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Global Warming

Politicization

Project: Climate Change and Global Warming
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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 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

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 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 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas Knutson receives a voicemail from NOAA public affairs officer Kent Laborde asking him if he would be interested in appearing on an MSNBC talk show to discuss hurricanes and climate change. The journal Nature has just published an article (see August 1, 2005) linking rising sea temperatures to hurricane intensity and MSNBC wants to interview Knutson who has published research on that topic (see September 28, 2004). Knutson decides to contact the show directly, since it is a weekend and Laborde is probably not at the office. He agrees to appear on the show and asks that MSNBC contact Laborde Monday morning. But on Monday morning, Laborde tells Knutson that the White House objects to the appearance. “White House said ‘no,’” he explains. Laborde adds that he has already called MSNBC to cancel his appearance. He told the show that Knutson was too tired for the interview because of a trip he had taken over the weekend. [Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 30 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Chris Landsea, Kent Laborde, Thomas Knutson

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

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

Entity Tags: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Thomas Knutson

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

After Thomas Karl, director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), receives an interview request on the topic of “intense rainfall events/intense hurricanes and global warming,” he is instructed by NOAA public affairs officer John Leslie to have the journalist speak with him first. Leslie tells Karl in an email, “Please have [the journalist] contact me by phone [redacted] or email. I’ll run this by those who need to know.” The email is also sent to Kent Laborde, another NOAA public affairs officer. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 30 pdf file]

Entity Tags: John Leslie, Kent Laborde, Thomas Karl

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

NOAA public affairs officer Jana Goldman works with agency scientists on a press release about a forthcoming paper co-authored by Richard Feely, an NOAA scientist employed at the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. The paper, to be published in the journal Nature, presents evidence that increased carbon dioxide levels are increasing the acidity of oceans and lowering the level of calcium carbonate saturation. Lower levels of calcium carbonate pose a threat to marine organisms, such as corals and some plankton, which need the compound to maintain their calcium carbonate exoskeletons. A colleague of Feely, Pieter Tans, says of the paper: “The association of ocean acidification with high atmospheric CO2 is about as solid as it gets.” But the press release, which would have coincided with the publishing of the study, is blocked by “higher-ups.” Tans tells the Government Accountability Project, “It appeared that NOAA didn’t want to be associated with it, even though they had reason to be proud of a good paper.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 32 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Jana Goldman, Richard Feely, Pieter Tans

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases

David Hofmann, a lab director at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), asks scientists who will be attending the Seventh International Carbon Dioxide Conference in Boulder not to use the term “climate change” in conference papers’ titles and abstracts. According to Pieter Tans, one of the participants, he and the other scientists ignore the request. [Washington Post, 4/6/2006]

Entity Tags: Pieter Tans, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Politicization, Political pressure on staff

National Weather Service (NWS) Regional Public Affairs Director Jim Teet sends an email to employees of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) informing them that all requests for contact from the national media must “now receive prior approval by” the Commerce Department. According to the memo, when a media request is made, employees must obtain the “name of the reporter and their affiliation; [t]heir deadline and contact phone number; [n]ame of individual being requested for the interview and purpose of the interview; [a]dditional background about the interview subject, and expertise of requested interviewee on this subject,” and then provide this information to the NWS press office. From there, the request shall be forwarded to the Commerce Department’s public relations office, whose staff will then decide how to handle the media request. According to an unnamed NOAA employee, “prior to this policy change, if a media organization called our office (or any other National Weather Service office) and wanted an interview, we would do our best to accommodate the request as quickly as possible. While often such requests are from local media, local offices do get requests from national media if a weather event is big enough to be a national story.” But NOAA Public Affairs Director Jordan St. John insists that “the policy has been in existence all along,” and that he had rewritten it in June 2004 (see June 28, 2004) with lawyers and Commerce Department policymakers. But NOAA employees tell the Raw Story that they had never been informed of these restrictions before, and some suggest that the timing of Teet’s email may be related to the political impact of hurricane Katrina. According to Raw Story, there is a substantial difference between the June 2004 policy and the one emailed by Teet. “[T]he emailed policy states that routine contact with national media outlets has to be pre-cleared with the Commerce Department, requiring extensive information about the journalist and media outlet [while] [t]he media policy St. John provided does not stipulate such restrictions on interacting with national media. Nor does it state that the Commerce Department must approve media requests,” Raw Story reports. [Raw Story, 10/4/2005; New Republic, 2/11/2006; Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 31 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Jordan St. John, National Weather Service, Jim Teet

