White House picks critic of dire climate predictions for NOAA chief scientist
WASHINGTON -- The White House has tapped Ryan Maue, a meteorologist who has challenged connections between extreme weather and climate change, to serve as the new chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Two NOAA officials, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the personnel move, confirmed the appointment is in process.
The position, pushed forward by the White House pending completion of ethics and security reviews, would put Maue in a leadership position within the agency. As chief scientist, Maue would be tasked with helping to establish its oceans and atmosphere research priorities as well as playing a role in enforcing its scientific integrity policy.
The White House and NOAA declined comment, and the Commerce Department that oversees NOAA did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
The NOAA scientific integrity policy is meant to prevent political influence from interfering with its scientific work as well as the communication of NOAA scientists' findings. The current acting chief scientist, Craig McLean, initiated an investigation into NOAA leaderships' actions during the controversy surrounding the agency's support for President Donald Trump's inaccurate claims regarding the path of Hurricane Dorian.
Maue is a meteorologist who serves as the developer of weathermodels.com, a site which displays computer model information using eye-catching graphics to make their simulations accessible to professionals and hobbyists. He was previously an adjunct scholar with the Cato Institute, an independent think tank, which was involved in efforts to challenge the seriousness of human-induced climate change.
Along with Patrick Michaels, a well-known climate change contrarian, Maue penned a 2018 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal challenging the climate change projections made in 1988 by noted former NASA scientist James Hansen, which other researchers, backed up by peer-reviewed studies, have found were prescient.
He has harshly criticized climate activists and Democrats for pushing for cuts in fossil fuel emissions by linking extreme weather events to global warming, but he does not dispute the fact that human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases are warming the planet in ways that are resulting in significant impacts. He has also spoken out against scientists who link rapid Arctic climate change to weather extremes taking place outside the Arctic.
In recent months he's been harshly critical of California's Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom and his rhetoric linking the state's deadly wildfire season to climate change, despite climate studies that show global warming is amplifying wildfire risks, making blazes more intense and frequent than they were a few decades ago.
For example, a study published in August shows California's frequency of fall days with extreme fire-weather conditions has already more than doubled since the 1980s.
Maue is also known for tracking and evaluating the accuracy of weather forecasting models and has a lengthy social media history of criticizing NOAA's National Weather Service for falling behind Europe, the U.K. and Canada when it comes to the accuracy of its computer modeling. But he has also praised the agency's recent efforts to close the gap.
- - -
Maue's forthcoming appointment comes at a time of increased White House attention to what is typically a low key government agency.
Earlier this month, the White House placed controversial climate contrarian David Legates in the position of deputy assistant secretary of Commerce for environmental observation and prediction. Legates, a professor at the University of Delaware, is affiliated with the Heartland Institute, a free-market think tank funded in part by the fossil fuel industry that supports research arguing that human-caused climate change is not a serious threat.
Legates was a lead author of a Heartland-funded, non-peer-reviewed rebuttal to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), called, "The IPCC Reconsidered," which Heartland published most recently in 2018. That report extolled the virtues of fossil fuels, stating: "The analysis conducted here for the first time finds nearly all the impacts of fossil fuel use on human well-being are net positive (benefits minus costs), near zero (no net benefit or cost), or are simply unknown."
The IPCC has warned of severe consequences for humanity if greenhouse gases are not reduced significantly in the next one to two decades.
In addition to the appointments of Legates and Maue in recent weeks, one other senior appointment to NOAA has been made on the agency's fisheries management side.
NOAA, which oversees weather forecasting, climate research and fisheries, has until now continued its climate research and communications activities unfettered by political influence. For that, NOAA stands in stark contrast to the Environmental Protection Agency and science agencies at the Interior Department, where the Trump administration has dismissed and sidelined climate scientists or altered their work before publication.
Some inside and outside the agency are now wondering if, despite being so late in Trump's first term, NOAA's relative freedom to communicate on climate change is about to be curtailed.
"Based on his record of engagement with climate science community and the public, I'm skeptical that Maue would be acting in good faith as a leader at NOAA," said Gretchen Goldman of the Union of Concerned Scientists, a research and advocacy group, in an email. "It is alarming to see NOAA appoint yet another person who doesn't align with mainstream climate science."
Maue holds a doctorate in meteorology from Florida State University and has earned a large Twitter following by sharing his forecast graphics on social media along with expert commentary. He has also used his Twitter to share unfiltered opinions on climate change, politics and current events.
Maue has frequently criticized politicians and media personalities for statements they've made about climate change, mostly on the Left.
In July 2019, Maue tweeted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., "does not miss an opportunity to turn a weather event she experiences into a political statement and blame Republicans."
But Maue has earned the respect of some colleagues for his expertise in atmospheric sciences and for speaking his mind.
"I have respected his independent voice," said Cliff Mass, professor of atmospheric sciences at University of Washington. "He has a good technical background and I do appreciate he's been willing to be very frank and honest on everything from synoptic meteorology to climate change. I think he is a very solid person to be appointed to NOAA."
Mass, who has come under fire himself for speaking out against what he perceives as climate alarmism, conceded Maue's outspokenness "may discomfort some people.''