97 per cent of climate scientists agree that human behavior is the principle reason average global temperatures are rising, per cent disagree. These contrarians argue changes in the Earth’s environment are caused exclusively by alterations in the sun’s activity. Since humans have nothing to do with it, nothing needs to be done about it. Sit back, relax, and be happy. Just keep doing what we have been doing for as long as we can. Business as usual has gotten us this far. No need to change horses in midstream.
The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, popularly known as NOAA, has just hired one of those 3 per centers to be its deputy assistant secretary of commerce for observation and prediction. What that title means is anyone’s guess, but according to Minnesota Public Radio, the person in that position reports directly to Neil Jacobs, the acting head of NOAA. [Note: Donald Trump prefers acting heads. It makes them easier to fire if they don’t toe the official party line prescribed by the White House.]
The person in question is David Legates, a University of Delaware professor of climatology who has spent much of his career questioning the fundamental conclusions of climate scientists like those who create reports for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. David is a “the sun spots did it” kind of guy. In 2007, Legates was one of the authors of a paper that questioned findings about the role of climate change in destroying the habitat of polar bears. That research was partially funded by grants from Koch Industries, the American Petroleum Institute, and ExxonMobil, according to InsideClimate News. Science funded by fossil fuel companies is always the most reliable source of information. It’s a scientific fact!
Oh, here’s another fun fact about David Legates. He is closely affiliated with the Heartland Institute, those fun folks who get paid by fossil fuel companies to debunk climate science. And now he works for you, Mr. and Mrs. America, making sure those companies get their money’s worth in anti-science drivel. Part of the mission of the Heartland cabal is to suggest that people shouldn’t believe a word of the scientific reports produced by NOAA. Can things get any crazier? It’s like putting a whole den of foxes in charge of guarding the hen house and expecting there will be eggs available for breakfast in the morning.
Steve Milloy, a Heartland board member and part of Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency transition team, says he welcomes the Legates appointment. In an email to NPR, he wrote, “David Legates is a true climate scientist and will bring a great deal of much needed science to NOAA.”
Others are far less kind. Jane Lubchenco, professor of marine biology at Oregon State University and head of NOAA under President Obama, tells NPR, “He’s not just in left field, he’s not even near the ballpark,” She adds that contrarians in science are welcome but their claims have to be scientifically defensible. That’s why official groups like the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change review the entire range of scientific research before reaching a conclusion.
Michael Mann, professor of atmospheric science at Pennsylvania State University, told NPR in an email that throughout his career, Legates has “misrepresented the science of climate change, serving as an advocate for polluting interests as he dismisses and downplays the impacts of climate change. At a time when those impacts are playing out before our very eyes in the form of unprecedented wildfires out West and super-storms back East, I cannot imagine a more misguided decision than to appoint someone like Legates to a position of leadership at an agency that is tasked with assessing the risks we face from extreme weather events.”
But that’s what you get from Trump and his acolytes — the worst of the worst. David Legates will fit right in with his new climate denying chums. Sleep tight, America.