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House committee feels the heat after Breitbart tweet

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The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology got a stern scolding from Senator Bernie Sanders, as well as from much of the Internet, after it tweeted a climate change denying Breitbart News story Thursday afternoon.

The committee’s verified Twitter account sent a link to a story on the “alt-right” website titled “Global Temperatures Plunge. Icy Silence from Climate Alarmists.” The story cited a Daily Mail article that argued El Niño drove record highs in worldwide temperatures — not man-made pollution.

The so-called “alt-right” movement is an offshoot of conservatism that mixes racism, white nationalism, and populism.


The vast majority of scientists say global temperatures are increasing due to man-made greenhouse gases. NASA noted in a recently published study that while there has been a temporary slowdown in the warming trend between 1998 and 2013, “global average surface temperature is still increasing.”

In fact, October 2016 was the second warmest October in 136 years, according to the space agency.

After the social media post, the committee’s account began trending on Twitter, and even led Senator Bernie Sanders to tweet, “Where’d you get your PhD? Trump University?”

Representative Katherine Clark, a Democrat from Massachusetts who sits on the committee, responded to the tweet as well, calling Breitbart News “a platform for white supremacist, anti-Semitic, sexist trolls.”

The account is run by the committee’s Republican majority and overseen by its chairman, Lamar Smith of Texas, Clark said.

Smith has written at least five articles for Breitbart News, including a 2015 piece where he states that “the satellites that measure global temperature have shown no discernible increase.” He was reelected Friday to be chairman of the committee.


Clark, who was elected to Congress in 2013, said the current environment of the committee is one where scientists and witnesses are belittled, and they are sometimes handpicked to further a specific agenda.

She described the tweet and what it represents as “a dangerous, partisan, and highly cynical way to be conducting the committee’s business.”

The committee currently has 22 Republican members and 16 Democratic members.

Karen James, an independent researcher in Maine, wrote on Facebook that the article was “so, so wrong for so many reasons.”

“[G]reenhouse gas emissions and naturally occurring climate cycles like El Niño aren’t mutually exclusive possible causes of longer term global warming,” wrote James. “[R]ather, they can and do interact/co-occur. I feel very sorry for the climate scientists and agencies whose work was twisted… no, mutilated, both in this and in the Daily Mail article it cites as a source.”

James told the Globe her intention in bringing a spotlight on the story wasn’t just about calling out bad science, but also that the committee had upheld a piece by a website that serves as a platform for “horrible ideological viewpoints.”

“If our democracy is harmed, then science is not going to thrive,” she said.

Concerned about President-elect Donald Trump’s incoming administration, James said she is concerned that the real estate mogul’s win marks a change in society that it is no longer valuable to examine the truth and make evidence-based decisions.


“Science doesn’t just produce facts and technologies and things that are useful. It’s also a way of thinking that values the truth.”

Stephen Bannon, President-elect Trump’s choice for chief White House strategist, was the executive chairman of Breitbart News until August, when he left the company to run Trump’s campaign.

Read the social media backlash below:

Jaclyn Reiss of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Aimee Ortiz can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @Aimee_Ortiz. Nicole Hernandez can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @NRHSJax.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the job title for Karen James.