The Biggest Climate Report in the U.S. Is Reportedly Being Led by a Climate Denier Now

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Photo: Jae C. Hong (AP)

The Trump administration has found yet another way to slow-release malignant stupidity into our future world.

A climate-denying National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climatologist known for cheering global warming’s ability to create enormous crabs has reportedly been tapped to lead the creation of the most important climate study the U.S. government produces.

According to the Washington Post, citing unnamed sources, David Legates will lead the U.S. Global Change Research Program. That would put Legates—who, again, incorrectly thinks climate change is no biggie—in charge of hiring the authors of the National Climate Assessment, a report the federal government produces to assess the past and future impacts of a warming planet. NOAA has refused to comment on Legates’s position.


For anyone not familiar with Legates, let’s quickly run through some of his most despicable hits: In 2007, he wrote a research paper reportedly funded by Big Oil that cast doubt on climate change obliterating polar bear habitat; he appeared in a 2011 video pushing the utterly debunked idea that the sun causes climate change; and he wrongly claimed before the Senate in 2014 that human activity is not responsible for global warming. That’s just the tip of the rapidly melting iceberg of Legates dangerous climate falsehoods.

Despite this (or perhaps because of this), Legates was hired by the Trump administration in September to work at NOAA. He’ll be replacing Michael Kuperberg, a career scientist who led Global Change Research Program for five years who was suddenly booted from that role last week. Kuperberg is at the Department of Energy, where he previously worked.


So, here’s the worst-case scenario: If Legates slips in some anti-science weasels to help author the next edition of the National Climate Assessment, which will help guide the Biden administration’s climate plans, it could dirty the assessment from its inception and ultimately misinform how the federal government responds to the climate crisis by pushing destructive conclusions. Any falsehoods that make it into the report could also be used by Big Oil in its various legal battles.

Now for the good news: Legates isn’t safe. The Biden administration can remove him from his spot at the Global Change Research Program, and they can make sure there are no denial moles helping craft the all-important climate assessment. Yes, it will be just one more mess that President-elect Joe Biden’s team will have to clean up as it embarks on a mission to make climate change the center of its agenda. But it’s still clean-up-able. As one of the Post’s sources put it: “This is just a waste of time and energy.”


The most recent National Climate Assessment, released in 2018, vividly detailed the catastrophic hellscape that awaits us if we fail to stave off climate change over its more than 1,600 pages. That report, which was well in the works before Trump took office in early 2017, of course, pissed off the White House because it was based on science. The administration tried to bury it on Black Friday, which inadvertently gave it a boost since folks were likely sick of their in-laws by the time it dropped and media outlets were looking for stories. Legates hire (and likely firing in a few months) may provide an inadvertent boost to the coming installation of the report just by keeping it in the news.