Ex-chiefs decry hiring of climate deniers

By Rob Hotakainen | 10/05/2020 01:12 PM EDT

Former NOAA administrators Conrad Lautenbacher and Jane Lubchenco signed on to a letter criticizing the decision to hire climate deniers at the agency.

Former NOAA administrators Conrad Lautenbacher and Jane Lubchenco signed on to a letter criticizing the decision to hire climate deniers at the agency. Francis Chung/E&E News

In a bipartisan condemnation, two of NOAA’s former administrators said the agency’s recent appointment of climate deniers to top positions is "extremely alarming" and threatens the agency’s reputation as a leader in advancing independent science.

In a letter sent Friday, Conrad Lautenbacher and Jane Lubchenco urged acting NOAA Administrator Neil Jacobs and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to reconsider the appointments "and choose scientists with a proven, unbiased record."

Lautenbacher, a retired Navy vice admiral, headed NOAA under Republican President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2008, while Lubchenco served as the agency’s administrator under Democratic President Obama from 2009 to 2013.


The administrators took aim at David Legates, a well-known climate change science denier who is now the deputy assistant secretary of Commerce for environmental observation and prediction, and Ryan Maue, who has criticized "climate alarmists," as the agency’s top scientist.

"These industry-funded academics have long questioned the scientific consensus that human activity is a major contributor to the dramatic changes we are witnessing daily in the earth’s climate, putting them far outside the mainstream of peer reviewed and empirically validated science," the former administrators said in their letter.

NOAA did not respond to a request for comment this morning.

The appointments have also angered House Democrats (Greenwire, Sept. 25).

In a letter last month led by Reps. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon and Kathy Castor of Florida, chairwoman of the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, the Democrats said Legates had "devoted his career to discrediting the work of climate researchers, and applauded President Trump’s decision to break from the Paris climate accord."

And in a separate letter, Reps. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, and Jared Huffman of California, chairman of the Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife, said that Maue’s appointment "is now only one of many examples of a larger pattern of corrupting federal agencies to support the anti-science agenda of the White House."

Lautenbacher and Lubchenco, who are both members of the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative Leadership Council, told Jacobs and Ross that they are "gravely concerned" about the new hires.

"Never in the nation’s history has the need for scientifically sound weather forecasting and climate science been more critical. With wildfires raging in multiple states and successive storms battering the Gulf coast, the public needs confidence that the federal agency charged with predictions that determine life and death decisions is acting with the utmost integrity and utilizing accurate and unbiased science," they said in their letter.

"We cannot be silent on this — we are concerned that the freedom of NOAA scientists to communicate honestly and openly about the impacts of climate change, the future of honest and accurate weather forecasting, objective fisheries management, disaster response and much more will be further curtailed if these appointments go forward," they said.