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Context of 'April 2006: NOAA Scientist Says that Agency Approval Process for Media Interviews Results in Fewer Interviews'

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Nature publishes a study by climate scientists Raymond Bradley, Michael Mann, and Malcolm Hughes concluding that the last few decades were warmer than any comparable time period in the last 1,000 years. Their study shows that the pace of warming was most dramatic during the last century. The authors identified the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere as the dominant factor in the observed increase in global temperatures. [Nature, 4/23/1998 pdf file; San Francisco Chronicle, 6/23/2006]

Entity Tags: Malcolm Hughes, Raymond Bradley, Michael Mann

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases its third assessment report on global warming, concluding that the planet’s atmosphere is warming faster than expected, and that evidence supports the theory that it is being caused by human activity. The study predicts that the world’s average surface temperature will rise 2.5 to 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit between 1990 and 2100. The IPCC’s 1995 estimate had only projected an increase of 1.8 to 6.3 degrees. The higher temperatures will cause glaciers to recede, pushing sea levels between 3.54 and 34.64 inches higher, the study says. Tens of millions of people living in low-lying areas will be displaced by the rising sea levels. The report also supports the conclusions of a 1998 study arguing that the last few decades of the twentieth century were warmer than any other comparable period in the last 1,000 years (see April 23, 1998). The IIPC’s 1,000 pages-plus report, written by 123 lead authors from all over the world, drew on the work of 516 contributing experts. At a news conference coinciding with the report’s release, IPCC chairman Robert Watson says, “We must move ahead boldly with clean energy technologies and we should start preparing ourselves for the rising sea levels, changing rain patterns and other impacts of global warming.” [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2001; Reuters, 1/22/2001]

Entity Tags: Robert Watson, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

Jana Goldman, the public affairs officer at NOAA’s Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) division, writes in an email to a scientist from the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), “If you get any press requests for IPCC please bump them to public affairs before you agree to an interview.” [Emphasis in original] Her mention of “IPCC” is a reference to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recently released third assessment report, which found “new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.” (see January 22, 2001) Responding to Goldman’s request, the scientist writes, “It seems cumbersome at best. If this policy is implemented, it will greatly cut-down on NOAA scientist interviews.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 52-53 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Jana Goldman

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

Tom Delworth, a scientist at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, tries to generate media attention for a paper (see April 13, 2001) he co-authored on the influence of human activities on the warming of the oceans. A media advisory and press conference about the paper is scheduled, but is repeatedly degraded until it is ultimately canceled. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 32 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Tom Delworth

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

The Journal of Climate publishes a paper by hurricane expert Robert Tuleya and NOAA climate scientist Thomas Knutson suggesting that an increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may increase the intensity of hurricanes. Knutson’s study is based on computer analysis performed at the Commerce Department’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J. The two scientists created some 1,300 virtual hurricanes using a more powerful version of the same supercomputer simulations that the NOAA uses to track and predict the behavior of real hurricanes. The New York Times reports that according to independent experts “this study is particularly significant… because it used half a dozen computer simulations of global climate, devised by separate groups at institutions around the world.” MIT climate scientist Kerry A. Emanuel says Knutson’s study “is by far and away the most comprehensive effort” to analyze the issue using computer simulations. [New York Times, 9/30/2004; Tuleya and Knutson, 2005 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Thomas Knutson, Robert Tuleya

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

Joe Barton, the chairman of the House of Representatives committee on energy and commerce, begins an inquiry into the careers of climate scientists Michael Mann, Raymond Bradley, and Malcolm Hughes. The three scientists had published a study in 1998 (see April 23, 1998) concluding that the last few decades were warmer than any other comparable time in the last 1000 years. Barton’s investigation is spurred by a recent report in the Wall Street Journal reporting that an economist and a statistician, neither of whom have a background in climate science, have found that the study was flawed. Barton’s investigation is demanding that the three scientists provide the committee with details about their funding sources, methodology, and other studies they have published. Barton, who has close ties to the fossil-fuel lobby, “has spent his 11 years as chairman opposing every piece of legislation designed to combat climate change,” notes the Guardian of London. Responding to Barton’s actions, 18 of the country’s most influential scientists from Princeton and Harvard write in a letter: “Requests to provide all working materials related to hundreds of publications stretching back decades can be seen as intimidation—intentional or not—and thereby risks compromising the independence of scientific opinion that is vital to the pre-eminence of American science as well as to the flow of objective science to the government.” Barton’s investigation also draws criticism from within his own party. Sherwood Boehlert, the chairman of the house science committee, says she objects to what she sees as a “misguided and illegitimate investigation.” [USA Today, 7/18/2005; Guardian, 8/30/2005] Congress eventually asks the National Academy of Sciences to review the issue. A year later, the Academy will publish a report confirming that the last few decades have been hotter than any other period since 1600. However, it says there is not enough data to make a solid conclusion regarding temperatures before that time (see June 22, 2006). [San Francisco Chronicle, 6/23/2006]

