Climate Science Witch Hunt Expands to NGOs

Climate change, LaMar Smith, Texas, climate deniers, Union of Concern Scientists, Leon Kaye
To Lamar Smith, NASA should be about Mars, not science.

Lamar Smith, a 29-year veteran of the U.S. House of Representatives, has long been hostile to climate science. The Texas Republican, who serves as chairman of the House Science Committee, gained notoriety for his harassment of scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Smith’s targets included a former astronaut, NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan, with his insistence that the agency should be studying the weather and not climate science at all.

Earlier this year, Smith spearheaded the passage of a House bill that tightly restricts the kinds of grants the National Science Foundation chooses to fund. Climate change research is now excluded — in his words, it does not serve the “national interest.” He also wielded an ax on NASA’s budget over the agency’s climate research. Claiming that climate change science is full of “uncertainties,” Smith became one of the loudest voices on Capitol Hill to scream that all environmental legislation is a job-killer.

His favorite tactic? Smith is quick to issue subpoenas to climate scientists, demanding every email related to climate change in the hope he can find something that fits his climate denial agenda.

Smith’s political witch hunt already ensnared the 17 state attorneys general investigating ExxonMobil. (They allege the oil giant knew about climate change decades ago, only to suppress the information.) Now, it’s extending to environmental NGOs.

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is one such group from which Smith demanded documents. The fracas started on May 18, when Smith and the House Science Committee sent UCS a letter demanding all emails exchanged with the aforementioned attorneys general and other NGOs.

At issue is UCS’ role in investigating the allegations that ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel companies have distorted the American public’s understanding of climate science. According to UCS, its researchers provided attorneys general across the nation with publicly-available information that ranges from climate impacts to tactics energy companies employ to cast doubt on climate research.

ExxonMobil claims such investigations are an affront to the company’s First Amendment rights. But legal scholars, including Yale School of Law dean and professor Robert Post, conclude this is a huge stretch when the subject is fraud.

Smith is among those in Congress who are quick to defend the company, and met state justice departments’ subpoenas of ExxonMobil with a tit-for-tat response. To that end, UCS, which says it has long been transparent, is pushing back — and hard:

“It’s beyond ironic for Chairman Smith to violate our actual free speech rights in the name of protecting ExxonMobil’s supposed right to misrepresent the work of its own scientists and deceive shareholders and the public,” Ken Kimmell, president of UCS, said in a statement.

Since Smith acceded to the leadership of the House Science Committee in 2013, he has used it as a bully pulpit to discredit climate science. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Democrat from Texas who is also on the House Science Committee, has accused Smith of abusing power — noting that he issued more subpoenas in his 3.5 years as chair than the committee has since it was first established in 1954.

Ironically, Smith has praised legislation such as solar tax credits in the past, and he was quick to applaud stimulus funding for electric buses during the early days of the Obama administration. But low oil prices have hurt the energy sector in Texas. So there needs to be a scapegoat, and climate science is clearly Smith’s sacrificial lamb.

Meanwhile, Smith has accepted at least $600,000 in political donations from energy companies during his career, the Washington Post reported last year. Over $85,000 came into his campaign’s coffers over the past year, reports OpenSecrets. The largest individual contributor within that sector is NuStar Energy — a company which made it clear that climate-related legislation would have a negative impact on its business.

Image credit: NASA/Flickr


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Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010. He has lived across the U.S., as well as in South Korea, Abu Dhabi and Uruguay. Some of Leon's work can also be found in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. You can follow him on Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost).

16 responses

  1. Professional politicians like lamar smith should never be allowed to use their deeply-partisan, anti-science DENIER tactics, in order to go on extended witch hunts and political theater in order to demean actual Ph.D. climate scientists, while protecting their masters in the fossil fuel industry that funds their very existence. Anti-science clowns like smith should never be allowed to chair anything even remotely-close to a science committee, and there should be requirements of an actual science background for the position.

  2. It is the companies first amendment right to lie if they choose, but that does not shiel them from the consequence of their actions. Back in the early and mid-1990s, Exxon annual reports listed money to denialist propaganda groups (such as the heritage foundation), and there was published information that exxons own geoglogist found the climate science credible and the threat real at that point in time (remember, the internet had not been on line very long at that time).

