Downplaying Climate Change: The White House and Ryan Maue


Political influence is choking science to silence.

The National Atmospheric and Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) replaced the acting chief scientist, Craig McLean, with a new full-time hire: Ryan Maue. The decision was encouraged by the White House and is actively pending a completion of security and ethics reviews before Maue’s appointment is authorized. Maue’s appointment as NOAA’s chief scientist comes with responsibility for helping to establish atmosphere and ocean research policies.

Additionally, Maue would be responsible for enforcing scientific integrity policies.

Scientific integrity revolves around ensuring the best practices of researchers. The quality and integrity of scientific work is important because the public must be able to trust the quality of the information being relayed to them. Scientific integrity also promotes moral and social values, such as health, safety, and compliance with the law.

The scientific integrity policies of NOAA are in place to prevent political influence from obstructing scientific work and research that NOAA conducts. The policies also stand to prevent politics from eclipsing the communication of scientists’ findings to the public. The current chief scientist, Craig McLean, launched an investigation on the actions that NOAA leadership took during the controversy that occurred involving the agencies support for President Trump’s erroneous claims about the path of Hurricane Dorian.

Maue has previously denounced Democrats and climate activists for supporting cuts for fossil fuel emissions by connecting severe weather events to global warming; Maue does not take into account that greenhouse gas emissions are human-driven, warming the planet like a sauna and causing detrimental impacts globally. Recently, he has become particularly critical of California Governor Gavin Newsom connecting wildfires to climate change despite climate change exacerbating heat waves which contributes to making more favorable conditions for wildfires.

Throughout Donald Trump’s presidency, NOAA has gone through several directors and an acting chief scientist; these changes do not require Senate confirmation or approval. The flags are red and waving, seeing that Trump has appeared to write off climate change in the past. For instance, after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a climate report in 2018, Trump responded to a question outside the White House about the finding that unaddressed global warming would wreak havoc on the economy and environment, essentially burying the report with the comment, “I don’t believe it.”

In 2016, Trump claimed climate change was a hoax during his election campaign. Ever since, he has never seemed to take a clear stance on the climate crisis. Now he has taken a stance by appointing Maue, who has a history of not supporting an aggressive climate policy while targeting climate scientists and activists with whom he disagrees.

In 2019, Maue told E&E News that he agreed with Pat Michaels, a climate researcher and fellow colleague, who argues for “lukewarming,” a concept that rejects predictions about the effects of climate change.

Maue explained that “lukewarming is not climate denial,” and added, “Most of us on this side of the issue believe in lower climate sensitivity. We don’t believe there’s going to be 5 degrees of warming; we figure its at the lower end of 1.5 degrees.”

The report the IPCC released in 2018 is a warning of what will occur if there is a 1.5°C increase in temperature and those effects seem far from “lukewarm.”

Now is the time to be aggressive about saving the planet; it is not a time to turn a blind eye while the west coast burns, the ocean boils coral reefs into limestone cemeteries and ice shelves are tearing from their restraints.

This is not lukewarm. This is not scientific integrity. This is political, wrong, and destructive.

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Nevada is a Senior at New England College majoring in Biology and minoring in Environmental Communications. This is her third year writing for The NewEnglander, mostly about the environment around her. In the future, Nevada wants to travel, pursue a career in Marine Biology and spend her life on or in the ocean.
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