Climate change denier hired for top position at NOAA

The National Hurricane Center in Miami.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

David Legates, a professor of climatology at the University of Delaware who has spent years rejecting the scientific consensus that human activity is causing climate change, confirmed with NPR this weekend that he was hired as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's deputy assistant secretary of commerce for observation and prediction.

NPR says that this suggests Legates will directly report to Neil Jacobs, the acting head of the agency. Legates would not respond to questions about his new role or specific responsibilities.

NOAA oversees climate research and forecasting. In 2007, Legates co-authored a paper that questioned findings about the role of climate change in destroying polar bear habitats; this research was partially funded by grants from ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute lobbying group, and Koch Industries, InsideClimate News reports. He was also in a video promoting the discredited theory that the sun caused global warming.

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NPR notes that Legates is affiliated with the Heartland Institute think tank, which is partly funded by the fossil fuel industry and tries to persuade the public that climate change isn't real and evidence provided by the NOAA and other scientific agencies isn't trustworthy. While it's important to have researchers raise questions, their claims must have science to back them up, and Jane Lubchenco, the head of NOAA under former President Barack Obama, told NPR Legates is "not just in left field — he's not even near the ballpark."

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.