Category Tags: Politicization, Media contact with scientists

NOAA officials push to alter the language of a paper NOAA research scientist Pieter Tans will be presenting at the Seventh International Carbon Dioxide Conference in Boulder, Colorado. In his draft abstract, Tans explains how his research suggests that carbon dioxide plays the role of a “forcing agent” in climate change. “CO2 is now generally recognized to be the main driver of climate change,” the draft reads. But people in the public affairs office, or their superiors, edit the abstract down. They also attempt to purge Tans’ presentation of the term “climate change” (see also Late September 2005). [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 68-69 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Pieter Tans, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Category Tags: Politicization, Political pressure on staff

Journalist Brian O’Malley contacts NOAA climate scientist Thomas Knutson to request an interview for an op-ed piece he is working on that will be published in the New York Times. Knutson forwards the request to NOAA public affairs officer Jana Goldman, who then checks with NOAA Public Affairs Director Jordan St. John. In her email to St. John, she concludes, “Knutson and I are concerned that Knutson’s science may be used to advance a policy position.” St. John responds, “Can you call [redacted] back and quiz him on what he’s working on. If it sounds a bit untowards, you can always just refer him to Tom’s paper and let me [sic] make his own characterizations.” Goldman replies, “Just spoke to him—he just wants to better understand the science—he is not looking to link an individual with a point of view.” St. John tells her to reject the request. “Take a pass,” he says. “We’ll deal with media requests but let’s not open the door to others.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 21 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Jana Goldman, Thomas Knutson, Jordan St. John

Category Tags: Politicization, Media contact with scientists

Talking points distributed by the NOAA public affairs office to the Climate Program Office and the State Department include a statement asserting, “NOAA supports the view that there is no verifiable link between observed climate change and the intensity and frequency of the most recent Atlantic hurricane season.” An unnamed source later interviewed by the Government Accountability Project, says, with regard to the talking points, “I remember that this was about the time NOAA HQ stopped asking for input from our scientists on the topic and the answers seemed to be coming from mysterious sources.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 43 pdf file]

Entity Tags: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Category Tags: Politicization, Hurricane intensity

Robert Atlas, director of Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML), issues a laboratory-wide email instructing staff to review the NOAA media policy that had been issued in June 2004 (see June 28, 2004). Atlas writes that “one important change from the current AOML policy is that Commerce Public Affairs has asked to be made aware of all media interview requests—especially those pertaining to Katrina and Rita.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 16 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Robert Atlas

Category Tags: Politicization, Media contact with scientists

The NOAA implements a new policy requiring that “information and materials” and “meetings or phone calls with congressional representatives or staff and presentations where congressional staff have been invited or can reasonably be expected to attend must be cleared through OAR [Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research] headquarters and sent up through the NOAA Office of Legislative Affairs.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 45 pdf file]

Entity Tags: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Category Tags: Politicization, Communications with Congress

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

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

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, US Environmental Record

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

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

Entity Tags: Chuck Fuqua, Chris Landsea

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

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

Chuck Fuqua, deputy director of communications at the Department of Commerce, rejects a request for an interview with climate scientist Chris Landsea. The request is from an Orlando Sentinel reporter who wants to discuss the issue of “why so many Cat..5s/global warming?” Explaining his decision, Fuqua writes, “I’d prefer that we not do this while dealing with a hurricane coming at us.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 69 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Chuck Fuqua, Chris Landsea

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

A reporter with National Geographic magazine contacts Ronald Stouffer, senior research meteorologist at the NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, and asks him to comment on a study on melting Arctic sea ice. Stouffer tells the reporter that he needs to obtain permission from the public affairs office before he can respond. Stouffer sends the request to public affairs officer Jana Goldman, who writes in response, “I know the DoC [Department of Commerce] is going to ask—well, what is his position…. So can you give me an idea of how you might respond?” The public affairs office does not make a decision on the interview request until after the reporter’s deadline. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 17 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Ronald Stouffer, Jana Goldman

Category Tags: Politicization, Media contact with scientists

A Department of the Interior public affairs officer removes keywords like “global warming,” “warming climate,” and “climate change” from the text of a press release dealing with the impact of climate change on water supplies. The press release was drafted by USGS hydrologist Christopher Milly. [Washington Post, 4/6/2006; Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 33 pdf file Sources: Christopher Milly]

Entity Tags: US Department of Interior, Christopher Milly

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases

NOAA public affairs officer Carmeyia Gillis mentions in an email to colleagues Kent Laborde, Jana Goldman, and John Leslie that media inquiries submitted to the Climate Prediction Center concerning climate change should first be cleared by senior political administrators James R. Mahoney or Ahsha Tribble. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 17 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Carmeyia Gillis, Ahsha Tribble, James R. Mahoney, Jana Goldman, Kent Laborde, John Leslie

