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Profile: James R. Mahoney
James R. Mahoney was a participant or observer in the following events:
In a memo to James R. Mahoney, head of the US Climate Change Science Program, Dr. Harlan L. Watson, the State Department’s chief climate negotiator, “strongly” recommends removing text referring to the conclusions of a National Academy of Sciences panel on climate and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He argues that the text does “not include an appropriate recognition of the underlying uncertainties and the tentative nature of a number of the assertions.” Though Watson has a doctorate in solid-state physics, he has no background in climate science. [New York Times, 6/8/2005]
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) routes all media inquiries about an article in the journal Science (see December 7, 2003) that was authored by two top government scientists to appointee James R. Mahoney, instead of allowing the media to communicate with the scientists directly. The article in question concludes that “there is no doubt that the composition of the atmosphere is changing because of human activities, and today greenhouse gases are the largest human influence on global climate.” In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Mahoney, who is serving as both assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA deputy administrator, attempts to discredit the finding of the article. Mahoney tells the newspaper, “That’s their assertion. They are extremely competent, and there are many in the climate community who would agree with them. That’s not surprising, but there are many others who would disagree with them. My own view is somewhat more open-minded, and from my perspective we don’t really understand these things as well as we might.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 12/4/2003]
Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who are working with Australian researchers on a report about coral bleaching run into resistance from NOAA officials. A early version of the report contains several reference to global warming. One passage notes, “Mass bleaching… affects reefs at regional to global scales, and has incontrovertibly linked to increases in sea temperature associated with global change.” The references are dropped from a July 2005 draft of the report. In April 2006, the Washington Post reports that James R. Mahoney, assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, has delayed the report on grounds that “its scientific basis was so inadequate.” But he insists, “It was not just about climate change—there were a lot of things.” [Washington Post, 4/6/2006] The report is finally published in October 2006. [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 10/11/2006]
In an email to Chester Koblinsky, director of the Climate Science Program Office, NOAA Deputy Administrator James R. Mahoney urges that media requests for interviews with scientists be redirected to the agency’s public affairs office and that public affairs officers listen in on the interviews. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 10 ]
James R. Mahoney, head of the US Climate Change Science Program, calls Konrad Steffen, director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder, a joint NOAA-university institute, and asks that he and another NOAA lab director not give reporters their opinions on global warming. Reporters are likely to contact Steffen because his work was recently cited in a major international report on climate change in the Arctic. But Steffen later says he did not comply with the request. Mahoney will later tell the Washington Post that he has “no recollection” of the conversation. [Washington Post, 4/6/2006]
NOAA public affairs officer Carmeyia Gillis mentions in an email to colleagues Kent Laborde, Jana Goldman, and John Leslie that media inquiries submitted to the Climate Prediction Center concerning climate change should first be cleared by senior political administrators James R. Mahoney or Ahsha Tribble. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 17 ]
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