Entity Tags: Raymond Bradley, Malcolm Hughes, Michael Mann, Joe Barton

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Global Warming

Rick Rosen, the assistant administrator for the NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, contacts Ahsha Tribble and suggests that the agency issue a press release to publicize a piece by climate scientist Chris Landsea that will be published several months later in the Journal of Climate. Landsea’s article, dealing with the issue of hurricane intensity and climate change, takes a position that is supportive of the Bush administration’s view on the issue. Rosen writes in an email, “It challenges the conclusions reached by Knutson and Tuleya (2004) (see September 28, 2004) regarding the potential for more intense hurricanes in a warmer climate. It is not likely to attract the same media attention as the original Knutson and Tulyea [sic] paper, but we should consider drafting a NOAA press release nonetheless.” Often, proposed press releases suggesting a link between human activity and global warming or global warming and hurricane intensity are delayed because of the “politically sensitive” nature of the topic. Sometimes they are not published at all. Such was the case for the 2004 Knutson and Tuleya study referred to by Rosen. Knutson submitted a press release on the paper, but it was never approved (see Before September 28, 2004). [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 30 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Rick Rosen, Ahsha Tribble

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

Erica Rule, a public affairs officer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), informs scientist Chris Landsea that all media inquiries concerning a soon-to-be-published paper by MIT climatologist Kerry Emanuel (see August 1, 2005) will be directed to him. Emanuel’s paper links rising sea temperatures to stronger hurricanes, a view that is not favored by the White House. Landsea, who is familiar with the paper, has said he has “strong concerns about [Emanuel’s] methodology.” Another climate scientist who has read the article is Thomas Knutson. Knutson co-authored a paper the year before tying higher carbon dioxide levels to the increased intensity of hurricanes (see September 28, 2004). Media requests to interview Knutson will be redirected to Landsea (see July 29, 2005-August 1, 2005) as a result of this decision. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 12 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Erica Rule, Chris Landsea

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) receives several requests for expert comments on a recent paper by climate scientist Kerry Emanuel (see August 1, 2005) suggesting that rising sea temperatures are resulting in stronger hurricanes. According to documents later obtained by the Government Accountability Project, the NOAA’s public affairs office redirects all requests for questions about Emanuel’s study, as well as all requests for interviews with federal climate scientist Knutson, to Chris Landsea, a scientist who does not believe there is a link between hurricane intensity and global warming (see July 27, 2005). [Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 30 pdf file] By August 1, Landsea will have participated in four such “routine, but sensitive” interviews. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 12 pdf file]

Entity Tags: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Thomas Knutson

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

The journal Nature publishes an article by MIT climatologist Kerry Emanuel suggesting that rising sea temperatures are producing stronger hurricanes. His study found that a combined measure of duration and wind speeds among North Atlantic hurricanes and North Pacific cyclones has almost doubled since the 1970s. “The best way to put it is that storms are lasting longer at high intensity than they were 30 years ago,” says Emanuel. [Emanuel, 2005; USA Today, 7/31/2005]

Entity Tags: Kerry Emanuel

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

NOAA public affairs officer Jana Goldman sends an email to superiors requesting blanket approval for a number of interview requests that scientist Tom Delworth has received from the media. All the requests pertain to the same climate change-related topic. But NOAA Public Affairs Director Jordan St. John rejects her request and says that each interview needs to be considered separately. “There are no blanket answers. Each one has to be dealt with as we get it,” he says. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 26 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Tom Delworth, Jordan St. John

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

Reporter Peter Lord of the Providence Journal calls the NOAA public affairs office and requests an interview with scientist Thomas Knutson, the author of a 2004 paper (see September 28, 2004) suggesting that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may increase the intensity of hurricanes. Lord speaks with public affairs officer Kent Laborde, who tells him that NOAA has discounted research linking global warming to more intense hurricanes. “What we’ve found is, if you look at a couple segments of science, observational or modeling, there is no illustrated link between climate change and hurricane intensity,” Laborde says. “We actually have periods of intensity followed by periods of lower intensity. We have evidence of periods going back to the 1930s. It follows a clear pattern.” When Lord says he would like to interview Knutson, Laborde asks, “What is the topic?” Lord says he wants to talk about Kerry Emanuel’s “theories linking climate change to worsening hurricanes.” Laborde responds, “Chris Landsea would be better. He’s an observational scientist.” Unlike Knutson, Landsea does not believe hurricane intensity is influenced by global warming. [Providence Journal, 3/26/2006; Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 79 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Chris Landsea, Kent Laborde, Peter B. Lord

