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Global Warming

Project: Climate Change and Global Warming
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Frederick Seitz, a former tobacco company scientist and former National Academy of Sciences president, writes and circulates a letter asking scientists to sign a petition calling upon the US government to reject the Kyoto Protocol. The petition was authored by an obscure group by the name of “Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine.” [Seitz, 1998] Seitz includes in his letter a report arguing that carbon dioxide emissions do not pose a threat to the global climate. The report—which is not peer reviewed—is formatted to look like an article from the esteemed Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The organizers of the petition will claim that some 17,000 scientists signed the petition. But it is subsequently discovered that few credentialed climate scientists added their signature to the list. Moreover, the petition contains the names of several fictional characters. The magazine Scientific American analyzes a random sampling of the signers and concludes that only about one percent of the petition signatories claiming to have a Ph.D. in a climate-related field actually do. And in a highly unusual move, the National Academy of Sciences issues a statement disavowing Seitz’s petition and disassociating the academy from the PNAS-formatted paper. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 16 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Frederick Seitz, Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine

Category Tags: Presentation of science

ExxonMobil disperses roughly $16 million to organizations that are challenging the scientific consensus view that greenhouse gases are causing global warming. For many of the organizations, ExxonMobil is their single largest corporate donor, often providing more than 10 percent of their annual budgets. A study by the Union of Concerned Scientists will find that “[v]irtually all of them publish and publicize the work of a nearly identical group of spokespeople, including scientists who misrepresent peer-reviewed climate findings and confuse the public’s understanding of global warming. Most of these organizations also include these same individuals as board members or scientific advisers.” After the Bush administration withdraws from the Kyoto Protocol (see March 27, 2001), the oil company steps up its support for these organizations. Some of the ExxonMobil-funded groups tell the New York Times that the increase is a response to the rising level of public interest in the issue. “Firefighters’ budgets go up when fires go up,” explains Fred L. Smith, head of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Explaining ExxonMobil’s support for these organizations, company spokesman Tom Cirigliano says: “We want to support organizations that are trying to broaden the debate on an issue that is so important to all of us. There is this whole issue that no one should question the science of global climate change. That is ludicrous. That’s the kind of dark-ages thinking that gets you in a lot of trouble.” [New York Times, 5/28/2003; Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 10-11 pdf file] The following is a list of some of the organizations funded by ExxonMobil:
bullet American Enterprise Institute (AEI) - AEI receives $1,625,000 from ExxonMobil between and 1998 and 2005. During this period, it plays host to a number of climate contrarians. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 31 pdf file]
bullet American Legislative Exchange Council - In 2005, ExxonMobil grants $241,500 to this organization. Its website features a non-peer-reviewed paper by climate contrarian Patrick Michaels. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 12, 31 pdf file]
bullet Center for Science and Public Policy - Started at the beginning of 2003, this one-man operation receives $232,000 from ExxonMobil. The organization helps bring scientists to Capitol Hill to testify on global warming and the health effects of mercury. [New York Times, 5/28/2003]
bullet Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow - Between 2004 and 2005, this organization receives $215,000 from ExxonMobil. Its advisory panel includes Sallie Baliunas, Robert Balling, Roger Bate, Sherwood Idso, Patrick Michaels, and Frederick Seitz, all of whom are affiliated with other ExxonMobil-funded organizations. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 12 pdf file]
bullet Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) - Founded in 1984 to fight government regulation on business, CEI started receiving large grants from ExxonMobil after Myron Ebell moved there from Frontiers of Freedom in 1999. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 12 pdf file] CEI, along with another ExxonMobil-supported enterprise, the Cooler Heads Coalition, runs the website GlobalWarming.Org, which is part of an effort to “dispel the myths of global warming by exposing flawed economic, scientific, and risk analysis.” Between 2000 and 2003, the CEI receives $1,380,000, or 16 percent of the total funds donated by Exxon during that period. [Mother Jones, 5/2005; Mother Jones, 5/2005]
bullet Frontiers of Freedom - The organization receives $230,000 from Exxon in 2002 and $40,000 in 2001. It has an annual budge of about $700,000. [New York Times, 5/28/2003]
bullet George C. Marshall Institute - The institute is known primarily for its work advocating a “Star Wars” missile defense program. Between 1998 and 2005, Exxon-Mobil grants $630,000 to the Marshall Institute primarily to underwrite the institute’s climate change effort. William O’Keefe, the organization’s CEO, once worked as the executive vice president and chief operating officer of the American Petroleum Institute. He has also served on the board of directors of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, another global warming skeptic organization, and is chairman emeritus of the Global Climate Coalition. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 12 pdf file]
bullet Heartland Institute - In 2005, this organization receives $119,000 from ExxonMobil. Its website offers articles by the same scientists promoted by other ExxonMobil-funded global warming skeptic organizations. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 12 pdf file]
bullet Tech Central Station - TCS is a web-based organization that provides news, commentary, and analysis focusing on the societal tensions and strains that are concomitant with historical change. TCS proclaims itself as a strong believer of the “material power of free markets, open societies, and individual human ingenuity to raise living standards and improve lives.” Until 2006, the website is operated by a public relations firm called the DCI Group, which is a registered ExxonMobil lobbying firm. In 2003 TCS receives $95,000 from ExxonMobil to be used for “climate change support.” TCS contributors on the global warming issue include the same group of people that is promoted by several of the other ExxonMobil-funded global warming skeptic organizations. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 13 pdf file] In 2006, TCS will pay the public relations firm Medialink Worldwide to produce a video news release that challenges the view that global warming has increased the intensity of hurricanes. The piece is later shown on a Mississippi television station and presented as a regular news report (see June 2006).

Entity Tags: Tech Central Station, Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, American Legislative Exchange Council, Heartland Institute, American Enterprise Institute, Frontiers of Freedom, Competitive Enterprise Institute, George C. Marshall Institute, Center for Science and Public Policy, Fred L. Smith, ExxonMobil

Category Tags: Industry

ExxonMobil begins funding the Washington, DC-based organization Frontiers of Freedom. The organization, founded in 1996 by former Senator Malcolm Wallop to promote property rights and critique environmental regulations, will use ExxonMobil’s money to participate in an effort (see April 1998) to discredit the scientific consensus that rising global temperatures are being caused by the increase of greenhouse gases. One of the group’s staff members is Myron Ebell, an outspoken global warming skeptic. By 2005, ExxonMobil will have provided $857,000 in funds to Frontiers of Freedom. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 11 pdf file]

Entity Tags: ExxonMobil, Myron Ebell, Frontiers of Freedom

Category Tags: Industry

ExxonMobil helps create the Global Climate Science Team (GCST), a small task force that is charged with discrediting the scientific consensus opinion that greenhouse gases are warming the planet. Members of the task force include ExxonMobil’s senior environmental lobbyist, Randy Randol; the American Petroleum Institute’s public relations representative, Joe Walker; and Steven Milloy, who heads a nonprofit organization called the Advancement of Sound Science Coalition. [American Petroleum Institute, 4/1998; Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 11 pdf file] Milloy’s organization had been secretly formed in 1993 by tobacco giant Philip Morris with the goal of creating uncertainty about the health hazards posed by secondhand smoke. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 11 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Joe Walker, Randy Randol, Steven Milloy, Global Climate Science Team, ExxonMobil

Category Tags: Industry

The Global Climate Science Team drafts a memo outlining a plan to invest millions of dollars in an effort to undermine support for the Kyoto Protocol and discredit the scientific consensus opinion that greenhouse gases are causing the planet to warm. The draft plan, titled “Global Climate Science Communications Action Plan,” concedes that opposition to the protocol is not shared by the public. “There has been little, if any, public resistance or pressure applied to Congress to reject the treaty, except by those ‘inside the Beltway’ with vested interests,” it notes. A key component of the plan would be to “maximize the impact of scientific views consistent with ours on Congress, the media, and other key audiences.” To do this, they would “recruit a cadre of scientists who share the industry’s views of climate science and to train them in public relations so they can help convince journalists, politicians and the public that the risk of global warming is too uncertain to justify controls on greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide that trap the sun’s heat near Earth,” the New York Times reports. They would look to recruit scientists “who do not have a long history of visibility and/or participation in the climate change debate,” the memo says. According to the plan, “Victory will be achieved when… recognition of uncertainty becomes part of the ‘conventional wisdom.’” One method the institute would employ to measure the plan’s progress would be to count the number of news reports that express uncertainty about the issue of global warming. People involved in devising the strategy included Jeffrey Salmon of the George C. Marshall Institute; Steven Milloy, who later becomes a FoxNews.com columnist; David Rothbard of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, which has received $252,000 from ExxonMobil; Myron Ebell of Frontiers of Freedom, also funded with money ($612,000) from the oil giant; and ExxonMobil lobbyist Randy Randol. Representatives of the Exxon Corporation, the Chevron Corporation, and the Southern Company, were also involved. [American Petroleum Institute, 4/1998; New York Times, 4/26/1998; Mother Jones, 5/2005]

Entity Tags: Joe Walker, Steven Milloy, Royal Dutch/Shell, Southern Company, Jeffrey Salmon, Global Climate Science Team, American Petroleum Institute, Randy Randol, Myron Ebell, David Rothbard, ExxonMobil

