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Profile: Thomas Karl
Thomas Karl was a participant or observer in the following events:
The journal Science publishes a paper written by two of the nation’s leading atmospheric scientists concluding that “modern climate change is dominated by human influences” and cannot be explained by natural causes. The article, titled “Modern Climate Change,” warns that climate change “may prove to be humanity’s greatest challenge” and that “it is very unlikely to be adequately addressed without greatly improved international cooperation and action.” The authors, Kevin Trenberth, head of National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)‘s Climate Analysis Section, and Thomas Karl, director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, insist that “there is no doubt that the composition of the atmosphere is changing because of human activities, and today greenhouse gases are the largest human influence on global climate.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 12/4/2003; Karl and Trenberth, 12/7/2003; Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 31 ]
After Thomas Karl, director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), receives an interview request on the topic of “intense rainfall events/intense hurricanes and global warming,” he is instructed by NOAA public affairs officer John Leslie to have the journalist speak with him first. Leslie tells Karl in an email, “Please have [the journalist] contact me by phone [redacted] or email. I’ll run this by those who need to know.” The email is also sent to Kent Laborde, another NOAA public affairs officer. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 30 ]
Screenshot of draft document [Source: Government Accountability Project] (click image to enlarge)In response to a number of questions for the record (QFRs) submitted by senators Daniel Inouye (D-HI) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) regarding an April 26, 2006 testimony on projected and past effects of climate change, scientists at NOAA submit a document of draft responses to an NOAA legislative affairs specialist for review. The document is ultimately reviewed by individuals at the EPA, Energy Department, White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, who suggest a number of changes. For example, the OMB suggests keeping the sentence, “The full range and magnitude of the biological and biogeochemical effects of ocean acidification are still so uncertain that a reliable and quantitative estimate of the likely socio-economic
effects is not yet possible,” but removing the sentence immediately following that: “However, healthy coral reef ecosystems are important to both the fisheries and tourism industries and negative impacts on these ecosystems could affect these industries.” According to the OMB, “[a]s written this seems to conflict with the factual first sentence of the paragraph, which adequately answers the question.” In another instance, the OMB recommends adding a sentence that attributes global warming to increasing water vapor, drawing from a quote taken out of context from an article written by scientists Thomas Karl and Kevin Trenberth. When NOAA scientist James Butler attempts to explain that the edit is not scientifically valid, the OMB insists on keeping the change. Finally, Karl himself enters the fray, recommending a change that the OMB accepts. The Government Accountability Project, which will obtain the draft document that shows the changes, comments, “These two examples show that, while federal climate scientists are occasionally able to correct distortions to scientific findings in congressional communication, political appointees can still introduce inaccurate information that goes unchecked.” [Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 37, 80 ; Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 44-46 ]
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