. The temperature line goes up a little less but there is hardly any real change in the direction of the temperature line, which is rising.
    I don’t think you are qualified for much but spouting off about things you know nothing about. The difference between you and me is that I listen to the people who do know and try to understand what they are saying and you prefer to nurture some ridiculous sense of grievance to people who, basically, make our world work.

  3. mikehaseler says:

    It appears I am far more qualified than you. There is ample data showing tampering particularly at NASA. There is clearly a culture of trying to “prove” global warming even when the evidence cannot sustain at all.

    The last straw was when they blatantly changed the data to manufacture warming and now they cannot defend that action because… to be blunt it was entirely politically motivated and had nothing to do with the real science.

  4. Badgerite says:

    I wish. No, but I do listen to scientists a lot because, of course, they are a whole lot smarter than me and they spend their entire lives gathering and sifting through data to arrive at objective reality.
    Here is a quote for you from Phil Plait’s blog, Bad Astronomy at Slate magazine:
    “As for altering data, that’s laughable. Data isn’t some revealed knowledge from scientific instruments; its made of measurements and is therefore subject to all sorts issues that can artificially bias results. What Smith calls “altering” scientists call “calibrating” or “normalizing” or “removing the bias from”. For example, some temperature readings may have been made different methods, different instruments, and those have to be adjusted to each other to account for the difference. That is precisely what NOAA scientists did in this case.
    This is a common, standard and wholly necessary scientific practice, not some nefarious scheme to cater to the White House’s agenda. Even funnier is that the adjustments are very small and do nothing to change the very clear fact that we are heating up.
    The fact that Smith can’t or refuses to understand this very, very basic idea makes me even more upset that he is in charge of congressional oversight for so many scientific agencies. It is appalling that it has come to this.
    Oh, and by the way? Those temperature data from NOAA are already public. ”
    This blog is written by a man who worked on the Hubble telescope to get it to see the universe clearly. I think he has a better idea of scientific accuracy than you or certainly Lamar Smith does.
    I’m just sayin.

  5. JoachinRoundNekkid says:

    I swear Lamar Smith is a blight on American science, not to mention Texas.
    The man is a turnip.
    And I am so sorry for besmirching turnips via this comparison.

  6. mikehaseler says:

    NOAA are the ones who refused a perfectly legal request by their oversight committee. Then you go off on some crazy conspiracy theory.

    Tell me, do you work at NOAA?

  7. Sure, and I demand to see you private emails because you posted something on the internet that I don’t agree with. I want to know who you work for too, so I can hassle them as well.

  8. Badgerite says:

    Yes, and the moon landing never happened. It was filmed in a studio in Burbank. Or something.
    Try to understand something. Human pollution will have an impact.
    It will be a bad impact. No matter what your uninformed and certainly lacking in any scientific expertise opinion is. Fossil fuels are finite and will run out probably within the next 100 years. When alternatives are available, and they are, why wait to transition to a new and better technology that will minimize to some extent the damage human pollution is doing to the good earth? Scientists don’t cheat people. They have saved us from polio and any number of human maladies and provided our society with knowledge that took life times of inquiry and struggle and effort to acquire. Get your head out of your butt for five seconds.

  9. mikehaseler says:

    NOAA have refused to defend their fabricated warming. The only credible temperature left comes from the satellites which show no warming for 18 years.

    This climate scam is busted!

  10. Badgerite says:

    They, the climate denying GOP, keep saying they are “not scientists”. And, indeed, they are not. What makes you think that some ridiculous Republican controlled committee would be better able to assess the accuracy of scientific data than people who have devoted their whole lives to studying climate science? The only reason they would want ‘data’ is to try to mis-characterize it somehow. It isn’t about finding what’s true. The Representative already has a conclusion in mind. He is not looking for evidence to determine his view. He is looking for propaganda.

  11. Badgerite says:

    It certainly doesn’t and you don’t display any.

  12. olandp says:

    Maybe he should just pray and ask God to change the things he doesn’t like.

  13. mikehaseler says:

    18 years without warming according to the satellites.
    “Unprecedented” warming according to those with their snouts in the trough of public money.

    It doesn’t take any intelligence to know who is fabricating the warming.

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  15. The_Fixer says:

    The Republican’s objections to all solid scientific data about climate change is a natural extension of the Alex Jones Mindset – everything is a giant, interwoven conspiracy involving all branches of the government.

