Lamar Smith Lowers Expectations For NOAA Climate Study Probe… For Now

Charles Dharapak/AP

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the chairman of the House Science Committee, has been pressing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for months to turn over internal communications regarding a climate study, but on Tuesday Smith took a small step backward with his demands, the Washington Post reported.

In a letter to Commerce Secretary Pritzker, Smith said that he would let NOAA prioritize emails from non-scientist officials at the agency regarding the climate study published in June.

“In order to move the Committee’s work forward and to allow for further discussions on issues related to the subpoenaed communications about which the agency and the Committee disagree, the Committee is willing to accommodate NOAA and prioritize communications sent and received by non-scientific personnel,” he wrote in the letter. “However, this prioritization does not alleviate NOAA’s obligation to respond fully to the Committee’s subpoena.”

Smith has been targeting a NOAA study that contradicted earlier research showing that global warming has slowed over the past few years. He has demanded that NOAA turn over internal communications, charging that the agency’s scientists rushed the study to publication, ignored important data, and altered data in an attempt “to get the results they needed to advance this administration’s extreme climate change agenda.”

But NOAA has refused to turn over emails from scientists, citing the importance of the confidentiality of scientists’ discussion of their research. And members of the scientific community have balked at Smith’s probe into the NOAA study.

“I think it’s unconscionable to use this kind of aggressive action for a single study and to go after the scientists and all their communications as a political tactic,” Andrew Rosenberg, the director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’s Center for Science and Democracy, told TPM last week. “This has a chilling effect on science.”

Ciaran Clayton, a spokesperson for NOAA, told TPM that the agency has received Smith’s latest letter, but NOAA has not yet indicated whether it will comply with the chairman’s latest request.