Category Tags: Industry, Presentation of science

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

Category Tags: Studies-academic

The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), joined by Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), files suit against the US government alleging that the 2000 National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change (USNA) is not a government product and therefore the government cannot legally distribute it. The USNA report was produced by the National Assessment Synthesis Team, an advisory committee chartered under the Federal Advisory Committee Act. The report provided a detailed overview of the consequences of climate change and mechanisms for adaptation. According to CEI, the report used flawed computer models and presented historical climate data without including the data’s error margins. The suit will ultimately be settled when the Bush administration takes office. The Bush White House will agree that the USNA should not be treated as a product of the US government or serve as the basis for any federal policies, positions, or rules. After the settlement, references to this report will repeatedly be removed by Bush officials from future government reports. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 52-53 pdf file]

Entity Tags: James M. Inhofe, Competitive Enterprise Institute

Category Tags: Politicization, Government reports

An unnamed NOAA scientist attempts to generate media attention for a recently published paper that used a comparison of climate models and empirical data to approximate the influence of human activities on ocean temperatures. However the media advisory is repeatedly downgraded by NOAA officials until it is eventually canceled. In an interview with the Government Accountability Project, the scientist later says that publishing such news became increasingly difficult after the Bush administration took office. [Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 31 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases, Public outreach, Causal factors

NOAA scientists’ communications with Congress are vetted by the NOAA’s “policy shop,” housed in the Office of Undersecretary, before being passed on to lawmakers. Many of the communications, especially those that concern sensitive topics like global warming, are edited so they do not contradict the Bush administration’s favored policy positions. According to an unnamed NOAA source interviewed by the Government Accountability Project, “Realizing that it is pointless,” NOAA’s Office of Legislative Affairs “has stopped asking certain scientists what to write in certain circumstances as it is certain to get completely rewritten anyway.” [Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 36 pdf file]

Entity Tags: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Politicization, Communications with Congress

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)

Category Tags: Studies-academic, Causal factors

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

Category Tags: Politicization, Media contact with scientists, Causal factors

In a memo to the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), ExxonMobil lobbyist Randy Randol denounces esteemed climate scientist Robert Watson, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as someone “handpicked by Al Gore” who is using the media to get “coverage for his views.” Thus he asks, “Can Watson be replaced now at the request of the US?” In addition to Watson, Randol names other climate experts who he wants “removed from their positions of influence.” A year later, the Bush administration will block Watson’s reelection as IPCC chairman. [Randol, 2/6/2005 pdf file; Mother Jones, 5/2005]

Entity Tags: Robert Watson, Randy Randol, Council on Environmental Quality

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Industry, Politicization

Larisa E. Dobriansky is appointed deputy assistant secretary for national energy policy at the Department of Energy. Her job will be to manage the department’s Office of Climate Change Policy. Prior to the appointment, she was an employee of Akin Gump, where she lobbied for ExxonMobil on climate change issues. [Mother Jones, 5/2005]

Entity Tags: Larisa E. Dobriansky

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Politicization

A White House team drafts a memo to John Bridgeland, President Bush’s domestic policy adviser, arguing that Bush should renege on his campaign promise to impose limits on power plant emissions of carbon dioxide. The memo cites a December 2000 Energy Department analysis which said that implementing CO2 restrictions would undermine the economy. The memo suggests that Bush acknowledge rising global temperatures, but state that “any specific policy proposals or approaches aimed at addressing global warming must await further scientific inquiry.” Not a single person on the team is a scientist. The recommendation ignores a March 7 memo written by climate experts at the Environmental Protection Agency urging the president to keep his pledge. In their memo, the EPA scientists said the Energy Department analysis was flawed. It noted that the study “was based on assumptions that do not apply” and “inflates the costs of achieving carbon dioxide reductions.” The White House team that recommends breaking the campaign pledge is made up of Cesar Conda, an adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney; Andrew Lundquist, the White House energy policy director, who later becomes an energy lobbyist; Kyle E. McSlarrow, deputy secretary of energy and former chairman of Dan Quayle’s 2000 presidential campaign; Robert C. McNally Jr., an energy and economic analyst who later becomes an investment banker; Karen Knutson, a deputy on energy policy and former Republican Senate aide; and Marcus Peacock, an analyst on science and energy issues with the Office of Management and Budget. [New York Times, 10/19/2004]

Entity Tags: Cesar Conda, Karen Knutson, Andrew Lundquist, Kyle E. McSlarrow, Bush administration (43), Robert C. McNally Jr., Environmental Protection Agency, Marcus Peacock, John Bridgeland

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Policies

EPA administrator Christie Todd Whitman tells reporters that the Bush administration has “no interest in implementing” the Kyoto Protocol. [BBC, 3/28/2001; Associated Press, 3/28/2001; Environmental News Network, 3/28/2001; CBS News, 3/28/2001; CNN, 3/29/2001] The treaty would require 39 industrialized nations to cut emissions of six greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride—to an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by the period 2008-2012. The US would be required to reduce its emissions by about 7 percent. The protocol will not go into effect until it has been ratified by countries that were responsible for at least 55 percent of the world’s carbon emissions in 1990. [BBC, 3/29/2001; BBC, 9/29/2001] The United States is the world’s largest polluter and therefore its refusal to support the treaty represents a significant setback. In 1990, the US was responsible for 36.1 percent of greenhouse emissions. [BBC, 6/4/2004] The Bush administration complains that the treaty would harm US economic interests and that it unfairly puts too much of the burden on industrialized nations while not seeking to limit pollution from developing nations. [BBC, 3/29/2001]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Christine Todd Whitman

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, US International Relations

Category Tags: Policies

Richard Wetherald, a research meteorologist at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), writes a press release on a paper he has written on global warming that will soon be published in the prestigious Geophysical Research Letters. But a few days after submitting the press release, NOAA press officer Jana Goldman informs him that the release has been rejected. The reason provided by NOAA is that since the journal will be sending out its own press release, there is no need for NOAA to do one as well. Wetherald doesn’t buy it. According to Wetherald, NOAA would not be duplicating efforts because while the journal’s press release will be written in technical jargon, the NOAA release he drafted is written in language that is more accessible to the public. [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 10/1/2006]

Entity Tags: Jana Goldman, Richard Wetherald

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases

The journal Science publishes a study suggesting that a major factor in rising ocean temperatures is likely “the increase of anthropogenic gases in Earth’s atmosphere.” The study’s conclusions are based on analysis of historical ocean data pertaining to the latter half of the twentieth century. These findings are supported by results that were produced by an atmosphere-ocean general circulation model. [Levitus et al., 2001 pdf file]

Category Tags: Causal factors, Studies-academic

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

Category Tags: Politicization, Public outreach, Causal factors

Larisa E. Dobriansky, deputy assistant secretary for national energy policy at the Department of Energy, meets with ExxonMobil lobbyist Randy Randol and the Global Climate Coalition, a group formed to oppose restrictions on greenhouse gases. Members of the coalition include ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute. In the notes she prepared for the meeting, she wrote, “POTUS [President Bush] rejected Kyoto, in part, based on input from you.” [Mother Jones, 5/2005]

Entity Tags: Larisa E. Dobriansky, Global Climate Coalition, Randy Randol

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Industry

The National Research Council issues a report on global climate change that was commissioned by the White House. The opening paragraph of the document reads: “Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth’s atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise. Temperatures are, in fact, rising. The changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities, but we cannot rule out that some significant part of these changes is also a reflection of natural variability. Human-induced warming and associated sea level rises are expected to continue through the 21st century. Secondary effects are suggested by computer model simulations and basic physical reasoning. These include increases in rainfall rates and increased susceptibility of semi-arid regions to drought. The impacts of these changes will be critically dependent on the magnitude of the warming and the rate with which it occurs.” [Committee on the Science of Climate Change, National Research Council, 2001; CBS News, 6/19/2003; Boston Globe, 6/20/2003]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), National Research Council (NRC)

Category Tags: Causal factors, Studies-government

According to one unnamed EPA scientist, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) requests that the EPA make subtle language changes to a brochure on climate change. The EPA refuses to implement the changes and prints the brochures without CEQ approval. The EPA is reportedly not permitted to distribute the brochures and as a result they remain boxed up in a warehouse. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 60 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, Council on Environmental Quality

Category Tags: Politicization, Public outreach

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases its third assessment report concluding that evidence indicates that human activity is the major force behind global warming. “The report analyzes the enormous body of observations of all parts of the climate system, concluding that this body of observations now gives a collective picture of a warming world…. A detailed study is made of human influence on climate and whether it can be identified with any more confidence than in 1996, concluding that there is new and stronger evidence that most of the observed warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.” The panel also notes in its report that “the globally averaged surface temperature is projected to increase by 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius over the period 1990 to 2100.” Roughly 1,000 experts from around the world participated in the drafting, revising and finalizing of the report and approximately 2,500 helped review it. [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2001; CBS News, 6/19/2003; Boston Globe, 6/20/2003]

