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Washington Post: NOAA taps climate change skeptic to help lead agency

A longtime climate change skeptic has been appointed by the Trump administration to help run the federal agency charged with producing “much of the climate research funded” by the government, The Washington Post reported Sunday.

David Legates, who was a professor at the University of Delaware before being tapped by the administration, will serve as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s deputy assistant secretary of commerce for environmental observation and prediction, according to the Post, which said the climate change skeptic will report directly to acting NOAA Administrator Neil Jacobs.

CNN has reached out to Legates on the reported appointment.

The executive director/CEO of the nonprofit American Geophysical Union, whose website claims 60,000 members, urged in a blog post Monday evening that the appointment be rescinded.

“With climate change producing raging wildfires in the western United States and devastating hurricanes in the Atlantic, our nation — and the world — cannot afford to have our federal government undermining the important work of climate scientists,” Randy Fiser wrote. “Legates’ appointment not only threatens our ability to combat the climate crisis and protect our planet for future generations, it undermines scientific integrity at NOAA.”

The Post said Legates formerly served as Delaware’s climatologist but was “forced out” because of his “controversial views” on the issue.

The newspaper said that Legates “had come under pressure from then-Gov. Ruth Ann Minner (D), because of his fossil fuel industry-funded research casting doubt on the science showing that burning coal, oil and other fossil fuels is the main factor behind heating the planet and would lead to dangerous effects such as sea level rise and extreme weather events.”

Legates spoke about some of his views during a hearing before the House Natural Resources Committee in 2019, claiming that carbon dioxide isn’t the only thing contributing to changes in the planet’s temperature.

“Carbon dioxide is not this magic knob that decides the temperature of the planet. In particular, there’s an awful lot of other things that happen with it, too. The plant does not warm like a greenhouse, that’s simply pure radiation balance,” Legates testified during the hearing.

In response to questions from Republican Rep. Tom McClintock of California, Legates said that although the planet is experiencing some of the highest recorded temperatures in the last 150 years, it “has little to do with carbon dioxide,” but instead has to do with the “demise of the little ice age and warming conditions due to an increasing sun.”

Climate scientists largely agree that carbon dioxide is warming the planet, and that human activity, like the burning of fossil fuels for energy, has increased the gas to dangerous levels. Other gasses, like methane, are also responsible for some of the human-causes warming we see today.

NOAA “oversees weather forecasting, climate research and fisheries,” according to the Post, and “has until now continued its climate research and communications activities unfettered by political influence,” unlike other parts of the administration, like the Environmental Protection Agency, that have “dismissed and sidelined climate scientists or altered their work before publication.”

This story has been updated with reaction from the American Geophysical Union.



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