The United States Committee on Science, Space, and Technology continued the current presidential administration’s denial of climate change last Sunday when it issued a press release stating that scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had fabricated data showing evidence of global warming.
A day later, the White House reposted a headline from the Daily Mail, a British tabloid recently written off by Wikipedia as an unreliable source. “Exposed: How World Leaders were Duped into Investing Over Manipulated Global Warming Data” was used as evidence for the press release, according to Committee spokesperson Thea McDonalds.
Unfortunately, the Daily Mail and the House Committee both misinterpreted and hyperbolized the evidence used to support the claim that data had been falsified. The Daily Mail’s article misunderstood an allegation made by former NOAA scientist John Bates that a 2015 NOAA study “relied on preliminary alpha versions of the data which was never approved or verified” to mean “relied on false data.”
Both the Daily Mail and the House Committee hail Bates as a “whistleblower” and “thank [him] for courageously stepping forward to tell the truth about NOAA’s senior officials playing fast and loose with the data in order to meet a politically predetermined conclusion.”
However, both groups fail to realize that Bates did not claim the data was constructed or suggest climate change was not occurring. He only stated that proper vetting and cataloging of data sets had not taken place before the study was released, which has no implication on the validity of the data.
In fact, since the study was made public, “the new NOAA results have been validated by independent data from satellites, buoys and Argo floats and many other independent groups,” and “there is strong independent evidence that NOAA’s new record may be the most accurate one over the last two decades,” according to a fact check done by Carbon Brief.
Worried that a government agency published such a bold, polarizing statement based on questionable evidence, climatologists are uneasy with the House Science Committee’s statement. It seems hard to believe that with all the resources available, the United States government uses a British tabloid popular for headlines like “Are YOU a ‘Netflix cheater’?”, “46% of couples around the word admit they have committed streaming infidelity”, and “How will the world end? From killer robots to biohacking, here are the 10 biggest threats to humanity”.
More concerning, though, is the idea that the government supports and publicizes sources attempting to discredit one of the most important and widely acknowledged ecological issues. Focusing public discourse so heavily on “global warming” also creates a polarized discussion and shifts the attention away from other consequences of man-made climate change like ocean acidification, rising sea levels, and water shortages.
There was no justification provided for debating whether or not climate change is happening. There is barely any reason to discuss whether or not humans are causing it. Politicizing a scientific issue and tweeting misinformation about scientific facts turns climate change from an issue of efficacy into an issue of beliefs.
The only debate or contention surrounding climate change should be about how much we can realistically stop it and how that can be accomplished. Suggesting global warming is a hoax only perpetuates the ignorance that lead to the current crisis.