U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat representing Maine’s 1st District, has joined 84 U.S. House members in opposing the appointment of a longtime climate denier to a top post at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
In a letter to the Secretary of Commerce, Pingree and the other signatories write that the appointment of David Legates could undermine the agency's scientific integrity.
Legates is a professor with a long history of casting doubt on climate science and discrediting climate researchers. He is affiliated with several conservative think tanks that oppose climate change regulation or are skeptical that global warming is human-caused.
He is also signed on to the Oregon Petition, which states in part that, "there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth."
During testimony in the U.S. House in 2019, Legates asserted that increasing concentrations of carbon emissions have no effect on rising sea levels.
His appointment comes as scientists at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information have reported that 2020 was the hottest summer on record for the Northern Hemisphere, and rapid ice sheet melt in Greenland and Antarctica are on track for the United Nations' worst case scenario for sea level rise.
In their letter, Pingree and the other lawmakers write that Legates' appointment to NOAA undermines the agency’s core mission to “understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts" and to share that information with the public. They point out that climate deniers have already been appointed to head the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Interior, where climate communications have been altered, websites removed and climate scientists sidelined or silenced.
"We cannot allow Legates to discredit the dedicated researchers at NOAA in their essential work," the lawmakers said.
They ask that the appointment be reconsidered and that the scientific independence, integrity and effectiveness of NOAA be preserved.
Originally published at 1:56 p.m. Sept. 24, 2020.