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NOAA refuses to comply with House science committee subpoena

A study done by NOAA scientists in July contradicted previous evidence that global warming was declining. The House science committee now demands internal communications related to the study.

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Republican Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Aug. 10, 2010. Representative Smith filed a subpoena on October 13 for internal communications related to a July study done by NOAA scientists on increasing global temperatures.

Drew Angerer/AP/File

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In a study published in the journal Science in July, scientists indicated that average global temperatures have continued to rise in the 21st century, contradicting previous evidence that suggested a global warming hiatus. The analysis, based on temperature records from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has now come under congressional scrutiny.

In July, the US House of Representatives Science, Space and Technology committee head, Rep. Lamar Smith (R) of Texas, asked NOAA for both data and internal communications related to the study led by Thomas Karl.

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While NOAA conceded publicly available data related to the study, it has refused to release internal communications, citing the “long-standing practice in the scientific community to protect the confidentiality of deliberative scientific discussions,” as reported by Nature.

In response, Representative Smith filed a subpoena on October 13, a move which the Washington Examiner suggests is consistent with a “climate change doubter.”

In a statement released to Nature, Smith accused NOAA of falsifying temperature records, stating, “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.”

"Congress cannot do its job when agencies openly defy Congress and refuse to turn over information," Smith told the Examiner. "When an agency decides to alter the way it has analyzed historical temperature data for the past few decades, it's crucial to understand on what basis those decisions were made. This action has broad national and policy implications."

NOAA denied Smith’s accusations, backed by fellow Texan Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, the highest ranking Democrat on the science committee, who released a letter last week categorizing Smith’s subpoena as “illegitimate harassment of our Nation’s research scientists.”

"The baseless conflict you have created by issuing the Oct. 13 subpoena is representative of a disturbing pattern in your use of congressional power since your chairmanship began," Ms. Johnson said in the letter addressed to Smith.

Former NOAA employee, Andrew Rosenberg, told Nature that Dr. Karl’s team was merely updating analysis.

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“There’s absolutely no implication that there is malfeasance of any kind,” Dr. Rosenberg told Nature. “You could ask these questions anytime anybody updates an analysis, but you are only picking the ones where you really don’t like the answer."

Rosenberg further suggested that the subpoena could discourage private sector scientists from working with federal scientists.

Smith maintains that “the Committee intends to use all tools at its disposal to undertake its Constitutionally-mandated oversight responsibilities.”