Guest essay by Eric Worrall
The Competitive Enterprise Institute has won a case against the White House, forcing the release of documents pertaining a climate video created by White House Science Advisor John Holdren. When the content of Holdren’s climate video challenged under the federal Information Quality Act, the White House claimed the video was the “personal opinion” of John Holdren, not an official communication, and therefore not subject to the Act. The newly released emails allegedly cast doubt on this assertion.
On January 8, 2014, the White House posted a controversial video claiming that global warming causes more severe winter cold. Called “The Polar Vortex Explained in 2 Minutes,” it featured the director of the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP), John Holdren, claiming that a “growing body of evidence” showed that the “extreme cold being experienced by much of the United States” at the time was “a pattern that we can expect to see with increasing frequency as global warming continues.”
This claim was questioned by many scientists and commentators. (See, e.g., Jason Samenow, Scientists: Don’t make “extreme cold” centerpiece of global warming argument, Washington Post, Feb. 20, 2014 (linking to objection by five well-known climate scientists in the Feb. 14, 2014 issue of Science magazine); Patrick J. Michaels, Hot Air About Cold Air, Jan. 16, 2014 (former state climatologist of Virginia rejected Holdren’s claim.))
In April 2014, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) sent a request for correction of this statement under the federal Information Quality Act, citing peer-reviewed scientific articles debunking it. In June 2014, OSTP rejected this request, claiming that Holdren’s statement was his “personal opinion,” not the agency’s position, and that it thus did not constitute “information” subject to the Information Quality Act, which excludes “subjective opinions” from its reach.
When OSTP produced the records on March 4, 2016 (they are at this link), they showed inconsistency in OSTP’s position over time. Although OSTP told CEI in June 2014 that Holdren’s claim was just his personal “opinion,” not “information” that is subject to the Information Quality Act (IQA), this was not the position it originally took in its draft response to CEI’s request back in Spring 2014.
Instead, OSTP described Holdren’s claim in these drafts as “information provided by the government [that] meet[s] ‘basic standards of quality, including objectivity, utility, and integrity,” and constituted “communications from the White House about climate science.” (see pages 1 and 5 of each draft). Accordingly, OSTP argued it complied with the IQA’s standards for the quality of official information.
The following is the video at the centre of this controversy.
If President Obama and John Holdren genuinely think the evidence supports their position, that Climate Change is a serious threat, why don’t they simply stand by the evidence which they believe supports their case? Why did John Holdren, in my opinion, attempt to hide behind legal technicalities, and do everything in his power to obstruct transparency, when challenged about the defensibility of alarmist statements he made about climate change?