GOP Representative Lamar Smith On A Foolish Crusade To Discredit Climate Scientists

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Lamar Smith, the Republican Chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, has launched a one-man crusade to discredit climate scientists whom he believes are only working to advance President Obama’s climate initiatives.

In October, Smith began fighting with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) over a study it published showing that climate change had not paused or slowed down — a finding that irks climate science deniers who attempt to argue the opposite, incorrect view.

Smith wants to prove that the study was “rushed” and not properly peer-reviewed because the agency was under pressure from the Obama administration to produce results that supported the EPA’s Clean Power rules.

As part of Smith’s war on science, he subpoenaed NOAA scientists’ emails, saying that the communications between scientists would prove his asinine theory. When the agency refused to turn over the emails, claiming that doing so would set a dangerous precedent for future research projects and severely hinder the scientists’ work, Smith doubled down on his request. When that request was refused, he decided to take a different approach.

Last week, Smith began interrogating top NOAA officials, including the NOAA’s chief scientist, the NOAA chief of staff, their communications director, and the author of the study in question. These interrogations are being held completely off the record and out of the view of the public. As of this writing, aides to the Representative working in conjunction with these interrogations say that the transcripts of the interviews are not likely to be made public, either.

However, as The Washington Post points out, Smith was already given everything that he needs for his “investigation” until he crossed the line demanding climate scientists’ emails:

NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan sent her staff to Capitol Hill twice to discuss the study’s methodology, providing the committee with data, links and other documents. But when Smith requested several years of e-mails, the flow of information stopped. Sullivan told the chairman that internal discussions among scientists were not for public consumption.

To address Smith’s claims that the research was “rushed” to publication, the NOAA pointed out that the review process for this particular research was longer than is customary to ensure accuracy.

It should also be noted that Smith’s top industry donors are the oil and gas industries, which have given a combined $630,000 to the Representative since 1998.

Right wing websites, such as Breitbart, have pushed the idea of a “global warming pause” for years, often using cyclical weather data (i.e. winter) to say that the planet is not warming. Smith is lending credence to this climate change denial conspiracy theory by using his position in Washington to divert federal resources to investigate it.

He’s also hoping that he might be able to uncover the next “Climategate” by getting his hands on scientists’ emails, oblivious to the fact that Climategate was the result of the theft of emails and cherry-picking of phrases by the right wing media and not a grand conspiracy carried out by sneaky scientists.

Smith is continuing the trend that began with “Climategate” by attacking the messenger rather than the message. By discrediting scientists, Republicans believe that they can cast serious doubt over climate change science and also end a few careers in the process. And as long as the mainstream media ignores its duty to call out Smith’s actions, he’ll likely get away with it.

Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine, and his articles have appeared on The Huffington Post, Alternet, and The Progressive Magazine. He has worked for the Ring of Fire radio program with hosts Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Mike Papantonio, and Sam Seder since August 2004, and is currently the co-host and producer of the program. He also currently serves as the co-host of Ring of Fire on Free Speech TV, a daily program airing nightly at 8:30pm eastern. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009.  Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced.

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