Defending David Legates from Washington Post Smears

Published September 17, 2020

The Washington Post’s coverage of David Legates’ appointment to a position with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is hopelessly biased and inaccurate, par for the course for the Post’s coverage of environmental issues.

The lead sentences say Prof. Legates has “long questioned the scientific consensus that human activity is causing global warming.” In fact, Prof. Legates has long questioned whether there is a scientific consensus, and his writing (including in peer reviewed science journals) shows there is not. He is not alone. Most scientists disagree with the exaggerated claims of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The reporters say, disapprovingly, that Prof. Legates was “forced out of his role as [Delaware’s] state climatologist” by a Democrat governor who objected to his views on climate change. Yet later in the article, the reporters strenuously object to the idea that Prof. Legates may have been hired  by the Trump administration because of his views. The reporters’ hypocrisy destroys their credibility.

NOAA, according to the reporters, “has until now continued its climate research and communication activities unfettered by political influence.” No source is given for that claim. What they mean is that after President Obama thoroughly politicized and weaponized the agency in his war against coal, his administration’s hold-overs have done all they can to obstruct the current administration’s efforts to correct the situation. The Deep State is firmly in control of NOAA.

The reporters quote an anonymous source inside NOAA calling the appointment a “midnight hire” and saying “the need for any new talent coming into this organization at this point is really not needed” (sic). Right. Why would any reporter use this ridiculous and transparently self-serving comment by an anonymous source in a “news” story?

The reporters define The Heartland Institute as “funded in part by the fossil fuel industry.” How much? They don’t say. (They never say.) The truth is that less than 10% of the organization’s budget comes from companies in the energy industry, and this has always been the case. Heartland receives less funding from energy companies than nearly any of the environmental organizations in the country who are on the other side of the global warming debate. Haven’t you heard? Exxon-Mobil supports a carbon tax. This smear is just a Democrat Party talking point with no basis in fact. Five minutes on Heartland’s website would have revealed this.

The reporters obviously spent less than five minutes on Heartland’s website because they go on to say Prof. Legates is lead author of a “Heartland-funded, non-peer-reviewed rebuttal to the IPCC, called “The IPCC Reconsidered.” Really? Heartland has published a series of reports (five volumes so far, each about 1,000 pages long composed of reviews of peer-reviewed scientific research) titled “Climate Change Reconsidered.” Those reports are produced by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC); Heartland only publishes them. They are peer reviewed; as a lead editor, I know this first hand.

According to the reporters, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is “a research and advocacy group” and its staffer is a “watchdog.” Right. And Black Lives Matter (BLM) is a charity that operates soup kitchens in low-income neighborhoods. In fact, the UCS is a hard-left advocacy group that uses scientific controversies to advance its anti-free enterprise, anti-America agenda. Of course it could be counted on to attack a scientist who refuses to go along with its propaganda efforts. No real reporter would go to such a source for a comment on Prof. Legates’ appointment.

The article ends with some long quotations from a “marine scientist” and former Obama political appointee attacking Prof. Legates. They couldn’t find a climate scientist willing to criticize the appointment? Or someone who isn’t an Obama legacy? Was Michael Mann, the usual go-to character assassin of the liberal media, too busy blogging about his support for BLM? (Mann who, incidentally, is viewed by his peers as “a disgrace to the profession.” A whole book with that title has been written about him.) Oh, check that, Mann was the first person interviewed by PBS when Prof. Legates’ appointment became known.

The Washington Post continues to make a fool of itself by playing stenographer to the most radical fringe of the environmental movement. Prof. Legates is a fine man with a distinguished academic career, his appointment at NOAA may be a long-overdue attempt to inject new talent into an organization that lost its independence and integrity a long time ago.