The climate change debate went nuclear Sunday over a whistleblower’s explosive allegation that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association manipulated data to advance a political agenda by hiding the global warming “pause.”
In an article on the Climate Etc. blog, John Bates, who retired last year as principal scientist of the National Climatic Data Center, accused the lead author of the 2015 NOAA “pausebuster” report of trying to “discredit” the hiatus through “flagrant manipulation of scientific integrity guidelines and scientific publication standards.”
In addition, Mr. Bates told the Daily [U.K.] Mail that the report’s author, former NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information director Thomas Karl, did so by “insisting on decisions and scientific choices that maximized warming and minimized documentation.”
“Gradually, in the months after [the report] came out, the evidence kept mounting that Tom Karl constantly had his ‘thumb on the scale’ — in the documentation, scientific choices, and release of datasets — in an effort to discredit the notion of a global warming hiatus and rush to time the publication of the paper to influence national and international deliberations on climate policy,” Mr. Bates said Saturday on Climate Etc.
The June 2015 report, “Possible artifacts of data biases in the recent global surface warming hiatus,” which updated the ocean temperature record, was published six months before the U.N.’s Paris summit.
The accusations sparked a fierce back-and-forth Sunday between so-called climate warmists and skeptics over the validity and implications of Mr. Bates’ claim, which he defended on the Climate Etc. blog run by former Georgia Tech climatologist Judith Curry.
Zeke Hausfather, Berkeley Earth climate scientist, said in a Sunday “factcheck” on the CarbonBrief blog that the Karl paper’s conclusions “have been validated by independent data from satellites, buoys and Argo floats and many other independent groups.”
“While NOAA’s data management procedures may well need improvement, their results have been independently validated and agree with separate global temperature records created by other groups,” Mr. Hausfather said, citing Berkeley Earth and the U.K.’s Met Office Hadley Centre.
He said the record “strongly suggests that NOAA got it right and that we have been underestimating ocean warming in recent years.”
Meanwhile, the whistleblowing prompted a “we-told-you-so” moment from Republicans on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee who have long suspected the Obama administration of retroactively fiddling with climate data in order to erase the 1998-2013 pause in global temperature increases.
“Now that Dr. Bates has confirmed that there were heated disagreements within NOAA about the quality and transparency of the data before publication, we know why NOAA fought transparency and oversight at every turn,” said Chairman Lamar Smith in a Sunday statement.
The panel launched an investigation into the NOAA pausebuster report after whistleblowers said the study was “rushed to publication before underlying data issues were resolved to help influence public debate about the so-called Clean Power Plan and upcoming Paris climate conference.”
“Dr. Bates’ revelations and NOAA’s obstruction certainly lend credence to what I’ve expected all along — that the Karl study used flawed data, was rushed to publication in an effort to support the president’s climate change agenda and ignored NOAA’s own standards for scientific study,” Mr. Smith said.
Mr. Bates said he decided to come forward after reading a Washington Post article Dec. 13 that said federal scientists are “frantically copying U.S. climate data, fearing it might vanish under Trump.”
“As a climate scientist formerly responsible for NOAA’s climate archive, the most critical issue in archival of climate data is actually scientists who are unwilling to formally archive and document their data,” he said on Climate Etc.
In his experience, the “most serious example of a climate scientist not archiving or documenting a critical climate dataset was the study of Tom Karl et al. 2015 (hereafter referred to as the Karl study or K15), purporting to show no ‘hiatus’ in global warming in the 2000s.”
NOAA did not return immediately Sunday a request for comment. The Daily Mail said that Mr. Karl “admitted the data had not been archived when the paper was published” but denied trying to influence the climate summit.
“Asked why he had not waited, he said: ‘John Bates is talking about a formal process that takes a long time.’”
He denied he was rushing to get the paper out in time for Paris, saying: ‘There was no discussion about Paris,’” said the Daily Mail article.
The American Geophysical Union issued a statement saying it was “very closely monitoring the situation, have considered the possible implications, and will be sharing any new information or response by AGU with you here.”
“I also want you to know that, while climate science knowledge is evolving, these reports do not change our fundamental understanding of climate change,” said AGU president Eric Davidson.
Michael E. Mann, the “hockey stick” theory founder and Penn State climatologist, dismissed the Bates charges on Twitter as the “latest denialist smear against #NOAA scientists.”
Another prominent climate scientist, the University of Colorado’s Roger A. Pielke Sr., said Mr. Bates’ experience was “consistent with my experiences” with Mr. Karl on the Climate Change Science Program in 2005.
“What John Bates has done is to expose this culture based not on robust science, but on promoting an agenda,” Mr. Pielke said in a comment on Climate Etc. “Regardless of one’s views on policies, the scientific method should not be hijacked as they have done.”
• Valerie Richardson can be reached at email@example.com.
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