Entity Tags: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

Category Tags: Studies-academic, Causal factors

Leading Republican consultant Frank Luntz issues a briefing book for GOP congressional candidates recommending what they should say when discussing issues that are important to the American public. The environment section of the report includes 16 pages of tips on how to discuss global warming and other sensitive issues. In general, Luntz says, candidates need to shy away from making economic arguments, since the party is perceived to be so close to business, and instead portray the party’s platform as being for a “safer,” “cleaner,” and “healthier” environment. Furthermore, candidates must convince their constituents of their “sincerity and concern,” Luntz argues, suggesting that once this has been achieved “the conservative, free market approach to the environment actually has the potential to become quite popular.” [Luntz, 2002 pdf file]
Arsenic in the water - Luntz says that the “Bush administration’s suspension of Clinton’s last-minute executive order toughening the federal standard for arsenic in drinking water” was the president’s “biggest public relations misfire.” The “Democrats’ message came through loud and clear: Bush and the Republicans put business interests above public health,” he notes. He says the Republicans should have responded to the debacle with statements asserting the party’s dedication “to the continued improvement of our nation’s water supply, and to ensuring that Americans have the best quality water available.” Secondly, they should have argued that “sound science” does not support the notion that reducing arsenic by the amount specified in the order was in fact necessary. Finally, the question should have been raised as to why Clinton waited until the final moments of his presidency to issue this order. [Luntz, 2002 pdf file]
Global Warming - On the issue of global warming, Luntz says: “The scientific debate is closing [against us] but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science. Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate.” The section is peppered with boxes titled, “Language That Works,” suggesting carefully crafted phrases to convey key points that Luntz says Republicans must get across to their constituents. Luntz says that Republicans must stress that “the scientific debate remains open” and that rushing to conclusions about global warming would harm America. It must be stressed that ratifying the Kyoto protocol would “handcuff” the US and require “unnecessary” regulations that would “hurt moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas.” Furthermore, according to Luntz, it should be made clear that additional regulations would make “American life less safe” by requiring “major lifestyle changes.” Luntz also recommends that GOP politicians avoid using the phrase “global warming,” opting instead for “climate change,” which he notes sounds “less frightening.” [Luntz, 2002 pdf file; Guardian, 3/4/2003]
Impact - Not all Republicans agree with Luntz’s advice, Republican Mike Castle says the report fails to address the fact that pollution is a health threat. “If I tried to follow these talking points at a town hall meeting with my constituents, I’d be booed,” he says. Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords, who abandoned the Republican Party in 2001, says the briefing book aims to deceive voters. But others seemingly adopt Luntz’s strategy. [Guardian, 4/4/2003] The Observer will later note that in 2002, Bush’s use of the phrase “global warming” decreases to almost nothing. [Guardian, 3/4/2003] And the Environmental Working Group, which first discloses the memo, finds numerous instances where Bush officials appear to be using Luntz’s recommended language. [Environmental Working Group, 2002]

Entity Tags: James Jeffords, Frank Luntz, Mike Castle

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Politicization, Presentation of science

When USGS hydrologist Christopher Milly submits a draft press release about a recent article on the increased risk of extreme flooding due to global warming, he is warned by a USGS press officer that the release might cause problems at the White House due to the sensitive nature of its topic. The news release would generate “great problems with the department,” Milly is advised. As predicted, the release is rejected by the Department of the Interior on grounds that the journal Nature will probably be publishing its own release about the article. [Washington Post, 4/6/2006; Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 33 pdf file] However, it has been noted (see, e.g., (April 2001)) that government press releases issued in conjunction with releases published by scientific journals are helpful to the public because government issued releases tend to be written in a language that it more accessible.

Entity Tags: US Department of Interior, Christopher Milly, US Geological Service

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases

ExxonMobil awards a $232,000 grant to Frontiers of Freedom to help launch a new branch organization called the Center for Science and Public Policy. The one-man operation will help bring scientists to Capitol Hill to testify on global warming and the health effects of mercury. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 11 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Center for Science and Public Policy, Frontiers of Freedom, ExxonMobil

Category Tags: Industry, Presentation of science

President Bush unveils a plan to reduce the “intensity” of greenhouse gases by 18 percent. Greenhouse gas intensity is the ratio of emissions to economic output, meaning that global warming pollution would continue to grow, but at a slower pace. This target would be achieved through $4.6 billion in tax credits and incentives, spent over a five-year period, to encourage businesses and farmers to cut their emissions. For example, the plan would provide tax credits to businesses that use renewable energy sources. [CNN, 2/14/2006; New York Times, 2/14/2006] Critics of the plan say a voluntary program based on tax credits and incentives represents a weak alternative to the Kyoto Protocol’s mandatory reductions which would cut emissions well below their 1990 levels by 2010. “We’ve found that these voluntary programs just don’t work,” says Joseph Lieberman. [CNN, 2/14/2006] The New York Times notes, “The one thing the climate policy would not do is require anything of anybody.” [New York Times, 2/14/2006] The president also introduces a second plan aimed at curbing air pollution. The “Clear Skies Initiative” would require reductions of sulfur dioxide emissions by 73 percent, nitrogen oxides by 67 percent, and mercury by 69 percent, by 2018. But the plan includes no reductions for carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. Companies would be able to purchase credits from other businesses that have reduced their emissions below required levels. Unlike the plan supported by environmentalists and many Democrats, Bush’s program would delay these reductions until 2010 or later. [CNN, 2/14/2006; New York Times, 2/14/2006]

Entity Tags: Joseph Lieberman, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Policies

Indian engineer and economist Rajendra K. Pachauri is elected with US backing as chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. [New York Times, 4/20/2002] US energy industry lobbyists had pressured Washington to block the reelection of Robert T. Watson, whose views about global warming had irked American energy companies (see February 6, 2001 and April 2, 2002).

Entity Tags: Rajendra K. Pachauri, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Politicization, Industry

The Environmental Protection Agency sends the United Nations a report on climate change, in which the US admits for the first time that human activity is largely to blame for recent global warming. It attributes rising global surface temperatures to the burning of fossil fuels and details the potential effects of continued warming. For example, the report notes, “A few ecosystems, such as alpine meadows in the Rocky Mountains and some barrier islands, are likely to disappear entirely in some areas. Other ecosystems, such as Southeastern forests, are likely to experience major species shifts or break up into a mosaic of grasslands, woodlands, and forests.” However the report does not recommend cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Rather it suggests adapting to a warmer climate, saying that nothing can be done about the greenhouse gases that have already been released into the atmosphere. Neither industry nor the environmental groups are pleased with the report. Industry’s opinions were conveyed in letters during the comment period in 2002. They had objected to the conclusion that greenhouse gases were contributing to global warming. On the other hand, environmentalists are bewildered by the the administration’s unwillingness to address the problem. “The Bush administration now admits that global warming will change America’s most unique wild places and wildlife forever,” says Mark Van Putten. “How can it acknowledge global warming is a disaster in the making and then refuse to help solve the problem, especially when solutions are so clear?” [Environmental Protection Agency, 5/2002; New York Times, 6/3/2002]

Entity Tags: United Nations, Mark Van Putten, Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Causal factors, Studies-government

Myron Ebell, a director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), sends an email to Philip A. Cooney, chief of staff at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, discussing how to respond to a recent EPA report (see May 2002) that acknowledged human activity is contributing to global warming. It was the first time the US government had ever made the admission. In the email, Ebell conveys his plan to discredit the report by suing the agency. He also recommends playing down the report and firing some EPA officials. “It seems to me that the folks at the EPA are the obvious fall guys and we would only hope that the fall guy (or gal) should be as high up as possible,” he says in the email. “Perhaps tomorrow we will call for Whitman to be fired.… It seems to me our only leverage to push you in the right direction is to drive a wedge between the president and those in the administration who think that they are serving the president’s interests by publishing this rubbish.” The organization Ebell represents has received more than $1 million since 1998 from Exxon. Cooney previously worked as a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute (see 2001). [Ebell, 6/3/2002; Greenpeace, 9/9/2003; Observer, 9/21/2003]

Entity Tags: Philip A. Cooney, Myron Ebell

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Causal factors, Politicization, Industry

Responding to a reporter’s question about global warming, President Bush, referring to a recent EPA report (see May 2002) acknowledging that human activity is contributing to the Earth’s warming, says, “I read the report put out by a—put out by the bureaucracy.” He adds: “I do not support the Kyoto treaty. The Kyoto treaty would severely damage the United States economy, and I don’t accept that. I accept the alternative we put out, that we can grow our economy and, at the same time, through technologies, improve our environment.” [US President, 6/10/2002, pp. 957 pdf file]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Politicization, Causal factors

Erica Van Coverden, a public affairs officer at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML), distributes an agency-wide email informing staff that all requests for interviews must first be screened by her and her colleague Jana Goldman. “NOAA Public Affairs has requested that for the time being, all media inquiries and interviews be cleared by NOAA PA (myself and Jana) BEFORE they are granted,” she writes. “This applies to any topics that may be of national interest (which covers most of our research)…” [Emphasis in original]. A few weeks earlier, NOAA released its 2002 hurricane season outlook, predicting “above-normal levels of storm activity.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 10 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Erica Van Coverden, Jana Goldman

Category Tags: Politicization, Media contact with scientists

In an email exchange between Richard Wetherald, a research meteorologist at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), and NOAA public affairs staffer Jana Goldman, Wetherald complains that the Department of Commerce appears to be turning down press releases that have to do with global warming issues. In the following exchange, Wetherald refers to a study he recently co-authored (see October 5, 2002) on the potential impact global warming might have on soil moisture and run-off rates. In his email, he writes, “I have not bothered to write a draft NOAA press release since the last time it was turned down by the Dept. of Commerce (see (April 2001)). Apparently at that time, greenhouse or global warming papers were considered to be the literary equivalent of ‘persona non grata’ by the current administration. I assume that this is still the case? I don’t want to waste both of our times if it is. Anyway, here is the summary for your information. Please let me know if this policy has changed.” Goldman replies: “What I think I may do is pass the abstract along downtown and see what they think. I agree with you, the attitude seems to have changed regarding climate change, but let’s also avoid doing unnecessary work if it’s not going to go anywhere.” Wetherald says in response: “That sounds like a sensible idea. If by some miracle, you can use it as a NOAA press release, this would be fine as long as it contains the basic conclusions in the summary that I sent. I will certainly help out if it comes to that…” Goldman then writes: “I sent the abstract down to see if it would fly—if so, we would have to draft a release, but at least we would know that it would go through and our work would not be in vain.” [Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 31-33 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Richard Wetherald, US Department of Commerce, Jana Goldman