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

Thomas L. Delworth, an NOAA scientist who works in the Climate Dynamics and Prediction Group, will later say that by this date, a quarter of his prospective interviews with journalists have fallen through because of delays in the agency’s approval process. He also says that one third of the reporters he usually deals with no longer request interviews with him on account of the delays. He estimates that a typical request takes 24 hours to process while interviews that are potentially more controversial take longer, sometimes as long as five or six days. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 25-26 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Tom Delworth

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

Ronald Stouffer, senior research meteorologist at the NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, tells Tarek Maassarani of the Government Accountability Project that the number of interviews he has had with the US media have dropped to almost zero. He attributes this to the cumbersome approval process that a journalist must wait through before being permitted to interview a scientist. Even if an interview is approved, the approval often comes too late, after the reporter’s deadline for the story. Stouffer refers to the NOAA’s clearing process as a “pocket veto” since delaying an approval often produces the same result as turning down an interview request. Stouffer also tells Maassarani that European journalists are usually “shocked” when they learn that interview requests need to be cleared by the public affairs office. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 23-24 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Ronald Stouffer

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) sends letters to scientists and economists offering to pay them $10,000 each for 500- to 10,000- word essays that provide a “policy critique” of the next report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), due early next year (see February 2, 2007). The institute, which has received more than $1.6 million in contributions from ExxonMobil (see Between 1998 and 2005), also offers additional payments and travel expense reimbursement. The letters, written by Kenneth Green and Steven Hayward, accuse the UN panel of being “resistant to reasonable criticism and dissent and prone to summary conclusions that are poorly supported by the analytical work.” It asks for articles that “thoughtfully explore the limitations of climate model outputs.” The letters set a December 15 deadline for the papers, but responses from recipient scientists prompt AEI to cancel the project. The institute had hoped to time the release of the scientists’ essays to coincide with that of the IPCC report. David Viner of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia describes the AIE effort as a “desperate attempt by an organization who wants to distort science for their own political aims.” Similarly, Ben Stewart of Greenpeace remarks: “The AEI is more than just a thinktank, it functions as the Bush administration’s intellectual Cosa Nostra. They are White House surrogates in the last throes of their campaign of climate change denial. They lost on the science; they lost on the moral case for action. All they’ve got left is a suitcase full of cash.” Green defends AIE’s campaign against the report, saying, “Right now, the whole debate is polarized. One group says that anyone with any doubts whatsoever are deniers and the other group is saying that anyone who wants to take action is alarmist. We don’t think that approach has a lot of utility for intelligent policy.” [Guardian, 2/2/2007; Reuters, 2/4/2007]

Entity Tags: Ben Stewart, American Enterprise Institute, David Viner, Kenneth Green, Steven F. Hayward

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Global Warming

Jeremy Grantham, chairman of a Boston-based fund management company, in his quarterly letter to clients includes a commentary on the United States’ policy toward climate change, particularly that of the current administration. One of Grantham’s clients happens to be Vice President Dick Cheney. In his piece, titled “While America Slept, 1982-2006: A Rant on Oil Dependency, Global Warming, and a Love of Feel-Good Data,” Grantham writes, “Successive US administrations have taken little interest in either oil substitution or climate change and the current one has even seemed to have a vested interest in the idea that the science of climate change is uncertain.” Grantham embraces the conclusions of the latest IPCC report (see February 2, 2007), saying, “There is now nearly universal scientific agreement that fossil fuel use is causing a rise in global temperatures. The US is the only country in which environmental data is steadily attacked in a well-funded campaign of disinformation (funded mainly by one large oil company)” (see Between 1998 and 2005). If anyone is still sitting on the fence, he suggests considering Pascal’s Paradox—in other words, comparing the consequences of action vs. inaction if the IPCC’s conclusions are correct. Grantham, whose company manages $127 billion in assets, disputes the notion that going green would harm the US economy, noting that industrialized countries with better fuel efficiency have on average seen better economic growth than the US over the last 50 years. Instead of implementing a policy that would have increased fuel efficiency, the country’s “auto fleet fuel efficiency went backwards over 26 years by ingeniously offsetting substantial technological advances with equally substantial increases in weight,” he notes. “In contrast, the average Western European and Japanese cars increased efficiency by almost 50 percent.” He also writes that the US might have eliminated its oil dependency on the Middle East years ago had it simply implemented a “reasonable set of increased efficiencies.” If there were just 10 percent less cars on the road than there are today, and each one drove 10 percent fewer miles using vehicles that were 50 percent more efficient, US demand for oil would be 28 percent lower, he explains. If similar efficiency had been attained in other modes of transportation, the US would have been able to reduce its reliance on foreign oil by 38 percent completely eliminating its reliance on oil from Middle East, which currently accounts for only 28 percent of US oil imports. He also notes in his letter, which apparently was leaked to President Bush before publication, “Needless to say, our whole attitude and behavior in the Middle East would have been far different, and far less painful and costly. (Oil was clearly not the only issue, or perhaps even the biggest one in Iraq, but it is unlikely that US troops would have fought two wars had it been a non-oil country in, say, Africa or the Far East that was equally badly behaved.)” [Street, 2/5/2007; Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo, 2/5/2007]