    Exxon knows the climate science is sound and the threat very real, but have decided that the billions PER QUATER they can continue to make by spending a few thousand to fund denialism is a great investment. It worked for the tobacco industry for decades – confuse the public by requiring ABSOLUTE certainty (no such thing in statistics and science – we can’t be ABSOLUTELY sure the sun will rise tomorrow, maybe only 99.999% sure) and the heritage foundation and others have such an easy time spreading misinformation because the American public doesn’t have sufficient science background to see through the charlatans exxon hires. For example – how many times have you heard “it is only a theory and is not PROVEN?” People don’t know the difference between a hypothesis and theory, and don’t understand THEORIES DON”T BECOME “LAWS” with proof. Theories are typically equations that are already “proven.” There is often room for refinement and improving accuracy of the equations as we compare what is projected to what is observed – contrary to denialist propaganda, the predictions scientist have made regarding climate change are much closer than denialist would have you believe. People have no concept of the time frame involved and don’t seem to understand that when denialist spit out numbers for warming and sea level rise – they are comparing numbers see today for predicted values for 2050 to 2100 – not to today’s predicted values. Those are close to the range of values expected if the theory were on target. People don’t have the educational background or the time to actually follow the parts of the theory and understand the observation, observed values, and how the scientific theories involved are improved by comparing what is predicted by what is now currently observed. The Arctic melting, the Antarctic build ice and increased precipitation, the influence of the ocean currents in the Pacific and Atlantic (and every where), the change in the jet stream, the ability of moist air from the South to penetrate far North – all of this is not unexpected and helps scientists better refine the theory. It in no way negates it – it does the opposite – helps reduce variation in predictions and generate better estimates.

    The big question that denialists organizations fail to even as is “what happens if climate change is real and we fail to respond? What is the impact on our species and the ecosystems we rely on? What would be the costs of fixing the problems, if they can be “fixed” at all?”

    Denailist fall back on grand conspiracy theories and oppose even the smallest, costs effective steps to reduce emissions using free market solution or invest in future energy technology and such. Why would they oppose solar, wind, wave, geothermal and such) Only because it cuts into the profits of denialist funding organizations.

  3. Googling “Fabric of Reality” you will easily find a graphic that shows the different theories that exist in Physics today. This is the stuff CERN was invented and built, to figure out.

    Theoretical Physicists worldwide have yet to become sure which one of the five is correct.
    And in fact, they are pretty sure that none of the 5 are exactly correct. That’s why they can’t explain the fluctuation of the gravitational constant. (the roof of the greenhouse. the “mechanism” that applies pressure to the atmosphere, a necessary component of temperature)

    Ironically, over at the Church of Climatology, the Alarmists, (who have the burden of proof, because it is they that wish to obligate others), will tell you flat out that they have “science”. And “consensus”. (you see the problem there, right, one proves, the other decides on faith and votes, not facts and proof).

    Do they have “science”? Is their congregation’s faith founded in fact?

    We could ask them? WHICH “Fabric of Reality” describes the world within which your so-called “settled” science exists? Is it “String Theory”? Loop Quantum Gravity? Holographic Theory? Do you even know whether there is any tangible substance to be found in the universe, or are we all made out of waves, and only waves?

    As far as I can tell, the alarmists havent made any breakthroughs in Theoretical Physics. Haven’t concluded if there is an Aether or not. Haven’t managed to nail down how many dimensions there are, how many multi-verses there are, or any other of the fundamental questions that would allow “settled science”.

    FAITH is for Sheep, who follow the Shepherd blindly to slaughter, and people who believe in beings that watch, judge, and control their lives.

    Science is for rational thinkers, who dig for answer and don’t stop digging, not ever, not until they find ANSWERS, not guesses, not emotion based suppositions, not single-minded pre-determined conclusions that happen to fit their agenda.

