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Project 2025 plans to dismantle the federal agency that tracks hurricanes

Right-wing media have attacked NOAA and climate science for decades

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal agency that predicts changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coastlines and provides data that informs lifesaving forecasts such as tracking hurricanes, is in the crosshairs of Project 2025, the conservative battle plan for a potential second Trump presidency which describes NOAA as a “colossal operation that has become one of the main drivers of the climate change alarm industry.” But researchers have pushed back on these charges and defended NOAA’s climate data and meteorological work — while forecasters are predicting an “extremely active” Atlantic hurricane season and experts say this summer could rival last year’s record heat.

Project 2025’s call to dismantle NOAA by eliminating or privatizing key functions of the agency is the endgame of years of attempts by conservatives and right-wing media to attack the credibility of the agency and the veracity of the data it produces. It also illustrates that the conservative plan is not just to dismantle U.S. climate policy, but also to scrub the climate data that underpins it.

  • Project 2025 calls to end NOAA’s “climate alarmism” and “fully commercialize its forecasting operations”

  • Project 2025, a comprehensive transition plan to guide the next GOP presidential administration organized by right-wing think tank the Heritage Foundation, is the conservative movement’s most robust policy and staffing proposal for a potential second Trump White House.

    • Project 2025’s chapter attacking NOAA was penned by Thomas Gilman, a former Trump Commerce Department official who recommends that the agency “should be dismantled and many of its functions eliminated, sent to other agencies, privatized, or placed under the control of states and territories.” Among other recommendations for how NOAA “should be broken up and downsized,” Gilman’s chapter for Project 2025 calls for the National Weather Service to “fully commercialize its forecasting operations”; demands that research from the National Hurricane Center and the National Environmental Satellite Service be reviewed to ensure it is “presented neutrally, without adjustments intended to support any one side in the climate debate”; and suggests the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research “should be disbanded” as “the source of much of NOAA’s climate alarmism.” [Project 2025, Mandate for Leadership, 2023]
    • Experts say Project 2025’s cuts to NOAA could have devastating impacts on climate research and weather forecasting. E&E News notes: “The National Hurricane Center’s mission is centered on informing and warning the public about potentially deadly storms, and as part of that work, it has connected the effects of climate change to hurricane intensity. The brushback it gets in the Project 2025 playbook speaks to past insinuations from Republicans that government agencies are manipulating data to make climate change appear worse.” Speaking to The Guardian, former NOAA official Andrew Rosenberg said the agency “basically reports the science as the scientific evidence accumulates and has been quite cautious about reporting climate effects,” adding, “It’s not pushing some agenda.” And meteorologist Chris Gloninger said Project 2025’s recommendations are “a sign that the far right has ‘no interest in climate truth.’” [E&E News, 4/10/24; The Guardian, 4/26/24]
  • Right-wing media’s long war on climate and temperature data

  • For decades, climate deniers working in right-wing media, government, and fossil fuel-funded think tanks have cast doubts on climate research and falsely suggested that NOAA’s temperature data has been altered to push climate change. 

    • In 2010, right-wing media boosted the false claim that NASA and NOAA “cherry-picked” the locations of weather observation stations in order to bias their temperature records in favor of warmer temperatures. The claim was made by meteorologist Joseph D'Aleo, a longtime climate denier who at one time received funding from the Heartland Institute, and computer programmer Michael Smith. Climate experts pushed back that Smith and D'Aleo's claims were flawed and based on “misunderstanding or misrepresentation” of how global temperature data is calculated and compiled, explaining that there is “certainly no evidence of deliberate manipulation.” [Media Matters, 1/27/10;, accessed 5/30/24]
    • During a record 2011 heat wave, Rush Limbaugh suggested that the heat index was a government conspiracy. “They are playing games with us on this heat wave,” Limbaugh said. “The heat index manufactured by the government, they tell you what it feels like when you add the humidity in there — 116. When was the last time the heat index was reported as an actual temperature? It hasn’t been, but it looks like they’re trying to get away with doing that now.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 7/20/11]
    • Citing a 2017 blog post from a former agency scientist, right-wing media and congressional Republicans insisted that NOAA “‘played fast and loose’ with temperature data to disprove the theory of a global warming ‘pause’" ahead of the 2015 Paris climate accord, though the claim of data manipulation was meritless. “Climate skeptics have called that proof of massive fraud among federal climate researchers and said it allowed world leaders to be ‘duped’ into signing the Paris climate agreement to reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuel use,” E&E News wrote, but the former NOAA scientist behind the claims later said “he was actually calling out a former colleague for not properly following agency standards for research” and denied the idea that there was any data fraud. [Media Matters, 9/25/17; E&E News, 2/7/17]
    • In June 2023, Fox’s The Ingraham Angle hosted the Heartland Institute’s Anthony Watts, a former television weatherman and climate skeptic, who pushed the false claim that NOAA is manipulating temperature data. Watts claimed that “96% of the weather stations in the United States used to measure climate by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration are compromised.” Watts has been making this claim since at least 2009, when Heartland published his first study on the subject, although his conclusions have been widely debunked. [YouTube, 7/10/23;, accessed 5/22/24; PolitiFact, 8/19/22]
    • As multiple countries suffered dangerous and ongoing heat waves in July 2023, right-wing media influencer James Lindsay downplayed the severity of extreme heat and promoted a purposeful misinterpretation of “wet-bulb” temperature to his followers. A chorus of social media users also echoed his sentiment, with some even suggesting that wet-bulb temperatures — a way to measure the stress that heat puts on the body relative to humidity — are a hoax fabricated by the government to frighten people. [Media Matters, 7/21/23]
    • When media outlets reported on the announcement that 2023 was the hottest year on record, Fox host Jesse Watters repeated the bogus claim, based on the debunked Heartland Institute study, that NOAA’s placement of thermometers on urban concrete skewed temperature data. “Concrete and asphalt attract heat and retain heat a lot more than the countryside,” Watters said. “No wonder we think the earth’s warming. We’re literally cooking the books.” [Media Matters, 2/1/24]
  • Right-wing media undermine and attack the science that links hurricanes to warming temperatures