Entity Tags: Jeremy Grantham, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Global Warming

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issues a summary of its fourth report concluding for the first time that global warming is “unequivocal.” The authors of the report also conclude that there is a 90 percent likelihood that greenhouse gases produced as a result of human activities have been the main cause of global warming since 1950. In its last report (see January 22, 2001), the panel made the same assessment, but with a confidence level of only 66 to 90 percent. The 20-page summary, meant for policymakers, will be followed by four technical reports that will be completed and published later in the year. The panel’s conclusions are based on “a three-year review of hundreds of studies of past climate shifts; observations of retreating ice, warming and rising seas, and other changes around the planet; and a greatly expanded suite of supercomputer simulations used to test how the earth will respond to a growing blanket of gases that hold heat in the atmosphere,” the New York Times reports.
Partial list of conclusions -
bullet Global temperatures will increase 3.5 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit if carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere attain levels twice that of 1750, before the Industrial Revolution.
bullet Concentrations of carbon dioxide have reached a level not seen during the last 650,000 years, and the rate of increase is beginning to accelerate.
bullet Even a moderate warming of the global climate would likely result in significant stress to ecosystems and change longstanding climate patterns that influence water supplies and agricultural production.
bullet Sea levels will likely rise between 7 and 23 inches by 2100 and continue rising for at least the next 1,000 years.
bullet “It is very likely that hot extremes, heat waves, and heavy precipitation events will continue to become more frequent.”
bullet The panel expects that precipitation will increase at higher latitudes, while rainfall will likely decrease at lower latitudes. Semi-arid subtropical regions could see 20 percent less rain.
bullet Oceans will absorb billions of tons of carbon dioxide which will form carbonic acid, thus lowering the pH of seawater and harming certain kinds of marine life such as corals and plankton.
bullet If the level of greenhouse gases continues to grow, average temperatures by the end of the century could reach temperature not seen since 125,000 years ago when ocean levels were 12 to 20 feet higher than they are now. Much of that extra water is currently locked in the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, which are beginning to melt. While there is evidence that the glaciers and ice sheets in the Arctic and Antarctic could flow seaward far more quickly than current estimates predict, the climate change panel did not include this in its assessment because it is forbidden by its charter to engage in speculation. According to Michel Jarraud, the secretary general of the United Nations World Meteorological Organization, “the speed with which melting ice sheets are raising sea levels is uncertain, but the report makes clear that sea levels will rise inexorably over the coming centuries. It is a question of when and how much, and not if.”
bullet The harmful consequences of global warming can be lessened if governments take prompt action.
Responses -
bullet Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, which administers the panel along with the World Meteorological Organization, says: “In our daily lives we all respond urgently to dangers that are much less likely than climate change to affect the future of our children. Feb. 2 will be remembered as the date when uncertainty was removed as to whether humans had anything to do with climate change on this planet. The evidence is on the table.”
bullet John P. Holdren, an energy and climate expert at Harvard, who is the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, says the report “powerfully underscores the need for a massive effort to slow the pace of global climatic disruption before intolerable consequences become inevitable.… Since 2001, there has been a torrent of new scientific evidence on the magnitude, human origins and growing impacts of the climatic changes that are under way. In overwhelming proportions, this evidence has been in the direction of showing faster change, more danger and greater confidence about the dominant role of fossil-fuel burning and tropical deforestation in causing the changes that are being observed.”
bullet Richard B. Alley, one of the lead authors and a professor at Pennsylvania State University, says: “Policy makers paid us to do good science, and now we have very high scientific confidence in this work—this is real, this is real, this is real. The ball’s back in your court.” [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2/2/2007 pdf file; New York Times, 2/3/2007; Independent, 2/3/2007]

Entity Tags: Michel Jarraud, John P. Holdren, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Achim Steiner, Richard B. Alley

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

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