NOAA should focus on weather, not climate change, says Rep. Lamar Smith

At a budget hearing for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Wednesday, conversation focused on the administration's purpose. And for Chairman Smith, this has nothing to do with climate change.

Drew Angerer/AP
In this Aug. 10, 2010 file photo, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington.

The US House of Representatives subcommittee on environment held a budget hearing Wednesday to discuss the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s funding during fiscal year 2017. NOAA's $5.9 billion request, a $77 million increase from fiscal year 2016, led to greater discussion on the agency's overall purpose in the US government. 

Rep. Lamar Smith (R) of Texas, chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, to which the subcommittee on the environment answers, butted heads yet again with NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan, questioning the administration’s climate change research. 

The Smith vs. Sullivan feud goes back to last June, when NOAA scientists published a study arguing that a "pause" in global warming never existed. Representative Smith, who disputes the conclusions of almost all of the published, peer-reviewed research that examines humans' role in global warming and who has received over $600,000 in donations from the fossil fuel industry, insisted that the authors fudged the data and subpoenaed NOAA, demanding that all internal communication between the study’s authors be turned over to his committee for examination. Sullivan has since refused, citing the importance of scientific autonomy.   

Smith devoted almost his entire 729-word opening statement what he called NOAA’s biased climate change agenda. NOAA's budget request included $190 million for climate change research: a little more than three percent of the administration’s overall proposed budget. 

“Instead of hyping a climate change agenda, NOAA should focus its efforts on producing sound science and improving methods of data collection,” said Smith. “NOAA should prioritize areas of research that significantly impact Americans today, such as ways to improve weather forecasting. Unfortunately, climate alarmism often takes priority at NOAA.” 

Dr. Sullivan responded that her administration works to protect the US from more than just hail storms. 

“NOAA forecasts help communities prepare and respond to weather events, including the severe storms that swept through Texas last year, tornado events across the mid-west and Florida, and the recent winter storm that struck the Northeast,” writes Dr. Sullivan in her statement. “But the greater demand for our services goes beyond just extreme weather.” 

Besides Chairman Smith, the committee’s 21 other Republican members and 17 Democratic members stayed mum on NOAA’s relationship with climate research at the sparsely attended budget meeting. 

Except for Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) of Texas, the committee’s ranking member, who backed up Sullivan. 

“It is clear to me that this investigation is unfounded, and it is being driven by ideology and other agendas,” says Johnson. “The majority has asserted, without offering any credible evidence, that NOAA and the climate science community at large are part of some grand conspiracy to falsify data in support of the significant role humans play in climate change. However, the overwhelming body of scientific evidence across many different fields has shown that this is not the case.” 

[Editor's note: The original version of this story has been updated, following objections from Rep. Smith about how the Monitor characterized his views on anthropogenic climate change and the committee hearing itself.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to NOAA should focus on weather, not climate change, says Rep. Lamar Smith
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today