The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Monday that it would review a whistleblower’s allegations that the agency manipulated climate data in order to eliminate the global warming “pause” for political reasons.
The whistleblower, John Bates, who retired in December as principal scientist of the National Climatic Data Center, rocked the climate change debate Sunday with his claim that a top NOAA climate scientist selectively used data to discredit the global warming hiatus in a key 2015 study.
“NOAA is charged with providing peer-reviewed data to the American public and stands behind its world-class scientists,” a NOAA spokesman said in an email. “NOAA takes seriously any allegation that its internal processes have not been followed and will review the matter appropriately.”
Mr. Bates laid out his allegations in a lengthy article Saturday on the Climate Etc. blog, run by former Georgia Tech climatologist Judith Curry, and in a Sunday interview with the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail.
He criticized the June 2015 “pausebuster” paper’s lead author, Thomas Karl, then director of the National Centers for Environmental Information, for what Mr. Bates described as a failure to archive and document his climate data sets.
“Gradually, in the months after [the paper] came out, the evidence kept mounting that Tom Karl constantly had his ‘thumb on the scale’ — in the documentation, scientific choices, and release of data sets — 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 in his Saturday post.
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The paper refuting the 1998-2013 “pause” in global temperature increases was published six months before the Paris Climate Summit, a priority of the Obama administration’s environmental agenda.
Ms. Curry called Monday on the NOAA inspector general to evaluate the claims made by Mr. Bates, adding that he has “more revelations” coming as well as “more detailed responses to some of the issues raised above.”
“Other independent organizations will also want to evaluate these claims, and NOAA should facilitate this by responding to FOIA requests,” Ms. Curry said.
She cited the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, which has tangled with NOAA over document disclosure related to the “pausebuster” paper.
“The House science committee has an enduring interest in this topic and oversight responsibility,” Ms. Curry said. “NOAA should respond to the committee’s request for documentation including emails.”
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Mr. Karl said the archiving process “takes a long time” and denied that he had hurried along the paper to coincide with the summit, saying, “There was no discussion about Paris.”
Mr. Bates has since engaged in a back-and-forth on Climate Etc. with other scientists, including “pausebuster” co-author Thomas Peterson, about the details of his claim.
Several scientists have come to Mr. Karl’s defense, arguing that other research has borne out the study’s conclusions. Climate scientist Peter Thorne, who has done work for NOAA, argued that Mr. Bates was “not involved in any aspect of the work.”
“John Bates never participated in any of the numerous technical meetings on the land or marine data I have participated in at NOAA NCEI either in person or remotely,” Mr. Thorne said on Icarus.
Mr. Bates responded that Mr. Thorne was not a federal employee and therefore was unable to participate in government-only meetings, “and certainly never attended any federal meetings where end-to-end processing was continuously discussed.”
Meanwhile, Ms. Curry said she hoped “policies can be put in place to keep this from ever happening again.”
“Under the Obama administration, I suspect that it would have been very difficult for this story to get any traction,” she said. “Under the Trump administration, I have every confidence that this will be investigated (but still not sure how the MSM will react).”