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases

The US Department of Commerce rejects a news release about an article on global warming written by NOAA research meteorologist Richard Wetherald. No reason is provided. This is the second time a news release written on an article by Wetherald has been rejected. The first time was in 2001 (see (April 2001)) [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 10/1/2006]

Entity Tags: Richard Wetherald, US Department of Commerce

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases

Philip A. Cooney, chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, edits a draft of the annual Our Changing Planet report to make it less alarming. In one sentence, he adds the word “extremely” so it reads, “The attribution of the causes of biological and ecological changes to climate change or variability is extremely difficult.” Similarly, he changes the sentence, “Many scientific observations indicate that the Earth is undergoing a period of relatively rapid change,” so it instead says, “Many scientific observations point to the conclusion that the Earth may be undergoing a period of relatively rapid change.” In another section of the report, he crosses out an entire paragraph discussing the expected melting of mountain glaciers and snowpacks. In its margins, he asserts that the report’s authors were “straying from research strategy into speculative findings/musings.” [New York Times, 6/8/2005; Reid and Lautenberg, 6/29/2005] Cooney, a former oil industry lobbyist, has no background in climate science (see 2001).

Entity Tags: Philip A. Cooney

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Politicization, Presentation of science, Government reports

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]

Entity Tags: James R. Mahoney, Harlan L. Watson

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Politicization, Presentation of science, Government reports

The Journal of Geophysical Research publishes a study by research meteorologists Richard Wetherald and Syukuro Manabe on how global warming might impact the hydrology of different regions. According to their computer model, high latitudes would experience higher run-off rates as a result of global warming. Winters would see higher soil moisture levels than winters currently do, while summers would see lower than normal soil moisture levels. Soil moisture in lower latitudes would be lower year-round, potentially leading to the expansion of deserts. [Wetherald and Manabe, 2002]

Entity Tags: Richard Wetherald, Syukuro Manabe

Category Tags: Studies-academic

A review article by scientists Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas on global warming is published in the peer-reviewed journal Climate Research. In their article, the two astrophysicists review the work of several scientists and argue that the twentieth century was not the warmest century during the last 1,000 years. [Soon and Baliunas, 2003] Their article is promoted widely by organizations and individuals funded by ExxonMobil (see Between 1998 and 2005) [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 14 pdf file] as well as by Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) who says the paper is proof that natural variability, not human activity, is the “overwhelming factor” influencing climate change. [US Congress, 7/28/2003] But after the paper is published, three of journal’s editors—including incoming editor-in-chief Hans von Storch—quit in protest. Storch, explaining his resignation, calls the paper “flawed” because “the conclusions are not supported by the evidence presented in the paper.” He adds that he suspects “some of the skeptics had identified Climate Research as a journal where some editors were not as rigorous in the review process as is otherwise common.” [Chronicle of Higher Education, 9/5/2003] Additionally, 13 of the scientists cited in the paper publish a rebuttal saying that Soon and Baliunas seriously misinterpreted their research in the paper. [Ammann et al., 2003 pdf file; American Geophysical Union, 7/7/2003]

Entity Tags: Hans von Storch, Sallie Baliunas, James M. Inhofe, Willie Soon

Category Tags: Studies-academic, Causal factors

After publishing their heavily criticized article on global warming, Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas quickly cultivate relationships with at least nine organizations whose climate change work is underwritten by ExxonMobil. Among her other affiliations, Baliunas becomes a board member and senior scientist at the Marshall Institute, a scientific adviser to the Annapolis Center for Science-Based Public Policy, an advisory board member of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, and a contributing scientist to the online forum Tech Central Station. Soon will be the chief scientific researcher for the Center for Science and Public Policy, a senior scientist at the George C. Marshall Institute, as well as a contributor to the Heartland Institute. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 15, 34-35 pdf file]

Entity Tags: George C. Marshall Institute, Annapolis Center for Science-Based Public Policy, Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, Heartland Institute, Tech Central Station, Center for Science and Public Policy, Sallie Baliunas, Willie Soon

Category Tags: Industry, Presentation of science

The Office of Management and Budget, which is reviewing the EPA’s forthcoming “Draft Report on the Environment” (see June 23, 2003) advises the EPA that the report “needs balance” and asserts that “global climate change has beneficial effects as well as adverse impacts.” The office also suggests removing the discussion on global warming completely from the report’s executive summary. “[D]elete climate change or use previously agreed upon material,” writes one staffer at the White House Council of Environmental Quality. Similarly, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy suggests removing a discussion of the potential impacts climate change might have on human health and ecology. The Department of Energy also gets involved, arguing through the White House that EPA should delete any discussion of atmospheric concentrations of carbon because it is not a “good indicator of climate change.” Another official warns, “Take care here and be sure to be consistent with existing administration policy. Let us try to avoid another CAR scenario.” This is a reference to the Climate Action Report (CAR) (see May 2002) that the US submitted to the UN in May 2002. That report concluded that human activities are “causing global mean surface air temperature and subsurface ocean temperature to rise.” White House officials also suggest making edits to particular sentences. For example, the OMB asks the EPA to delete the phrases, “alter regional patterns of climate,” and, “potentially affect the balance of radiation.” It also suggests replacing the passage, “changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly the result of human activities,” with, “a causal link between the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the observed climate changes during the 20th century cannot be unequivocally established.” Several of the edits are made by CEQ chief Philip Cooney, a former oil industry lobbyist. According to a congressional investigation, Cooney removes climate change “from a discussion of environmental issues that have global consequences, delete[s] a chart depicting historical temperature reconstruction, and insert[s] the word ‘potentially’ in several places to reduce the certainty of scientific statements regarding the impacts of climate change.” Cooney also advocates the removal of references to a 2001 National Research Council report (see June 2001) concluding that human activities contribute to global warming and information from a 1999 study indicating that global temperatures rose significantly over the previous decade compared with the last 1,000 years. Cooney also adds a claim to the draft report that satellite data does not support global warming, and removes a phrase that says “regional patterns may be altered” by climate change. In one memo, Cooney writes, “These changes must be made.” [New York Times, 6/19/2003; CBS News, 6/19/2003; Associated Press, 6/20/2003; US Congress, 1/30/2007 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Philip A. Cooney, Office of Management and Budget, Bush administration (43), Office of Science and Technology Policy, Council on Environmental Quality

Category Tags: Politicization, Government reports, Causal factors

Philip Cooney, chief of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), informs White House staffer Kevin O’Donovan in a memo that the CEQ will begin using a study by Willie Soon and Sally Baliunas (see January 31, 2003) to rebut studies that suggest the planet is warming. Cooney also says that he has inserted a reference to this paper in the EPA’s forthcoming “Draft Report on the Environment.” [US Congress, 1/30/2007 pdf file] (The Soon-Baliunas paper has been heavily criticized. After the paper was published in Climate Research, several of the journal’s editors resigned in protest, and scientists whose papers had been cited in the study complained that their research had been misrepresented; see June 23, 2003.)

Entity Tags: Kevin O’Donovan, Philip A. Cooney

Category Tags: Politicization, Presentation of science

White House CEQ Chairman James Connaughton writes an email requesting that he be kept abreast of all changes made to the EPA’s forthcoming “Draft Report on the Environment.” The White House opposes much of the language in the section on climate change and its efforts to make changes to that section will eventually cause the EPA to remove the section entirely (see June 23, 2003). [US Congress, 1/30/2007 pdf file]

Entity Tags: James L. Connaughton

Category Tags: Politicization, Government reports

EPA staffers write in a confidential memo that due to White House tinkering (see April 2003) with the agency’s forthcoming “Draft Report on the Environment” (see June 23, 2003) the report “no longer accurately represents scientific consensus on climate change.” [New York Times, 6/19/2003]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, Council on Environmental Quality

Category Tags: Politicization, Government reports

In an internal EPA memo, agency staff describe three different courses of action the EPA administrator can take in dealing with the changes that the White House has made to the forthcoming “Draft Report on the Environment” (see June 23, 2003). Over the last several weeks, White House officials have made so many changes (see April 2003) to the climate change section of the report that scientists no longer believe the section accurately depicts the scientific consensus on the issue (see April 29, 2003). The first option suggested in the memo is that the EPA administrator could accept the edits made by the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of Management and Budget. The memo notes that this would be the “easiest” road to take, but warns that the “EPA will take responsibility and severe criticism from the science and environmental community for poorly representing the science.” The altered report “provides specific text to attack,” the memo adds. According to the memo, the White House edits “undercut” the conclusions of the National Research Council (see June 2001) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (see October 1, 2001). Alternatively, the memo suggests, the EPA administrator could opt to cut the entire climate change section from the report. The last option discussed in the memo is that the EPA administrator could stand firm against the White House’s “no further changes” edict and attempt to reach a compromise. While EPA staff seem to prefer this approach, believing that this is the “only approach that could produce a credible climate change section,” they caution that confronting the White House could “antagonize” officials and that “it is likely not feasible to negotiate agreeable text.” The EPA will ultimately choose to remove the climate section completely from the report. [US Congress, 1/30/2007 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Council on Environmental Quality, Office of Management and Budget, Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Politicization, Government reports

