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Chair Grijalva, Rep. Huffman Seek Explanation From NOAA Following Political Hire of Climate Denier David Legates to Leadership Role

09.15.20

Washington D.C. – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), chair of the Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife, sent a letter to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Acting Administrator Neil Jacobs today seeking information about the process used to hire climate denier Dr. David Legates as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction. 

Legates has spent his career denying the widely accepted scientific reality of climate change and taking money from fossil fuel interests and right-wing political groups, including Koch Industries, the American Petroleum Institute lobbying group and ExxonMobil.

When Dr. Legates testified before the House Natural Resource Committee as a Republican witness in February of 2019, he rejected the notion of human impacts on the climate crisis, stating: “Climate has always changed, and weather is always variable due to complex, powerful natural forces. No efforts to stabilize the climate can possibly be successful.” He falsely claimed that transitioning from fossil fuels “to so called clean energy to protect us from climate change is a recipe for personal and economic disaster that will have virtually no impact on the Earth’s climate.” 

In today’s letter, available online at https://bit.ly/33zr9jY, Grijalva and Huffman challenge the Trump administration’s clear political agenda in appointing Legates to a position of significant responsibility over federal climate research and public information. The move increases Americans’ risks from climate change, they write:  

Dr. Legates’ appointment is an extreme risk to the American public and an insult to the quality science and scientists at NOAA. This is yet another example of a disturbing trend in the infusion of a political agenda into science. Dr. Legates has gone on the record in opposition to sound science strictly for personal gain and the advancement of a political agenda. Such behaviors undermine the scientific integrity at NOAA and should not have a place in your agency. 

Lastly, many questions remain about the mechanics of the appointment. It has become clear that the position of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction is newly created, but it is unclear whether it is a Senate-confirmed position or how it affects the allotment of politically appointed positions within the agency.

NOAA’s own reliable scientific data, compiled over the 50 years of the agency’s existence, points to the exact opposite conclusions as those Legates often publicizes. As the third National Climate Assessment conducted by NOAA found, “Global climate is changing, and this is apparent across the United States in a wide range of observations. The global warming of the past 50 years is primarily due to human activities, predominantly the burning of fossil fuels.” 

The Trump administration’s political hire to lead the nation’s premiere climate science agency takes place amid raging wildfires across the West and increasingly frequent and damaging hurricanes and floods in the Southeast and Gulf of Mexico – each of which has put countless Americans in serious danger of injury or death.



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