“The real issue at play is the National Climate Assessment,” said Judith Curry, a former chairwoman of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology who said she has been in contact with Dr. Maue, the new chief scientist. “That’s what the powers that be are trying to influence.”
In addition to Dr. Curry, the strategy was described by Myron Ebell, a director at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and a former member of Mr. Trump’s transition team, and John Christy, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabamain Huntsville.
Dr. Christy, a critic of past National Climate Assessments, said he was asked by the White House this summer to take on a senior role at NOAA but declined the offer. He said he understood the role to include changing the agency’s approach to the climate assessment.
Ms. Curry and the others said that, if Mr. Trump wins re-election, further changes at NOAA would include removing longtime authors of the climate assessment and adding new ones who challenge the degree to which warming is occurring, the extent to which it is caused by human activities and the danger it poses to human health, national security and the economy.
A biased or diminished climate assessment would have wide-ranging implications.
It could be used in court to bolster the positions of fossil fuel companies being sued for climate damages. It could counter congressional efforts to reduce carbon emissions. And, it ultimately could weaken what is known as the “endangerment finding,” a 2009 scientific finding by the Environmental Protection Agency that said greenhouse gases endanger public health and thus obliged the federal government to regulate carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act.
Other changes in the works could include shifting NOAA funding to researchers who reject the established scientific consensus on climate change and eliminating the use of certain scientific models that project dire consequences for the planet if countries do little to reduce carbon dioxide pollution.
Dr. Noble, the new chief of staff, has already pushed to install a new layer of scrutiny on grants that NOAA awards for climate research, according to people familiar with those discussions.