When climate scientist James Hansen gives NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe a presentation on the dangers of human-caused climate change, O’Keefe cuts him off. “The administrator interrupted me,” Hansen later says. “He told me that I should not talk about dangerous anthropogenic interference, because we do not know enough or have enough evidence for what would constitute dangerous anthropogenic interference.” (O’Keefe’s spokesperson will later deny this account of the meeting.) Hansen’s presentation to O’Keefe was a summary of another presentation, titled “Can we defuse the global warming time bomb,” that he already gave to the White House Council on Environmental Quality in June 2003. [Hansen, 10/26/2004 pdf file; New York Times, 10/26/2004]

Entity Tags: James E. Hansen, Sean O’Keefe

Category Tags: Politicization, Political pressure on staff, Causal factors

The Bush administration releases its “Draft Report on the Environment,” which concludes that by many measures US air is cleaner, drinking water purer, and public lands better protected than they had been thirty years ago. The document, commissioned in 2001 by the agency’s administrator, Christie Whitman, is comprised of five sections: “Cleaner Air,” “Purer Water,” “Better Protected Land,” “Human Health,” and “Ecological conditions.” But it is later learned that many of its conclusions rest on questionable data. Moreover, the report leaves out essential information on global climate change and pollution sources. [Environmental Protection Agency, 2003; New York Times, 6/19/2003] In its “Purer Water” section, the report claims that “94 percent of the [US] population served by community water systems [was] served by systems that met all health-based standards.” But on August 6, the Washington Post will reveal that on June 18 (see June 18, 2003), an internal inquiry had been launched over concerns that the source data was flawed. “Internal agency documents… show that EPA audits for at least five years have suggested that the percentage of the population with safe drinking water is much lower—79 percent to 84 percent in 2002—putting an additional 30 million Americans at potential risk,” the newspaper will report. [Washington Post, 8/6/2003] Another troubling feature of the report is that a section on global climate change was removed (see June 2003) from the report prior to publication because EPA officials were unhappy with changes that had been demanded by the White House (see April 2003). [New York Times, 6/19/2003; CBS News, 6/19/2003; Associated Press, 6/20/2003] In place of a thorough discussion of the issue, the report only says: “The complexity of the Earth system and the interconnections among its components make it a scientific challenge to document change, diagnose its causes, and develop useful projections of how natural variability and human actions may affect the global environment in the future. Because of these complexities and the potentially profound consequences of climate change and variability, climate change has become a capstone scientific and societal issue for this generation and the next, and perhaps even beyond.” [Boston Globe, 6/20/2003; Guardian, 6/20/2003] The EPA’s report also leaves out information on the potentially adverse effects that pesticides and industrial chemicals have on humans and wildlife. [New York Times, 6/19/2003]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina, US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Politicization, Government reports

The Bush administration announces its 10-year “Climate Change Science Program Strategic Plan” which it says is aimed at reducing the “uncertainties” associated with the issue of global warming. Its goals include identifying “natural variability” in climate change; improving climate forecasting; improving methods for determining the risks of global warming; improving methods of measuring the effects of greenhouse gases; and obtaining a better understanding of the impact global warming might have on humans, wildlife, and plant communities. The task will be a collaborative effort shared among 13 different federal agencies that have been charged with producing no fewer than 21 reports over the next four years. Critics of the plan say it is an attempt to prevent anything meaningful from being done to address the human causes of global warming. They note that scientists and governments from more than 150 countries have already reached a consensus on the issue—that global warming is happening, that human activity is the dominant force behind it, and that action needs to be taken immediately, before it is too late. “We can’t wait until we have perfect knowledge on climate change,” says Michael MacCracken, an atmospheric scientist who led US efforts to determine the potential effects of global warming from 1993 to 2001. McCracken mocks the Bush administration’s presumed respect for certainty, noting that it “appears to have no uncertainty about the safety of genetically modified foods,” a technology that many experts have raised concerns about. [Associated Press, 7/23/2003; Inter Press Service, 7/25/2005]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Michael MacCracken

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Policies

During a debate on global warming, Senator James Inhofe (R-Ok) argues that studies attempting to link greenhouse gases to higher global temperatures are not based on sound science. He says that environmentalists—who he describes as “the most powerful, most highly financed lobby in Washington”—have staged the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” He also insists that if the Senate were to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, the US economy would suffer “serious harm.” [US Congress, 7/28/2003; BBC, 12/11/2003]

Entity Tags: James M. Inhofe

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Politicization, Presentation of science

The Environmental Protection Agency rules that carbon dioxide, the leading cause of global warming, cannot be regulated as a pollutant. EPA General Counsel Robert Fabricant writes in his 12-page decision, “Because the [Clean Air Act] does not authorize regulation to address climate change, it follows that [carbon dioxide] and other [greenhouse gases], as such, are not air pollutants.” His ruling reverses the position taken by the Clinton administration in 1998. Eron Shosteck, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, is pleased with the decision. “Why would you regulate a pollutant that is an inert gas that is vital to plant photosynthesis and that people exhale when they breathe? That’s not a pollutant,” he says. Melissa Carey, a climate policy specialist for Environmental Defense, disagrees. “Refusing to call greenhouse-gas emissions a pollutant is like refusing to say that smoking causes lung cancer. The Earth is round. Elvis is dead. Climate change is happening.” [Knight Ridder, 8/29/2003]

Entity Tags: Robert E. Fabricant, Bush administration (43), Eron Shosteck, Melissa Carey, Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Policies

The White House Council on Environmental Quality blocks the reprinting of a brochure dealing with climate change. The brochure, put out by the US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), contains tips on how farmers can reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases by adopting practices that promote carbon sequestration in the soil. The brochure has already been distributed to some 325,000 farmers. The NRCS also wanted to publish a Spanish version of the pamphlet. “It is not just a case of micromanagement, but really of censorship of government information,” one government official tells the Government Accountability Project. “In nearly 15 years of government service, I can’t remember ever needing clearance from the White House for such a thing.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 52-53 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Natural Resources Conservation Service, Council on Environmental Quality

Category Tags: Politicization, Public outreach

A Pentagon-commissioned analysis on the potential impact of rapid global climate change warns that such an event would likely cause global instability on a massive scale as governments try by any means to defend and secure diminishing food, water, and energy supplies. “Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life,” the report suggests. “Once again, warfare would define human life.” Wealthier nations “may build virtual fortresses around their countries”in order to keep out millions of starving and displaced refugees. The report’s authors, Peter Schwartz, CIA consultant and former head of planning at Royal Dutch/Shell Group, and Doug Randall of the California-based Global Business Network, believe the threat is serious and possibly imminent. Randall tells the London Observer that it may already be too late to avert a disaster. “We don’t know exactly where we are in the process. It could start tomorrow and we would not know for another five years,” he says. In their analysis, the authors say the issue “should be elevated beyond a scientific debate to a US national security concern.” It is “plausible and would challenge United States national security in ways that should be considered immediately.” The report recommends additional research on the issue and preparing a contingency plan to deal with the potential impacts of a catastrophic change in the climate. “No-regrets strategies should be identified and implemented to ensure reliable access to food supply and water, and to ensure national security.” [US Department of Defense, 10/2003; Fortune, 2/9/2004; Observer, 2/22/2004] The report was commissioned by Andrew Marshall, an influential Defense adviser who heads the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment. According to the Observer, the report is suppressed for months by top officials. [Observer, 2/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Peter Schwartz, US Department of Defense, Doug Randall, Andrew Marshall

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Studies-government

The NOAA announces in a press release that it has awarded “over $3.4 million to Princeton University for Climate…’ as envisioned in the Bush administration’s Climate Change Research Initiative.’” The release was coordinated with Princeton, which also issues a press release. In an email sent before the release, Steve Mayle, administrative officer of the NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, wrote, “George [Philander, a Princeton professor and researcher] said the University would probably issue its own press release. If that turns out to be the case, we should put your press people in touch with our press people so that they can coordinate the issuance of the releases.” In other instances where a proposed NOAA press release would have mirrored a release being issued by another organization, the NOAA has rejected the release, citing unnecessary duplication (see, e.g., (April 2001) and 2002). In those cases, the press releases concerned studies that undercut the Bush administration’s position on global warming. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 30 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Steve Mayle

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases

The American Geophysical Union (AGU), representing over 41,000 scientists from 130 countries involved in the study of atmospheric and ocean sciences, solid-Earth sciences, hydrologic sciences, and space sciences, issue a statement titled, “Human Impacts on Climate.” The opening paragraph states: “Human activities are increasingly altering the Earth’s climate. These effects add to natural influences that have been present over Earth’s history. Scientific evidence strongly indicates that natural influences cannot explain the rapid increase in global near-surface temperatures observed during the second half of the 20th century….” [World Wildlife Fund, n.d.; American Geophysical Union, 12/2003]

Entity Tags: American Geophysical Union (AGU)

Category Tags: Studies-academic, Causal factors

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]

Entity Tags: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, James R. Mahoney

Category Tags: Politicization, Presentation of science, Media contact with scientists, Causal factors

