Email Disclosure Conflicts Continue on Environmental Issues

October 28, 2015

Investigations into emails are a hotter topic than ever. A new face-off between Congressional climate science deniers and the federal scientists who compile climate data is making headlines.

House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) subpoenaed records from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) when scientists from that agency concluded that the alleged "pause" in global warming never actually existed. The "pause" meme had been a favorite of those who deny the consensus science that human activities are causing observable increases in global temperatures — especially Smith himself.

NOAA's climate data arm, the National Centers for Environmental Information, had already made public much earlier the temperature data and methods for interpreting it. But Smith's October 13, 2015, subpoena included a request for scientists' emails and other communications on the subject. That was where NOAA drew the line.

Pulitzer-winning InsideClimate News reporter Lisa Song on October 28 reported NOAA's refusal. "Citing confidentiality and the integrity of the scientific process, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) chose not to turn over all the documents demanded in a subpoena from the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology," Song wrote.

Another climate-related email disclosure case arose recently in Arizona. A climate-denier group, Energy & Environment Legal Institute, had sought emails of two University of Arizona professors doing research on climate — Malcolm Hughes and Jonathan Overpeck. Attorneys for the university resisted EELI's broad request. The Climate Science Legal Defense Fund filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the university's resistance.

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