Scientists call out New York Times for incorrect claim about climate report

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Editor’s note: Several hours after publication of this article, a New York Times spokesperson returned an earlier request for comment to say the story had been updated.

Scientists appear to have debunked The New York Times’ claim it was leaked a secret, gloomy climate change report which it published amid fears President Trump would suppress it.

On Monday, The New York Times published a story saying there are concerns that the Trump administration could suppress what’s known as the National Climate Assessment, a project of the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

The story, titled “Scientists fear Trump will dismiss blunt climate report,” said the draft report “has not yet been made public” but “a copy of it was obtained by The New York Times.”

The paper also said “those who challenge scientific data on human-caused climate change” are worried the report will be publicly released. 

But those who worked on the report are pushing back against the claims, saying the version that was obtained and posted in full by the New York Times has actually been online and available to the public for months.

“It’s not clear what the news is in this story,” Robert Kopp, a climate scientist at Rutgers University who is listed on the report as among the lead authors, said on Twitter.

The Internet Archive, a website that archives content published online, says it downloaded the report from the Environmental Protection Agency’s website in January 2017.

Kopp noted the draft was published on the site during the public comment period, but then taken down after the period. But it still remained online at the Internet Archive’s site.

“The Times’ leaked draft has been on the Internet Archive since January, during the public comment period,” Kopp said.

Another scientist who authored the report, Katharine Hayhoe, a professor at Texas Tech who leads the school’s Climate Science Center, also emphasized that the report is already publicly available.

“Important to point out that this report was already accessible to anyone who cared to read it during public review & comment time,” she tweeted. “Few did.”

Hayhoe added: “Side-by-side comparison shows that @nytimes has public review version of our new climate sci report – so, no leak. It was available to all.”

Hayhoe also said anyone who wanted access to the draft could still request a copy from the National Academy of Sciences. 

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on Tuesday said the New York Times story is “disappointing, yet entirely predictable.”

“As others have pointed out – and The New York Times should have noticed – drafts of this report have been published and made widely available online months ago during the public comment period,” Sanders said. “The White House will withhold comment on any draft report before its scheduled release date.”

Kopp, the Rutgers University scientist, said Tuesday afternoon that The Times updated the online story to post a newer draft, the Fifth Order Draft, which is currently under review. A correction, however, has not yet been added.

The New York Times story cites an anonymous scientist involved in the report as saying he and others are concerned the Trump administration would suppress the report.

“It directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his Cabinet who say that the human contribution to climate change is uncertain, and that the ability to predict the effects is limited,” The New York Times said.

The story said that the National Academy of Sciences has signed off on the draft, but scientists are “awaiting permission from the Trump administration to release it.”

But Kopp, one of the authors, pointed out in his tweets about the New York Times story that the White House hasn’t missed its August 18 review deadline yet.

Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.

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