President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) admitted to senators during his confirmation hearing on Wednesday that humans are the main cause of climate change, contradicting the statements of the president and several of his cabinet secretaries.
Citing the conclusions in the recently released National Climate Assessment, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) asked the nominee, Barry Lee Myers, whether he believes that humans are the primary cause of global climate change. Myers initially responded that he has read the report and has no reason to disagree with its results.
Dissatisfied with the response, Markey asked, “Does that mean you agree with them?” Myers once again said he believes the report was based on high-quality, peer-reviewed research.
Markey gave the line of questioning one more try. “So you agree that humans are the main cause of climate change. Is that what you’re saying?” the Massachusetts senator asked.
“That is what I am saying,” Myers responded.
Earlier this month, the Trump administration released the congressionally-mandated National Climate Assessment, the work of scientists from 13 federal agencies, including NOAA. “Based on extensive evidence… it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century,” researchers wrote in the assessment, the most comprehensive and detailed report ever done on climate change and its specific impact on America.
After getting a definitive response to his question, Markey asked Myers, the CEO of weather forecasting company AccuWeather, whether he would continue to support the scientists who worked on the National Climate Assessment. Myers said he would support their efforts if confirmed as NOAA administrator.
Myers, who has no scientific background, has come under scrutiny for lobbying to privatize public weather information. AccuWeather’s business model is to take NOAA data and products on weather, developed with taxpayer dollars, and deliver them to the public in a proprietary form that customers want. He has been a strong advocate against NOAA having the capability to provide such products directly to the public.
Several months ago, the National Weather Service Employees Organization sent a letter to members of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which has oversight over NOAA, opposing Myers. “As this position has traditionally been filled by a pre-eminent scientist, and by that standard alone, Mr. Myers is wholly unqualified for the job,” the letter said. The National Weather Service is a division of NOAA.
NOAA falls under the Department of Commerce, whose leader, Wilbur Ross, emphasized during his confirmation hearing that he believes “science should be left to scientists.” Ross, however, has not gone on the record about whether he believes humans are the primary cause of climate change. He does support Trump’s planned withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, saying the agreement is not about combating climate change, but instead about transferring wealth from the U.S. to other countries.
Other cabinet secretaries have been more willing to express their views on climate change — most of which go against the scientific consensus. At a budget hearing earlier this year, Energy Secretary Rick Perry was informed that scientists have concluded that “humans are entirely the cause” of recent warming, to which Perry responded, “I don’t believe it” and “I don’t buy it.”
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has revealed a lack of knowledge regarding the basics of climate science. During his confirmation hearing, Zinke testified that there is no overwhelming scientific consensus about human-caused climate change. In response to a question from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Zinke said, “I think where there’s debate on it is what that influence is [and] what can we do about it.”
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt often refers to facts about human-caused climate change as “so-called settled science.” Pruitt does not accept the mainstream scientific consensus on climate change, claiming that carbon emissions are not a primary contributor to global warming.
Similar false claims have been made by Trump’s second-tier appointments at federal agencies. William Wehrum, a former industry lobbyist who now heads the EPA’s air and radiation office, told a Senate committee during his confirmation hearing that questions still exist about whether human activities are significantly contributing to climate change.
At his confirmation hearing, Myers was asked whether he would condone any guidance from the Trump administration that would discourage the mention of global climate change in research and discussions by NOAA scientists. “No, I would not agree with that,” Myers said.