Freezing Temperatures Once Again, But Thankfully No Video Sequel
A year ago this week, in the midst of another brutally cold winter, the White House graced us with an explanation of how man-made global warming might be causing freezing temperatures in a video about the polar vortex.
One bitterly cold winter does not, by itself, necessarily disprove global warming. But the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) decided to try using the cold winter as evidence for man-made global warming. It did so through a short video titled The Polar Vortex Explained in 2 Minutes, in which its director, White House Science Advisor John Holdren, claimed that a “growing body of evidence suggests that the kind of extreme cold being experienced by much of the United States as we speak is a pattern that we can expect to see with increasing frequency as global warming continues.”
The video was widely covered in the press, but it was criticized by climate scientists on all sides of the global warming debate. Yes, there was a “growing body of evidence” on the topic, but it was growing in the other direction—that is, newer studies contradicted any connection between warming and winter cold waves.
CEI pointed this out in a petition to Holdren’s agency, the Office of Science and Technology Policy under the Federal Data Quality Act. That petition formally requested that OSTP correct Holdren’s misstatement about the “growing” body of scientific evidence. But OSTP turned us down, claiming that Holdren’s statement was his “personal opinion” and was therefore exempt from the act.
We then filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with OSTP for all documents relating to the video. We were interested in seeing just what government resources went into producing and publicizing this so-called personal opinion.
OSTP turned over some documents, but it withheld many others, claiming that they were exempt from FOIA because they involved internal agency deliberations.
But if the video represented Holdren’s personal opinion, then why was it the subject of OSTP deliberation? Was Holdren writing memos to himself that he then read out loud to his staff?
In any case, in October we filed suit against OSTP. We can’t predict how the case will turn out, but we do suspect that OSTP won’t be releasing a Polar Vortex sequel anytime soon. As bitterly cold as this week is, that would make things even more unbearable. And if our suspicion is right about OSTP maintaining video silence, we’ll be glad to take some of the credit.