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Context of 'October 19, 2005: Commerce Official Approves Media Request for Interview with Scientist Skeptical of Link between Hurricane Intensity and Climate Change'

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Department of Commerce press officer Catherine Trinh rejects a request for a media interview with a climate scientist. (The identity of this scientist has not been revealed.) “Let’s pass on this one,” she says in an e-mail to an official at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The official asks in response, “Can I please have a reason?” In another e-mail, Trinh again rejects a request for an interview. “Let’s pass on this… interview, but rather refer him to [redacted] of the [redacted] at [redacted],” she writes. “CEQ [White House Council of Environmental Quality] suggested him as a good person to talk on this subject.” The e-mails, obtained by Salon in 2006, reveal that requests for media interviews about climate change are being screened by officials at the Commerce Department (NOAA is part of the Department of Commerce). When asked by Salon if Commerce reviews all requests for media interviews with scientists, Richard Mills, the department’s director of public affairs, states, “I wouldn’t characterize it like that.” [Salon, 9/19/2006]

Entity Tags: Catherine Trinh, Richard Mills, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Global Warming

Thomas Knutson, a research meteorologist with the agency’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, NJ, recieves an interview request from CNBC television for its program “On the Money.” Knutson forwards the request to NOAA public affairs officer Kent Laborde for approval, as is required by NOAA’s media policy (see September 29, 2005). Laborde then directs the request to Chuck Fuqua, deputy director of communications at the Department of Commerce, who asks: “What is Knutson’s position on global warming vs. decadal cycles? Is he consistent with [Gerry] Bell and [Chris] Landsea?” (Bell and Chris have views that are more in line with the Bush administration’s position on global warming) Laborde then calls Knutson and asks him about his views on the future trend of Atlantic hurricane activity. Laborde then writes to Fuqua, saying that “he is consistent, but a bit of a different animal. He isn’t on the meteorological side. He’s purely a numerical modeler. He takes existing data from observation and projects forward. His take is that even with worse [sic] case projections of green house gas concentrations, there will be a very small increase in hurricane intensity that won’t be realized until almost 100 years from now.” Two minutes later Fuqua responds, “Why can’t we have one of the other guys on then?” Knutson is then informed that the interview request has been declined. [Wall Street Journal, 2/16/2006; Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 30 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Thomas Knutson, Kent Laborde, Chuck Fuqua, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Chris Landsea

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, US Environmental Record, Global Warming

The US Department of Commerce’s deputy director of communications, Chuck Fuqua, approves a request from the media for an interview with NOAA hurricane researcher Chris Landsea. Landsea believes that global warming has little or no impact on hurricanes. Notwithstanding, Fuqua says in an email to a NOAA official, “Please be careful and make sure Chris is on his toes. Since [redacted] went off the menu, I’m a little nervous on this, but trust he’ll hold the course.” A week later, Fuqua grants a request for Landsea to appear on the NewsHour With Jim Lehrer. In an email concerning the interview, Fuqua writes, “Please make sure Chris is on message and that it is a friendly discussion.” When Richard Mills, the department’s director of public affairs, is later asked by Salon what Fuqua meant by “stay on message,” Mills explains, “Chuck just meant that Chris should be ready and prepared.” [Salon, 9/19/2006]

Entity Tags: Chuck Fuqua, Chris Landsea

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Global Warming

The November issue of NOAA Magazine (a publication of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) reports, “There is consensus among NOAA hurricane researchers and forecasters that recent increases in hurricane activity are primarily the result of natural fluctuations in the tropical climate system known as the tropical multi-decadal signal.” [NOAA Magazine, 11/29/2005] In December, Kerry Emanuel, a climate researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who believes that hurricanes are becoming more severe because of rising temperatures, tells a roomful of University of Rhode Island scientists that the NOAA report had censored the views of government scientists who believe there is a link between hurricane intensity and climate change. [Wall Street Journal, 2/16/2006; Providence Journal, 3/26/2006] In February, the Wall Street Journal will similarly report that despite what NOAA contended, several of the agency’s scientists “believed man-made warming was a key cause.” The day before the Journal’s report is published, the NOAA will issue a correction stating that the consensus “represents the views of some NOAA hurricane researchers and forecasters, but does not necessarily represent the views of all NOAA scientists.” [NOAA Magazine, 11/29/2005; Wall Street Journal, 2/16/2006]

Entity Tags: Kerry Emanuel, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Global Warming

A group of 14 Democratic lawmakers, led by Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, sends a letter to the inspector generals of both the Commerce Department and NASA requesting formal investigations into allegations that Bush administration political appointees suppressed evidence linking global warming to increased hurricane intensity (see 2005, October 16, 2005, October 19, 2005, and November 29, 2005- December 2005). [Office of Senator Frank Lautenberg, 9/29/2006; Associated Press, 11/2/2006]

Entity Tags: Frank R. Lautenberg, Hillary Clinton, Maria Cantwell, Thomas R. Carper, Harry Reid, James Jeffords, Jeff Bingaman, Robert Menendez, Barbara Boxer, Joseph Lieberman, Dianne Feinstein, Richard (“Dick”) Durbin, John Kerry, Barbara Mikulski

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Global Warming

Officials at NASA and the Department of Commerce confirm that the inspectors general of both agencies have begun investigations into whether the White House has sought to prevent government climate scientist from conveying their findings to the public. The investigations were prompted by a request from 14 Democratic senators in late September (see September 29, 2006). The inquiries are expected to be completed by early 2007. [Scientists Say Findings Were Suppressed, 11/2/2006]

Entity Tags: Office of the Inspector General (NASA), Office of the Inspector General (DOC)

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

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