The journal Science publishes a paper written by two of the nation’s leading atmospheric scientists concluding that “modern climate change is dominated by human influences” and cannot be explained by natural causes. The article, titled “Modern Climate Change,” warns that climate change “may prove to be humanity’s greatest challenge” and that “it is very unlikely to be adequately addressed without greatly improved international cooperation and action.” The authors, Kevin Trenberth, head of National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)‘s Climate Analysis Section, and Thomas Karl, director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, insist 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.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 12/4/2003; Karl and Trenberth, 12/7/2003; Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 31 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Kevin Trenberth, Thomas Karl

Category Tags: Causal factors, Studies-academic

The number of NASA news releases drops dramatically from four dozen in 2004, to one dozen in 2005, and to eight in 2006. [New York Times, 2/16/2006; Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 35-36 pdf file]

Entity Tags: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases

NASA announces in an email sent to the agency’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and possibly other science centers as well, that “there is a new review process.… The White House [is] now reviewing all climate related press releases.” [CBS News, 3/19/2006]

Entity Tags: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Presentation of science, Press releases

The US Department of Commerce blocks publication of a news release about an article on global warming written by NOAA research meteorologist Richard Wetherald. No reason is provided. This is the third time the DOC has rejected a news release written about an article by Wetherald. The other two times were in 2001 and 2002 (see (April 2001) and Fall 2002, respectively). [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 10/1/2006]

Entity Tags: Richard Wetherald, US Department of Commerce

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases

An anonymous NOAA public affairs officer interviewed by the Government Accountability Project will later recall being told by his boss to silence a scientist. “You make him be quiet,” the scientist says he was told, “Get that guy to stop speaking to the public… It’s your job… I cannot believe you cannot control that person.” He also says that his superiors told him that any communications on sensitive issues should not be in writing. Rather, “I was usually summoned to XXX’s office, usually with XXX [both top officials] there and the door closed.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 89 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Anonymous Public Affairs Officer, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Politicization, Political pressure on staff

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]

Entity Tags: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, James R. Mahoney

Category Tags: Politicization, Government reports

Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, re-circulates a memorandum that was issued in 2001 by then Commerce Secretary Donald Evans, which required that all communications to Congress be vetted by the agency’s Office of Legislative Affairs. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 45 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Conrad C. Lautenbacher

Category Tags: Politicization, Communications with Congress

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 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Chester Koblinsky, James R. Mahoney

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Politicization, Media contact with scientists

The movie Day After Tomorrow increases media interest in the global warming debate, and a number of reporters contact NOAA scientists with questions on the issue. In the film, the US mainland is abruptly frozen over when the Gulf Stream shuts down because of melting arctic ice. An unnamed NOAA public affairs officer interviewed by the Government Accountability Project will later recall, “We had scientists at that time who were speaking to the press of their views from a scientific standpoint and my boss told me, ‘You are not to substantiate this; make it look like the scientists are out there on a limb, the agency is not backing them up.’” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 89 pdf file]

Entity Tags: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Anonymous Public Affairs Officer

Category Tags: Politicization, Political pressure on staff

A budget document from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)‘s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research reveals that the Bush administration’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2005 would reduce climate change research budget by $9.2 million, eliminating the federal government’s $2 million abrupt climate change research program and cutting its paleoclimatology laboratory in half. It would also terminate $1.3 million in funding for postdoctoral programs and end research programs on the health and human aspects of climate change. [ESA Policy News Update, 6/14/2004; Natural Resource Defense Council, 12/31/2005]

Entity Tags: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Policies

NOAA climate scientist Thomas Knutson is invited to give a presentation on global warming and hurricanes as part of a science seminar series on Capitol Hill sponsored by the American Meteorological Society. The presentation is cleared by the NOAA, but there is nonetheless concern about the title of his lecture—“Global Warming and Hurricanes.” Scott Carter, an NOAA legislative affairs officer, sends an email to NOAA official Ahsha Tribble asking her to comment on it. “I wanted to get your thoughts on him using the term global warming,” Carter says. “His title slide is ‘Global Warming and Hurricanes.’ I see the event does ask that, and I am no scientist, but I know that term is sensitive, so any problem in him using the term?” Some time later Knutson is advised not to use the term “Global Warming” in his title. “Just a heads-up… wouldn’t want the higher ups coming down on you. There is discomfort in the administration with these terms.” Knutson ignores the request. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 10 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Ahsha Tribble, Scott Carter, Thomas Knutson

Category Tags: Politicization, Political pressure on staff, Hurricane intensity

Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), officially implements a new NOAA-wide media policy. The new policy, written by NOAA Public Affairs Director Jordan St. John, government lawyers, and Commerce Department policymakers, gives the NOAA’s public affairs offices ultimate authority over all agency communications. [Raw Story, 10/4/2005; Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 31 pdf file; Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 10 pdf file] The media policy will become more restrictive after Hurricane Katrina (see September 29, 2005).

Entity Tags: Jordan St. John, Conrad C. Lautenbacher

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Policies, Politicization, Media contact with scientists, Hurricane intensity

The NOAA issues the second edition of its “Procedures Manual for Congressional Communications.” According to the 18-page policy document, while the agency’s Office of Legislative Affairs is responsible for coordinating congressional communications, it is the Department of Commerce and the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB ) that have final vetting authority. The OMB’s stated mission is to ensure “that agency reports, rules, testimony, and proposed legislation are consistent with the president’s budget and with administration policies.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 41 pdf file]

Entity Tags: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Category Tags: Politicization, Communications with Congress

The US government’s Climate Change Science Program concludes in an annual report to Congress that emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are the only likely explanation for the rapid increase in global surface temperatures over the last three decades. It notes further that carbon dioxide and methane levels “have been increasing for about two centuries as a result of human activities and are now higher than they have been for over 400,000 years. Since 1750, CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have increased by 30 percent and CH4 [Methane] concentrations in the atmosphere have increased by 150 percent.” The report, accompanied by a letter signed by the secretaries of energy and commerce and Bush’s science adviser, represents a dramatic shift in the administration’s view on climate change. Two years prior, when the Environmental Protection Agency similarly concluded in a report (see May 2002) that global warming is the result of human activity, Bush had dismissed it as something “put out by the bureaucracy” (see June 4, 2002). Myron Ebell, of the ExxonMobil-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute, an organization that is part of a campaign to discredit the consensus view that global warming is the result of human activity, says the report is “another indication that the administration continues to be incoherent in its global warming policies.” The report also acknowledges studies indicating that higher CO2 levels stimulate invasive weed growth more than it does crop growth. [Climate Change Science Program, 8/25/2004, pp. 79 pdf file; New York Times, 8/26/2004]

Entity Tags: Myron Ebell, Climate Change Science Program

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Causal factors, Studies-government

NASA headquarters informs some climate scientists that any public releases of their research must first be cleared by headquarters and that all interviews with the media must be monitored by a NASA press officer. According to Drew Shindell, an ozone specialist and NASA climatologist, “these were conveyed orally, with no written documentation even when one was requested.” This policy applies only to climate scientists, not to other NASA scientists, such as those researching space or earth science, Shindell later tells Congress. [US Congress, 1/30/2007 pdf file Sources: Drew Shindell]

Entity Tags: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases

A study surveying media coverage of global warming finds that, on average, news organizations give “roughly equal attention” to opposing views on the causes of climate change. In its effort to be fair and balanced, the media, in many cases, has treated the opinion of a handful of industry-paid scientists and free marketeers as being equal in value to the consensus view of hundreds of the world’s top climate scientists. According to the authors, this has created the false impression that there is no prevailing scientific consensus on the causal factors of global warming. The authors—Maxwell T. Boykoff, a UCSC doctoral candidate in environmental studies and his brother, Jules M. Boykoff, a visiting assistant professor of politics at Whitman College—surveyed 636 stories published by the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal between 1988 and 2002. They found that 53 percent of these articles “gave roughly equal attention to the views that humans contribute to global warming and that climate change is exclusively the result of natural fluctuations.” The results of this study contrast starkly with those of another study which had surveyed 928 articles in peer-reviewed science journals. In that study, the percentage of articles expressing uncertainty about the cause of global warming was zero percent (see December 3, 2004-May 2005). The authors say this difference—between how the causes of global warming is described by the media and between how it is understood by the scientists—represents “a disconnect between scientific findings and public understanding.” “By giving equal time to opposing views, these newspapers significantly downplayed scientific understanding of the role humans play in global warming,” says Maxwell Boykoff. “We respect the need to represent multiple viewpoints, but when generally agreed-upon scientific findings are presented side-by-side with the viewpoints of a handful of skeptics, readers are poorly served. In this case, it contributed to public confusion and opened the door to political maneuvering.” The authors suggest that “disinformation” campaigns funded by the fossil fuel industry (see April 1998) are to blame for the media’s inaccurate coverage. [Boykoff and Boykoff, 2004; Currents (UC Santa Cruz), 9/6/2004; Extra!, 11/2004]

Entity Tags: Maxwell T. Boykoff, Jules M. Boykoff

Category Tags: Presentation of science, Causal factors

NOAA climate scientist Thomas Knutson sends an email to NOAA public affairs officer Jana Goldman seeking approval to participate in an interview with Dave Brown of the Washington Post. In response, Goldman asks him what he “might… say about the relationship [between hurricanes and climate change].” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 13 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Thomas Knutson, Jana Goldman

Category Tags: Politicization, Media contact with scientists, Hurricane intensity

According to an unnamed NASA public affairs officer, between 12 and 15 NASA press releases dealing with the issue of global warming “disappear,” mostly in the weeks ahead of the 2004 elections. Other releases are allegedly “smothered” or “watered down to inconsequence” by NASA headquarters. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 35 pdf file]