    Climate Change Alarmism, is the single most costly yoke ever to be put around mankinds neck, and is destroying national economies. It is a farce. A joke. A waste of human resources. A cancer on society. An insult to the intelligent. An insult to science. An insult to our future generations who are the ones paying for every stupidly spent dollar with their paychecks, because our slack-jawed generation is TRILLIONS of dollars in debt and don’t have ANY money of our own to spend.

    We are robbing the piggy banks of unborn children.

    And it is disgusting. Despicable. Beyond redeemable.

    The worst thing to ever be DONE to our species.


    Think about that !!

    1. Very well thought out reply. Truthful and more insightful than I have read in a while. This politician needs our support. What showed me that global warming was a fraud was studying the sun cycles and how they correspond with historical climate. It should make an excellent predictor or weather, but the U.N. voted that the sun does not drive climate, therefor no scientist getting grants from the U.N. can mention the sun and climate in the same paper.

  4. He is going after those that started the witch hunt.
    There is now proof that the democrat state AG’s met with NGO’s prior to their action against energy companies and conservatives.
    They are the ones guilty of racketeering.

    Not a single prediction that was made by the alarmists has come true. Real world data proves that the climate computer models are not accurate. The so called consensus alarmists keep making excuses to why the real world isn’t matching their models rather than having the dignity and the balls to admit their models are flawed.

    Taking away the 1st amendment rights of people who question catastrophic man made climate change is the act of a desperate power and control hungry agenda.

    If the science, the so called evidence isn’t able to stand on its on, without having to try to force silence from people that disagree, then it isn’t evidence at all.

  5. I think it is totally fair for Lamar Smith to ask for ALL the emails of these various groups, as long as he also subpoenas ALL the emails of Exxon-Mobil, Shell, Chevron, Valero, Conoco, etc. pertaining to THEIR research on and policies about global warming.

  6. Wow, the globalwarmongers are really losing it. When you think about it though one must concede that being in a constantly shrinking minority of numbskulls who actually believe this nonsense is pretty disheartening. Next comes being ignored. Then the men in white coats. Look let’s get real okay? This has NOTHING to do with global warming, climate change, fossil fuels or the environment. Still in denial? Read on gentle loonies.

    The words of Ottmar Edenhofer. Ottmar Edenhofer is deputy director and chief economist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. In 2008, he was appointed the co-chair of working group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which focused on the “mitigation of climate change”.
    “One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with the environmental policy anymore, with problems such as deforestation or the ozone hole.”
    Hmmmmmmm……so what is the goal of environmental policy?
    “We redistribute de facto the worlds wealth by climate policy”
    For those who want to believe that Edenhofer just misspoke and doesn’t really mean that, consider that a little more than five years ago he also said that “the next world climate summit in Cancun is actually an economy summit during which the distribution of the worlds resources will be negotiated”.
    Let me guess, you’ve been so wrought up in the “consensus third and forth rate pseudo-scientists” blathering that this is all new to you.
    Well then, let’s not stop here!
    Last year Christiana Figures, executive secretary of U.N.s Framework Convention on Climate Change similarly spilled the movements dirty little secret with this statement.
    “This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution” she said in anticipation of last years Paris “climate” summit.
    “This is probably the most difficult task we have ever given ourselves, which is to intentionally transform the economic development model for the first time in human history.”
    WOW, do they sound “green” or what?
    So really, who’s the denier?

  7. ghostifregan , is Stephen Hawking’ a 3rd or 4th rate scientist according to your bible? How much money in your fabricated story do you propose he is making off climate warming?
    If Companies or Countries knowingly affect the air water or climate to the degree that they will cause blight and famine directly causing the death of millions of Human beings in 3rd world countries , is that considered Genocide in your republican bible?
    Why does every republican conservative play book go ? “Deny any evidence that supports climate change, when you can no longer deny climate change ,then the story is to deny that it’s human caused “declare that it’s all natural”, then your shitty story line goes to “it’s too late there is nothing we can do that won’t be too costly for today’s economy ,then to – climate change is a problem for future economies and civilization”.
    Essentially you’re saying there has never been anything that a republican congressman can do to affect climate change for the better or worse.
    4 billion Tons of CO2 pumped into the atmosphere every year besides all the other pollutants and you have the gall to say it has no effect on our atmosphere , oceans , rivers and forests. Cognitive denial. How utterly disgusting .