  • Right-wing media have long attacked data that links increasing ocean temperatures — fueled by climate change — to increasingly intense hurricanes, suggesting those reporting the connection are politicizing or weaponizing the weather.

    • After Hurricane Irma devastated parts of the U.S. in 2017, Fox News hosted climate denier scientist Roy Spencer to undermine the science that links more intense storms to a warming planet. Spencer, known as Rush Limbaugh's “official climatologist,” claimed: “As you go through time, there has been no increase in the number of major land-falling hurricanes in Florida, and there's been no increase in their intensity.” While climate scientists predict that “storm frequency will either decrease or remain unchanged” due to climate change and studies consistently show “no discernible trend in the global number of tropical cyclones,” data has confirmed that warmer temperatures have increased their intensity — including stronger wind speeds and greater precipitation. [Media Matters, 9/13/17; Yale Climate Communications, 7/8/19]
    • On Fox’s Hannity, climate-denying meteorologist Joe Bastardi said that those who make the connection to climate change are “weaponizing weather” and claimed that hurricane activity was decreasing. Bastardi said: “The amount of hurricanes [in] the last 50 years, from Florida to New England, is 37% of what it was the previous 50 years, so if there’s climate change going on, it's actually decreasing the amount of major hits.” Discussing the frequency of hurricanes making landfall in the U.S. to disprove the impact of climate change on storms is a red herring that is frequently used by bad actors as climate scientists discuss the impacts of warming temperatures on the intensity of storms, not how often they occur. [Fox News, Hannity, 9/14/18; Media Matters, 8/17/11; PolitiFact, 9/9/21]
    • While discussing Hurricane Dorian on The Story with Martha MacCallum, Spencer downplayed climate change’s impact by stating that there is “no long term trend in either their intensity or in the number of major hurricanes … that have hit Florida.” [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 9/2/19]
    • In the days after Hurricane Ida’s remnants ravaged the Northeast in September 2021, Fox News and Fox Business together aired at least a dozen segments that claimed Democrats were using the storm as a pretext to implement a massive climate agenda. On Tucker Carlson Tonight, guest host Brian Kilmeade claimed that President Joe Biden is “using these disasters for political purposes … to pass his infrastructure bill to stop climate change,” while Bastardi claimed that the frequency of bad storms from the past disproves this connection between climate change and the intensification of hurricanes. [Media Matters, 9/10/21; Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 9/8/21]
    • In 2022, Fox News relentlessly attacked climate science as Hurricane Ian approached and made landfall in Florida. After citing a NOAA research overview highlighting that hurricanes are predicted to become more intense, then-Fox host Tucker Carlson insisted that “the claim is never proven” and that “there’s no science behind these claims.” Carlson later added: “They’re called natural disasters. … They’re products of nature, God is in charge.” [Media Matters, 9/30/22]
  • During Donald Trump’s presidency, he attempted to remake NOAA and took several steps to roll back climate action and undermine the science that underpins it — all while being cheered on and supported by right-wing media

    • On Trump’s Inauguration Day in 2017, “climate” was scrubbed from the White House website. Six months later he withdrew the United States from the Paris climate accord – a move that drew cheers from the right-wing media, and over the course of his presidency he systematically rolled back more than 100 climate and environmental policies. [The Atlantic, 12/4/23; Media Matters, 6/1/17; The Washington Post, 10/30/20]
    • In 2018, Trump attempted to bury a landmark scientific report produced by the federal government’s own scientists including those working for NOAA. In the aftermath of the release, climate deniers and right-wing media figures fanned out on TV news networks to spread falsehoods and ridiculous claims about the report — including suggestions that climate scientists who contributed to the report are driven by money. [The New York Times, 11/25/18; Media Matters, 12/4/18]
    • In one bizarre example of Trump undermining weather forecasting in 2019, also know as Sharpiegate, the former president baselessly claimed that Hurricane Dorian would hit Alabama despite assurances from the National Weather Service that the state was not in its path. NOAA then rebuked the NWS scientists in support of the former president. The New York Times reported that NOAA knew the hurricane would not hit Alabama when it chastised the scientists, noting that the emails proving that “shed new light on how the weather can turn political in an administration that demands loyalty to Mr. Trump even when his positions are at odds with scientific facts.” [The Guardian, 9/4/19; The Washington Post, 9/6/19; The New York Times, 11/7/19]
    • In 2020, while in California visiting the site of a destructive wildfire, Trump claimed that the Earth was actually cooling and blamed forest management for the fires. While national cable and broadcast coverage pushed back against Trump’s comments, Fox News ran cover for Trump by keeping up a steady drumbeat of climate denial and misinformation. [Media Matters, 9/24/20, 9/17/20]