Chris Mooney May 24 at 1:46 PM
In a sign of growing tensions between scientists and the Trump administration, researchers published a scientific paper Wednesday that was conceived and written as an explicit refutation to an assertion by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt about climate change.
The study, in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, sets up a direct test of a claim by Pruitt, made in written Senate comments following his confirmation hearing, that “over the past two decades satellite data indicates there has been a leveling off of warming.”
After reviewing temperature trends contained in three satellite data sets going back to 1979, the paper concludes that the data sets show a global warming trend — and that Pruitt was incorrect.
“Satellite temperature measurements do not support the claim of a ‘leveling off of warming’ over the past two decades,” write the authors, led by Benjamin Santer of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Santer co-authored the study with three Livermore colleagues and scientists from MIT, the University of Washington in Seattle and Remote Sensing Systems, which keeps one of the three satellite temperature data sets.
“In my opinion, when incorrect science is elevated to the level of formal congressional testimony and makes its way into the official congressional record, climate scientists have some responsibility to test specific claims that were made, determine whether those claims are correct or not, and publish their results,” said Santer in an interview, when asked about the framing of the research.
The study wades into an ongoing and highly fraught debate over how to interpret the temperature records of the planet’s lower atmosphere, or troposphere, provided by polar orbiting satellites.
Such data have often been cited by climate change doubters so as to suggest that there is no global warming trend, or that global warming has recently slowed down, and therefore to contradict thermometer-based measurements taken at the planet’s surface (which show a clear warming trend).