    1. JG. Thanks for the reply. You make my point about globalwarmongers losing it. Did it take much practice to master the art of incoherent drivel?

      Were it to have occurred to you to spend thirty seconds with a search engine you could have verified my “fabricated story.” Why is it that people like you so readily accept the pronouncements of your vaunted authorities when they tell you we’re all gonna die but when the same “experts” clearly state that it’s not about science, climate or the environment but rather vanquishing the evils of capitalism you reject them out of hand?

      It’s evident that you’re still hung up on the pseudo-science aspect of this so I’ll humor you and comment on your last paragraph. CO2, cognitive denial and utter disgust.

      There are 730 gigatons of CO2 in the atmosphere. Humans release 29 gigatons (not 4) of CO2 into the atmosphere per year. The amount of CO2 is increasing by 12 gigatons per year. This is 1.6% of existing atmospheric CO2. The net load from human activity is 12 gigatons per year. Put another way 17 gigatons of what we create (29-12) is getting consumed (offset) by other natural sources. If we humans were to reduce our CO2 output by 12GT/year, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would stabilize. At least as best we can understand the global climate mechanisms today. The amount of reduction for us would be pretty significant: 12/29 is a 41% reduction. Try reducing your budget (of energy or money) by 41% and see how well you can maintain your standard of living. But there is a bigger issue. How does the total human output of CO2 compare to the total quantity of CO2 in the atmosphere? That answer is 29/730 or 3.9%. This means that 96% of CO2 in the atmosphere is going to be there no matter what humans do. Keep in mind; CO2 is only 0.039% of the atmosphere anyway. So all this manipulated, falsified and cherry picked data and research frenzy is about the human created portion (4.0%) of 0.039% of the atmosphere. What is 4.0% of 0.039%? We’re talking about 0.0015% of the atmosphere! How much of your tax dollars and politicians time do you think should be spent on a problem of that size? Rational people are supposed to believe that this is going to cause catastrophic consequences? The water vapor in the atmosphere has 57 times the heat carrying capacity of the CO2 component. If you’re really serious about saving the earth maybe you should agitate to have evaporation outlawed.

      Let me guess, you were looking in the mirror when you came up with the idea of cognitive denial. How utterly laughable.

    2. LOL.

      Stephen Hawking is as incapable as the rest of the world at explaining Earth’s gravitational fluctuations (the ROOF of the so called “greenhouse”.).

      He also cannot speak with qualification about which theory regarding the “fabric of reality” is correct. His best guess – ToE – Super-Symmetry didn’t pan out, any better than string theory, or loop quantum gravity.

      So he’s stuck with “space-time” so far, too.

      He can’t explain solar grand minimas and maximas, the butterfly pattern to solar activity, or the vacuum catastrophe. And his search for a God came up blank, he decided one cannot exist when his prayers didn’t get him out of his wheel chair.

      As a climate scientist, he is not “the final authority”, that is for sure.

      Invoking his name, doesn’t prove anything, doesn’t provide any information or insights.

      Nice try though.

  8. The problem with this so called Science of Climate Change is that they refuse to answer any questions or debate their position. Before Obama made his big joke that the Science was settled. Funny how Science is never settled. Look at Gravity it is far from settled. Or 50 years ago Geosyncline was a settle Science. LOL>

      1. Sierra. EXACTLY!!

        Understanding gravity is absolutely essential. Without it, there is no roof on the greenhouse.

        The Earth’s gravitational “constant” is not. And no one can explain the fluctuations, or the timing of them.

        Consensus isn’t science, it is a popularity vote. And surprise, the peoples who’s paychecks depend on the Church of Climatology, all voted that it exists. LOL.

        Like asking 100 Christians whether God exists, and then telling the public that God exists based on overwhelming “consensus”.

        Science and Faith are mutually exclusive, only politicians, the media, and the unaware public seem to have trouble with that concept. Sigh.

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