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Judicial Watch Reactivates “Climategate” controversy with FOIA Request to Commerce Department

Climate Change
Written by Kevin Mooney

Just as the Heartland Institute wrapped up its 12th annual “International Conference on Climate Change” in Washington, D.C., this past March, a government watchdog organization reactivated a scandal that substantiates the arguments of scientific skeptics.

Beginning in November 2009, emails have been leaked to the Internet from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia.  These emails show that the university’s researchers willingly manipulated scientific data and cooked the books when their predicted levels of global warming did not materialize.

Climategate,” as the scandal came to be known, marked a major turning point in the debate over man-made global warming as it cut to the credibility of the data standing behind the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment reports. The problems that beset the methodology and findings of the IPCC have been discussed at great length during the Heartland Institute’s annual conferences.

The Chicago-based free market think tank has attracted hundreds of scientists, researchers and policy analysts from across the globe each year who identify natural influences as opposed to human activity as the primary drivers of climate change. The latest report of the Nongovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is a project of Heartland and other partners, is available here. The reports produce by the nongovernmental panel in the past few years debunk the notion of a “scientific consensus” and, in fact, demonstrate that a rising number of scientists now question the premise of alarmist theories. Moreover, it now appears evident that the “climategate” scandal is far from over.

Judicial Watch, a nonprofit, nonpartisan government watchdog group, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Commerce just a few days after the Heartland conference concluded. The suit filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia asks the court to compel the Commerce Department to release all records of communications between two federal scientists who influenced the Obama administration’s climate change policy and its backing of the U.N. Paris Climate Change Agreement. Judicial Watch filed suit after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”), which is part of the Commerce Department, declined to comply with a February 6 FOIA request, according to a press release from the watchdog group.

The FOIA request asked for “All records of communications between NOAA scientist Thomas Karl and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy John Holdren.” The request covers the period ranging from January 20, 2009, to January 20, 2017.

Karl is a key player here because he previously served as director of the National Centers for Environmental Information, which is the NOAA division responsible for producing climate data. This data figures prominently in the Paris Agreement. Under President Obama, Holdren served as the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy where he was an ardent supporter of anti-industry measures that limit carbon emissions in the name of global warming.

Judicial Watch sprang into action with a FOIA request when the Daily Mail published a report based on its interview with a “whistleblower” from inside NOAA who said Karl bypassed normal scientific procedures to advance a report promoting alarmist views. The NOAA paper was less about science and more about politics and was based on “unverified” data, the Daily Mail reported.

“This new lawsuit could result in the release of emails that will help Americans understand how Obama administration officials may have mishandled scientific data to advance the political agenda of global warming alarmism,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in the press release.

President Trump has pledged to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and the so-called Clean Power Plan. The release of these emails will strengthen his hand.

The skeptics who first joined forces with Heartland 12 years ago have traveled a long way in that time. Today, it is the alarmist side that is playing defense.


Kevin J. Mooney, Investigative Reporter for Political Storm in Washington D.C.

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About the author

Kevin Mooney

Kevin currently works as an investigative reporter with The Daily Signal, the multimedia news service of The Heritage Foundation. His work also appears in National Review, The Daily Caller, The Washington Examiner, The Washington Times and other D.C. based publications. Prior to joining The Daily Signal, Kevin worked as a reporter with The Pelican Institute in New Orleans, La. and The Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity. Kevin specializes in reporting on the actions of organized labor, the environmental movement and other special interest groups. Kevin has studied abroad at Oxford University in England and has traveled throughout the United Kingdom. He has also visited Ireland, Spain, France, The Netherlands and Italy.