Entity Tags: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases

Drew Shindell, an ozone specialist and NASA climatologist, submits a press release to the Goddard Space Flight Center public affairs office (PAO) announcing the publication of a paper he has co-authored on climate change in Antarctica (see September 25, 2004). Shindell and the PAO agree on the title “Cool Antarctica may warm rapidly this century, study finds,” for the release. But NASA headquarters asks them to “soften” it. The next suggested title, “NASA Scientists expect temperature flip-flop at the Antarctic,” is also rejected. The title that is finally approved—over the objection of Shindell—is “Scientists predict Antarctic climate changes.” In testimony before Congress, Shindell will later recall, “I have worked on numerous releases during my 12 years at the Goddard Institute. While previous to this time, press releases had been issued rapidly and with revisions from headquarters that were made primarily to improve clarity and style, this release was repeatedly delayed, altered, and watered down.” [US Congress, 1/30/2007 pdf file; Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 33 pdf file] The press release is finally issued on October 6. [NASA, 10/6/2004]

Entity Tags: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Drew Shindell

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases

The NOAA public affairs office gives climate scientist Thomas Knutson permission to be interviewed by New York Times reporter Andrew Revkin—but only on the condition that the interview is minded by a public affairs officer. Revkin is apparently interested in discussing a recent article Kuntson co-authored on increased carbon dioxide levels possibly causing more severe hurricanes. When Revkin hears about the condition that has been placed on the interview request, he instead interviews Robert Tuleya, Kuntson’s coauthor. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 13-14 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Thomas Knutson, Robert Tuleya

Category Tags: Politicization, Media contact with scientists, Hurricane intensity

The prestigious Geophysical Research Letters publishes a paper summarizing the results of a study that suggests that Antarctica may warm rapidly during the next 50 years. Researchers Drew Shindell and Gavin Schmidt of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies used computer modeling to predict the effect of increased ozone levels over Antarctica. Ozone levels are expected to increase over the next few years due to international treaties that have banned ozone-depleting chemicals. The computer modeling suggested that, while Antarctica has mostly cooled over the last 30 years, this trend may quickly reverse because higher ozone levels will likely lead to the disruption of the westerly winds that currently provide a buffer against the warmer temperatures of lower latitudes. The higher temperatures in turn could result in the loss of the continent’s ice shelves. [Shindell and Schmidt, 2004; NASA, 10/6/2004]

Entity Tags: Drew Shindell, Gavin Schmidt

Category Tags: Studies-academic

Thomas Knutson, a research meteorologist with the NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, NJ, prepares a one-page summary for a press release on his soon-to-be published paper in the Journal of Climate (see September 28, 2004). His article, co-authored with hurricane expert Robert Tuleya, suggests that an increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may increase the intensity of hurricanes. The press release is not approved. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 28 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Thomas Knutson

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases, Hurricane intensity

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

Category Tags: Hurricane intensity, Studies-academic

Glenn Mahone, NASA’s assistant administrator for public affairs, tells public affairs officer Gretchen Cook-Anderson that a planned news conference concerning satellite measurements of ozone and air pollution should not take place until after elections. [New York Times, 2/16/2006]

Entity Tags: Gretchen Cook-Anderson, Glenn Mahone

Category Tags: Politicization, Public outreach

James E. Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, tells the New York Times that the Bush administration has been putting pressure on scientists to produce studies that are in-line with official policy on issues like global warming. He says this practice has penetrated deep within the government bureaucracy. “Under the Clinton-Gore administration, you did have occasions when Al Gore knew the answer he wanted, and he got annoyed if you presented something that wasn’t consistent with that,” he says. “I got a little fed up with him, but it was not institutionalized the way it is now.” The Times reports that Hansen, along with two other NASA scientists and several officials at NASA headquarters and at two agency research centers have “described how news releases on new global warming studies had been revised by administrators to play down definitiveness or risks. The scientists and officials said other releases had been delayed.” [New York Times, 10/19/2004]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), James E. Hansen

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Politicization, Whistleblowers, Press releases, Political pressure on staff

David Shukman, a science correspondent with the BBC, requests an interview with Pieter Tans, a research scientist at the NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory. Not until February 2005—some four months later—is the request approved by the NOAA’s public affairs office. But there is a stipulation. Tans can only be interviewed in the presence of NOAA press officer Kent Laborde. The interviews take place on March 22 and 24 in Boulder, CO, and Mauna Loa, Hawaii. Laborde has to travel there from NOAA headquarters in Washington, DC. [Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 34 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Kent Laborde, Pieter Tans

Category Tags: Politicization, Media contact with scientists

In a speech before an audience at the University of Iowa, James E. Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, says the Bush administration is suppressing evidence of global warming. He says that officials routinely dismiss such evidence on grounds that it is not of sufficient interest to the public. However, studies that suggest less alarming interpretations of climate data are treated more favorably, he says. According to Hansen, officials have also edited reports to downplay the potential effects of global warming. Hansen thinks the administration is trying to keep the public uninformed about the issue. “In my more than three decades in government, I have never seen anything approaching the degree to which information flow from scientists to the public has been screened and controlled as it is now,” he says. [Associated Press, 10/26/2006]

Entity Tags: James E. Hansen

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Whistleblowers, Politicization

The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA), an international study four years in the making, warns that the Arctic is warming “at almost twice the rate as that of the rest of the world.” According to the study’s overview report, presented at a conference in Reykjavik, Iceland, the melting of sea ice and glaciers are a clear sign that the climate is undergoing drastic, possibly irreversible, changes. The study predicts that all ocean ice could disappear some time between 2060 and 2100. As more and more ice melts, temperatures are expected to increase at a quicker pace because of a positive feedback loop: higher temperatures melt more ice, exposing more ground which, unlike ice, absorbs the sun’s heat, thus increasing the temperature even more. The Arctic’s melting “will drastically shrink marine habitat for polar bears, ice-inhabiting seals, and some seabirds, pushing some species toward extinction,” the study’s 139-page overview report says. Another potential impact of the melting ice would be the release of carbon-rich methane gas currently locked in the permafrost. Scientists are also worried that the fresh water pouring off the melting glaciers will disrupt the North Atlantic Ocean conveyor current which brings the warmer Gulf waters to the Northern Atlantic keeping the region warmer than it would be otherwise. The report was commissioned by the Arctic Council, an international forum made of the eight countries that border the region: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the US. Six circumpolar indigenous peoples’ organisations are also represented in the council. Arctic warming is changing the ecology of the region in a way that is threatening the livelihoods of circumpolar groups like the Inuit and Athabaskans. The study’s findings—based on the work of more than 300 scientists and five different computer models—are contained in a 1,200-plus- page, fully referenced scientific report that underwent a rigorous peer-review process prior to publication. [Arctic Council, 11/2004; BBC, 11/2/2004; Independent, 11/11/2004; Reuters, 11/8/2005; One World, 11/9/2005] The study was actually completed months before its release on November 8, but was delayed by the Bush administration until after the elections, according to Gordon McBean, an ACIA participant from the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction at the University of Western Ontario. [Inter Press Service, 9/10/2005]

Entity Tags: Arctic Council

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Studies-academic, Politicization

A number of individuals and organizations that have received funding from oil giant ExxonMobil attack the recently released Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (see November 8, 2004), which found that the Arctic is warming “at almost twice the rate as that of the rest of the world.” The report said that the unprecedented speed of melting in the Arctic is an indication that the climate is undergoing drastic, possibly irreversible, changes that could result in the extinction of numerous species, cause major changes in regional ecosystems, and undermine the livelihood of circumpolar indigenous populations. One of the first attacks on the report is from FoxNews.com columnist Steven Milloy, an adjunct scholar at the libertarian Cato Institute ($75,000 from ExxonMobil). Milloy operates two ExxonMobil-funded organizations—the Advancement of Sound Science Center ($40,000 from ExxonMobil) and the Free Enterprise Action Institute ($50,000 from ExxonMobil)—both of which are registered to his home address in Potomac, Maryland. In his article, titled “Polar Bear Scare on Thin Ice,” he claims that one of the graphs in the study’s 149-page overview report contradicts the study’s conclusions. Harvard biological oceanographer James McCarthy, a lead author of the report, tells Mother Jones that the conclusions are solid. “In order to take that position, you have to refute what are hundreds of scientific papers that reconstruct various pieces of this climate puzzle,” he says. The overview report is a mere summary of a 1,200-plus- page, fully referenced, report, that underwent a rigorous peer-review process before publication. It was based on the work of more than 300 scientists and took four years to complete. Another ExxonMobil-funded group, the George C. Marshall Institute ($310,000 from ExxonMobil), also chimes in, issuing a press release that says the Arctic report was based on “unvalidated climate models and scenarios… that bear little resemblance to reality and how the future is likely to evolve.” Then, on the same day the Senate holds a hearing about the report’s findings, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) releases a statement claiming “The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, despite its recent release, has already generated analysis pointing out numerous flaws and distortions.” CEI has received $1,350,000 from ExxonMobil (see May 2005). The Fraser Institute of Vancouver, the recipient of $60,000 from the oil company, claims that “2004 has been one of the cooler years in recent history,” a statement that is contradicted a month later by no one less than the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization. It will report that 2004 was “the fourth warmest year in the temperature record since 1861.” [Mother Jones, 5/2005]