    According to them, every study is flawed due to some imaginary collusion between scientists studying the climate and the “liberal left” for the purpose of….. what, exactly? They seem to have a variety of answers to that, but they’re all lacking in one important respect – who benefits? People don’t get together and conspire to alter data for the hell of it. Any good conspiracy, at it’s heart, involves getting money for someone in some manner.

    I’ve heard any number of cockamamie explanations from these people, and not a one of them makes any sense. Which makes it all the more bewildering to me that people put any credence into any of them. At one point in American history, science was trusted and scientists were respected. Not so these days.

    I believe that a lot of it is due to the purposely-led campaign to dumb down the country. Scientists are dismissed as daffy eggheads who don’t know what they’re talking about and the “good ol’ boy” down the block is given legitimacy in spite of his ignorance of the facts and science.

    It is going to take a long time to to get this country over this. It’s a damn shame that we’ll do a lot more damage to the world before we once again figure out that we should be paying attention to the scientists.

  16. Sean Knight says:

    Last paragraph: “if their data doesn’t JIBE with …” Check the definition, I don’t think you meant the data should “jive”.

  17. BeccaM says:

    NOAA scientists are not public officials. Some, but not all, are government agency employees. Some are outside researchers brought in to assist in the work.

    The relevant information, in the form of all of the applicable data and research is right there for any with the desire and intelligence to read it sensibly. However, Rep. Lamar Smith’s background is as a businessman, lawyer and politician, thus he lacks every last bit of the training and education needed to even understand what he’s demanding. Political inquisitions are not justified simply because the peer-reviewed, evidence-backed conclusions fail to meet an arbitrary anti-scientific conservative orthodoxy.

    Secondly, open records laws apply only to final conclusions and have never been extended to cover deliberative proceedings or communications. In fact, the FOIA specifically exempts internal communications, unless compelled by a criminal proceeding or court order. So no, you do not have the right to every piece of communication just because it came from a .gov domain.

    You start and proceed from a whole series of false assertions. Smith has no right to demand what he’s demanding, and those of us who actually have scientific backgrounds see this whole bullshit exercise as yet another Republican panty-sniffing expedition, not because there’s anything wrong with the science, but because they don’t like the “stop burning the fucking fossil fuels ASAP” conclusions.

  18. mf_roe says:

    Caucus proceedings are privileged.

  19. sonoitabear says:

    “Or do you believe the public doesn’t have a right to know what public officials are doing and why they’re doing it?”

    Once we see the ALL transcripts from GowdyDoody’s failed Benghazi fishing expedition, THEN we can talk…

  20. pogden297 says:

    Science is about scrutiny, the ability to answer questions and prove assertions. Rep. Smith has every right to demand to see that information, particularly from a government agency which is subject to the open records law. You, of all people, should be supporting Rep. Smith’s right to get that information. Or do you believe the public doesn’t have a right to know what public officials are doing and why they’re doing it?

  21. Indigo says:

    See? It’s true! Facts have a notoriously liberal bias. That’s not just a clever saying Colbert made up, it’s actually an accurate observation of the mental condition of the Conservative Spectrum Disorder.

  22. Bill_Perdue says:

    They’re almost as bad as Obama.

    Fracking “After years of talking about it, we are finally poised to control our own energy future. We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years. We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar – with tens of thousands of good, American jobs to show for it. We produce more natural gas than ever before – and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it.” Obama State of the Union 2013 http://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherhelman/2013/02/12/president-obama-gets-it-fracking-is-awesome/

    In a new study, researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that homes located in suburban and rural areas near fracking sites have an overall radon concentration 39 percent higher than those located in non-fracking urban areas.” From the journal Environmental Health Perspectives via AlterNet.

    Offshore Drilling ” Not Just the Atlantic: Obama Leasing Millions of Gulf Acres for Offshore Drilling – Deploying the age-old “Friday news dump,” President Barack Obama’s Interior Department gave the green light on Friday, July 18 to companies to deploy seismic air guns to examine the scope of Atlantic Coast offshore oil-and-gas reserves. It is the first time in over 30 years that the oil and gas industry is permitted to do geophysical data collection along the Atlantic coast. Though decried by environmentalists, another offshore oil and gas announcement made the same week has flown under the radar: over 21 million acres of Gulf of Mexico offshore oil and gas reserves will be up for lease on August 20 in New Orleans, Louisiana at the Superdome.http://www.desmogblog.com/2014/07/23/not-just-atlantic-obama-leasing-millions-gulf-acres-offshore-drilling

  23. goulo says:

    PS: You mean “jibe”, not “jive”. :)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXSLcYQHqFQ

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