NOAA's new top scientist deletes evidence of his climate views

Ryan Maue purged his Twitter account of tweets insulting climate scientists, journalists, and activists before taking the position of chief scientist at NOAA.

Back in late September, the Washington Post reported that the Trump White House had chosen a new chief scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: a research meteorologist named Ryan Maue.

The story got little attention on national politics Twitter. But it was big news on so-called Climate Twitter. For years, Maue—also a former scholar at the libertarian Cato Institute—had been a thorn in the side of many scientists, advocates and journalists focused on climate change. While he would often provide original and skillful analysis on extreme weather events, Maue also routinely antagonized those who connected such events to climate change (this reporter included). At his best, Maue was a beneficial source of meteorological information. At his worst, he was a conspiratorial critic of climate science, and often a real jerk about it.

Some climate scientists were understandably alarmed. Maue was about to be more than just a Twitter troll. He was about to be the top scientist at one of the nation’s top scientific research agencies.

But Maue hadn’t officially secured the position at the time of the Post’s original story. His appointment—which does not require Senate confirmation—was “pending completion of ethics and security reviews.”

I wondered if Maue’s history of antagonizing climate scientists, journalists, and activists on Twitter would make it through such an ethics review, particularly for such a prestigious taxpayer-funded science agency position. So I searched through Maue’s account for tweets that illustrated his controversial positions on climate change, and took screenshots just in case they were soon deleted.

A month and a half later, it appears that all the tweets I compiled of Maue’s views on climate change no longer exist. And Maue is also now officially serving as NOAA’s chief scientist, according to the New York Times.

So, in the spirit of evidence gathering, here’s a collection of some now-deleted tweets from NOAA’s new chief scientist.


“Activist” scientists don’t use hygienic products

“Items that many activist scientists don’t need or use: a comb, toothbrush, socks, dandruff shampoo or a mirror.”

Science journalists are “100 percent liberal,” “never an exception”

“Science (climate) journalists are 100% liberal, left-wing, or sympathetic to Democrat causes & always report accordingly. Never an exception.”

Climate research after historic hurricane is “misplaced”

“Misplaced research dollars: ‘Hurricane Sandy Spawns Storm of Climate Research’ … how about ‘Weather Research"‘ (?)”

Climate activists are “nutjobs,” “cultists,” “delusional”

“The Extinction Rebellion climate nutjobs compared their train disruption to civil rights activist Rosa Parks in a now-deleted tweet. These climate cultists are delusional.”

All vocal climate scientists are liberal activists

“It’s no secret that almost all publicly vocal (activist) climate scientists are on the political left and favor/campaign for Democrat candidates.”

All the Democratic presidential candidates are “doomsday nutjobs” (except Mike Bloomberg)

“I just realized why Mike Bloomberg has failing grades on the left-wing climate policy scorecards. He is the only sane voice among the rest of the candidates on stage. He sees the issue from a pragmatic point of view — not like a doomsday nutjob.”

Climate scientists and activists “bought and paid for by Tom Steyer”

“Only one question needs to be asked these days to climate scientists & activists: are you bought and paid for by Tom Steyer?”

Website that calls out meteorologists who reject climate science is “left-wing sh*t”

“Great new left-wing sh*t website black-listing on-air meteorologists who disagree/question global warming.”

Climate news website is #FakeNews

On Grist: “That’s #FakeNews media.”


Maue’s rise comes amid climate controversy at NOAA

Maue’s rise to chief scientist comes amid a week of climate-related controversy at NOAA, which describes itself as “the agency of the United States federal government responsible for monitoring our climate and our environment, and taking steps to preserve them.”

Last week, the New York Times reported that the Trump administration was in the midst of a “final push against climate science” at NOAA before the election—one that included Maue’s appointment.

The administration recently “installed new political staff [at NOAA] who have questioned accepted facts about climate change and imposed stricter controls on communications at the agency,” the Times reported; “an indication of the direction the agency will take if President Trump wins re-election.”

The Times story also focused on the Trump administration’s removal of acting NOAA chief scientist Craig McClean shortly after he asked political staff to acknowledge the agency’s scientific integrity policy, “which prohibits manipulating research or presenting ideologically driven findings.” His removed allowed McClean to be replaced by Maue, who had been chosen by the administration for the role.

(McClean was “acting” chief scientist, meaning he was a career employee fulfilling the role until a political appointment came along).

Maue appeared to want to hit back on the Times’ narrative over the weekend. On Sunday, he tweeted that “naturally, basic facts haven’t been reported properly” in news stories about his role at NOAA. Because of this, he added, he had been subject to harassment and threats.

Reached by Twitter direct message, I asked Maue for comment on the recent news stories and the harassment he’s received, as well as for comment on his deleted tweets. Maue said that interview requests would have to go through NOAA’s official press office.

The agency did not respond as of press time. In addition, Maue’s above tweets about news stories and harassment now also appear to have been deleted.

Maue’s deleted tweets “what you might expect from a pre-pubescent teen.”

The last person to officially serve in Maue’s new role was Richard Spinrad, an oceanography professor at Oregon State University. He was NOAA’s chief scientist during the Obama administration, and resigned at the start of the Trump administration.

I asked Spinrad if Maue’s tweets raised any concerns about his ability to serve effectively in the chief scientist role. “They're not reflective of what I would expect a mature experienced scientist to say or do,” he said. “In that regard, I think it only lends to the questions about his qualifications for the position.”

Tweets that insult scientists’ physical appearance in particular are “irresponsible and childish,” Spinrad said. “It's what you might expect from a pre-pubescent teen.” As chief scientist, Maue will not only be advising the NOAA’s political leadership on budget priorities (what research to fund/not fund) and policy development (like scientific integrity policy, or how to utilize research in regulations or laws). He’ll also be a key public representative of the agency and all its many scientists.

In all those regards, the fact that Maue has expressed such clear hostility to climate scientists could be “at the least, disruptive, and at the most, chaotic in the truest sense of chaos,” he said.

“If somebody wanted to be particularly chaotic and start eliminating or dramatically reducing or redirecting programs related to climate science, they could help do it from this position.”

“A tacit concurrence with all of the [deleted] tweets”

Maue’s deleted tweets also raise concern about the entire vetting process for politically-appointed science officials under the Trump administration, Spinrad said. “When I was appointed as chief scientist, they dug into my background for six months. … If I had anything in my record that was in at odds with the White House view, they would have said, ‘have a nice life.”

“If we can safely assume that the White House is vetting people, then there is tacit concurrence with all of the tweets, including the ones that were eliminated,” he added. “And so it's a tacit concurrence and quite honestly, tacit support for the views expressed there.”

Spinrad said he’s still in contact with a lot of career officials at NOAA. “I would describe the mood as guardedly concerned, highly professional, and unified in their conviction that they're going to continue to do the best science they can until and unless otherwise advised,” he said.

Whether that mood changes, though, “all depends on what happens on Tuesday,” Spinrad said. “Or Wednesday, or Thursday, or Friday.”

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