Entity Tags: Fraser Institute of Vancouver, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Steven Milloy, George C. Marshall Institute

Category Tags: Industry, Presentation of science

Science magazine publishes a study by science historian Naomi Oreskes describing how a review of “928 abstracts, published in refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, and listed in the ISI database with the keywords ‘climate change’” failed to turn up even one study explicitly challenging the consensus opinion that global warming has anthropogenic causes. [Science Magazine, 12/3/2004] Her findings are disputed by Dr. Benny Peiser, a senior lecturer in the science faculty at Liverpool John Moores University, who says that his own review of the abstracts from the ISI database found that only one-third implicitly backed the consensus view, and explicitly, only one percent. He tries to get his findings published in Science, but the magazine does not accept it. [Daily Telegraph, 1/5/2005] Peiser later sends 34 abstracts, which he insists challenge the consensus view, to Tim Lambert, a computer scientist who blogs on environmental issues. Lambert and his readers note that only a few of the abstracts actually appear to question anthropogenic global warming. They also note that the authors who do dispute global warming have backgrounds—such as petroleum geology, and energy and power engineering—that are typically sympathetic to the views of industry. [Lambert, 5/6/2005]

Entity Tags: Naomi Oreskes, Tim Lambert, Benny Peiser

Category Tags: Studies-academic, Causal factors, Presentation of science

According to a study done by Britain’s Royal Society, in 2005, ExxonMobil provides $2.9 million in funding to 39 groups that the society says misrepresent climate change. Such groups include the International Policy Network, George C. Marshall Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, and Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change. [Guardian, 9/20/2006; New York Times, 9/21/2006]

Entity Tags: International Policy Network, ExxonMobil, Royal Society, George C. Marshall Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change

Category Tags: Industry

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

Richard Feely, an NOAA scientist employed at the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL), works with colleagues inside and outside the government to organize a national workshop on the “Impacts of Increasing CO2 on Coral Reef Organisms and Other Marine Calcifiers.” The workshops are scheduled to take place from April 18 to April 20. In a January 5 email to public affairs officer Jana Goldman, he explains the importance of an NOAA-issued press release for the event. “Since NOAA has a major role is [sic] protecting critical marine ecosystems including coral reefs, NOAA is a major sponsor of this workshop [it] would be great if we could build up wide interest in this workshop through press releases from your office…,” he writes. He follows up on the request on February 16 with another email. “If you want to see what other country’s [sic] are saying about the impacts of CO2 on Coral Reefs go to Google News and type in Carol Turley. She is the director of the Plymouth Laboratory in England and just participated in a major international conference on the Impact of Global Warming. Her presentation was picked up by all the major news organizations throughout the world with the obvious exception of the United States! I wonder why? The US has the second largest coral reef systems in the world and we can’t even read about what might happen to them if we keep going down the same path that we are. Hopefully, we can change that lack of understanding of this important impact in the US with [your] help at the workshop.” Some time before March 7, Feely submits a draft press release to Goldman, but according to a report by the Government Accountability Project, the “NOAA’s online news release archives reveals that NOAA did not issue it.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 31 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Richard Feely, Jana Goldman, Carol Turley

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases

Reporter Todd Neff of the Boulder Camera submits a request to interview Leo Donner, a scientist at the NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory. The request is handled by NOAA public affairs officer Jana Goldman. In an email to her supervisor, she writes, “I think this is OK—I just spoke to [redacted] and he’s looking more for how is [sic] this model contributes to the overall future of climate models—I told him we didn’t want to get into comparing models or talking about deficiencies and strengths, but just the general overall how this advances the whole science of modeling.” Donner later says he felt restrictions were being “imposed… on the topics the interview could cover.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 24 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Leo Donner, Jana Goldman

Category Tags: Politicization, Political pressure on staff

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]

Entity Tags: James R. Mahoney, Konrad Steffen

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Politicization, Political pressure on staff

In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s radio program, James Connaughton, head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, insists there is lingering uncertainty with regard to climate change. “We see warming temperatures and we are still working on the issue of causation, the extent to which humans are a factor—they may be—as well as our understanding of what effects may result from that over the course of the next century,” he says. [Associated Press, 3/15/2005; Guardian, 3/15/2005]

Entity Tags: James L. Connaughton

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Politicization, Presentation of science, Causal factors

NOAA Chief Financial Officer Maureen Wylie distributes a memo to all NOAA employees applying the agency’s 2004 media policy (see June 28, 2004) to communications with Congress. From this point on, the NOAA’s public affairs office will have ultimate authority over all agency communications with Congress. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 45 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Maureen Wylie

Category Tags: Politicization, Communications with Congress

Columbia University’s Earth Institute issues a press release announcing the publication of a study in Science Express which found that the earth is absorbing more energy from the sun than it is releasing back into space. As a result, the authors conclude, the planet’s energy is “out of balance.” The lead author of the study was NASA scientist James E. Hansen. The Earth Institute press release refers readers to the NASA website for more information and images that it says will be posted after 2:00 p.m. However, NASA’s press release is not issued until the following day (though it bears the April 28 dateline). The text of the NASA release is almost identical to that of the Earth Institute, with the exception of apparent language changes that have the effect of downplaying the significance of Hansen’s conclusions. [Earth Institute, 4/28/2005; NASA, 4/28/2005; Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 35-36 pdf file]

Entity Tags: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases

An investigation by Mother Jones magazine identifies 44 organizations funded by ExxonMobil that are involved in, or associated with, efforts to discredit the scientific consensus view on global warming. Many of these organizations have been on the oil giant’s payroll since 1998 (see Between 1998 and 2005). The magazine’s investigation finds that the oil company has contributed a total of $8,678,450 to these organizations since 2000 with the single largest donation being given to the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). That organization received $1,380,000, or 16 percent of the total funds donated by Exxon. CEI, along with another Exxon-support enterprise, the Cooler Heads Coalition, runs the website GlobalWarming.Org, which is part of an effort to “dispel the myths of global warming by exposing flawed economic, scientific, and risk analysis.” Another large recipient of Exxon’s funds is the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), which has received $960,000 from the company. AEI, known for its neoconservatism, has played host to a number of global warming skeptics. [Mother Jones, 5/2005; Mother Jones, 5/2005]

Entity Tags: ExxonMobil, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Mother Jones

Category Tags: Industry, Presentation of science

Dr. Harlan L. Watson, the State Department’s chief climate negotiator, tells BBC Radio, “We are still not convinced of the need to move forward quite so quickly. There is general agreement that there is a lot known, but also there is a lot to be known.” [Reuters, 5/16/2005; New York Times, 6/8/2005]

Entity Tags: Harlan L. Watson

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Politicization

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

Category Tags: Politicization

Rick S. Piltz, who resigned as a senior associate in the US Climate Change Science Program on March 11, sends a memorandum to dozens of top officials explaining his resignation. In the memo, he says that the politicized editing of scientific reports and other interferences by appointees were undermining the government’s effort to determine the causes and effects of global warming. “Each administration has a policy position on climate change,” he writes. “But I have not seen a situation like the one that has developed under this administration during the past four years, in which politicization by the White House has fed back directly into the science program in such a way as to undermine the credibility and integrity of the program.” [New York Times, 6/8/2005; Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 46 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Rick S. Piltz

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Politicization, Whistleblowers

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, responding to a reporter’s question, says, “The National Academies of Science came out with a report in 2001 (see June 2001) that was requested by the President; it took a look at science of climate change, and in that very report it talked about how there are considerable uncertainties.” [White House, 6/8/2005]

Entity Tags: Scott McClellan

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Politicization, Presentation of science

NOAA public affairs officer Kent Laborde writes in an email to senior public affairs staff that “CEQ [Council on Environmental Quality] and OSTP [Office of Science and Technology Policy] have given the green light for the interview with Ram [Venkatachalam Ramaswamy, a senior climate scientist]. They had me call Juliet [Eilperin, Washington Post reporter who requested the interview] to find out more specifics. She will be asking the following: what research are you doing with climate change; what research has been encouraged or discouraged by the administration; what interaction has he had with the administration; [and] does he have free reign to conduct the research her [sic] wants to do? I told Juliette [sic] that he feels comfortable to comment only on science and does not want to loose [sic] his scientific objectivity by addressing policy/potitical [sic] questions. She said since he is not a policy maker, she wouldn’t ask policy questions. Michele [St. Martin of CEQ] wants me to monitor the call and report back to her when it’s done…” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 16 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Juliet Eilperin, Council on Environmental Quality, Kent Laborde, Michele St. Martin, Venkatachalam Ramaswamy, Office of Science and Technology Policy

Category Tags: Politicization, Media contact with scientists

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

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases, Hurricane intensity

Erica Rule, a public affairs officer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), sends an email to a number of the agency’s scientists reminding them that all media requests for interviews must be authorized by the public affairs office. An article by MIT climatologist Kerry Emanuel linking global warming to hurricane intensity will soon be published in Nature (see August 1, 2005), and the NOAA anticipates that journalists will be seeking NOAA scientists for comments. Rule writes in her email, “A study on hurricanes and global warming by Emanuel Kerry [sic] will be released in Nature this Sunday. As this topic might generate media inquiries—consider this e-mail a reminder that ALL media requests are to be directed to NOAA Public Affairs.” [Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 31 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Erica Rule

Category Tags: Politicization, Media contact with scientists, Hurricane intensity

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

Category Tags: Politicization, Media contact with scientists, Hurricane intensity

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