Category Tags: Politicization, Media contact with scientists

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

Entity Tags: Tom Delworth, Jordan St. John

Category Tags: Politicization, Media contact with scientists

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

Entity Tags: Kerry Emanuel, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Politicization, Hurricane intensity

NOAA Public Affairs Director Jordan St. John says in an email that he has rejected a request for an NOAA scientist to participate in a debate. “I talked to producer [sic],” St. John says. “They are setting this up to a debate on whether there is global warming. I told John to call her back and say thanks, but not [sic] thanks.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 17 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Jordan St. John

Category Tags: Politicization, Media contact with scientists

NASA quietly terminates the Deep Space Climate Observatory, a program that would have provided scientists with a way to continuously monitor Earth’s energy balance. According to Robert L. Park, a professor of physics at the University of Maryland, data obtained by the observatory would have helped scientists develop a better understanding of global warming. The observatory, named Triana, was the brainchild of former Vice President Al Gore. Its launch, scheduled for 2001, was put on hold by the Bush administration, which ridiculed the project as “Gore’s screen saver.” Gore had suggested that the program could stream video footage of the earth into classrooms so students could watch the earth’s weather systems live from space. NASA says it decided to terminate the project because of “competing priorities.” Launching the satellite would have cost only $100 million. [New York Times, 1/15/2006] In 2004, President Bush announced that one of his administration’s space priorities would be to begin a program that would send manned space flights to the moon by 2020, and eventually to Mars. (see January 11, 2004)

Entity Tags: Robert L. Park, Deep Space Climate Observatory, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Policies, Politicization

David Hofmann, a lab director at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, informs research scientist Pieter Tans that anything having to do with climate change has to be cleared by the White House, including his laboratory’s website content. The deputy director will also inform Tans of this policy. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 69 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Pieter Tans, David Hofmann

Category Tags: Politicization, Political pressure on staff, Public outreach

Dr. James Hansen, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a top climate scientist, reveals that the Bush administration ordered NASA’s public affairs staff to review his lectures, papers, Web site postings, and interview requests after he gave a lecture calling for the reduction of greenhouse gases linked to global warming. “They feel their job is to be the censor of information going out to the public,” Hansen says, and he promises to ignore the restrictions. NASA denies trying to silence Hansen, saying the restrictions apply to all NASA officials, and adds that it is inappropriate for government scientists to make policy statements (see Between June 2003 and October 2003, (January 2006), and (Late January 2006)). [Savage, 2007, pp. 106] This is not the first time Hansen has gone public about government attempts to censor and muzzle him and his fellows (see October 2004, October 26, 2004, and February 10, 2006).

Entity Tags: Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Bush administration (43), National Aeronautics and Space Administration, James E. Hansen

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Domestic Propaganda

Category Tags: Policies, Politicization, Whistleblowers, Political pressure on staff

A National Public Radio producer calls NASA to request an interview with climate scientist James Hansen. The call is taken by George C. Deutsch, a recently appointed public affairs officer. Deutsch rejects the request reportedly telling the producer that NPR is “the most liberal” media outlet in the US and that his job is “to make the president look good.” Deutsch denies making the remarks. [New York Times, 1/29/2006] Deutch, 24, was appointed to NASA’s public affairs office in Washington in 2005 after working on the president’s re-election campaign and inaugural committee. He will be fired from him job on February 8 after it emerges that his resume on file wrongly states that he had graduated from Texas A&M University in 2003. [New York Times, 2/8/2006]

Entity Tags: James E. Hansen, George C. Deutsch

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Politicization, Media contact with scientists

NASA officials attempt to discourage Washington Post reporter Juliet Eilperin from interviewing James E. Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, for an article she is doing about global warming. The officials say that Hansen can only speak on the record “if an agency spokeswoman listen[s] in on the conversation,” Eilperin reports. [Washington Post, 1/29/2006]

Entity Tags: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, James E. Hansen, Juliet Eilperin

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Politicization, Media contact with scientists

Flowchart showing NOAA’s review process for press releasesFlowchart showing NOAA’s review process for press releases [Source: Government Accountability Project] (click image to enlarge)A February 2006 NOAA document features a flowchart outlining the review process that news releases must go through before they are published. According to the flowchart, the press release is submitted and reviewed by several layers of bureaucracy within the NOAA and the Department of Commerce. As a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists will note, “a successful press release must pass review by several entities that primarily serve political and public relations functions, and scientists do not have a right of final review to ensure scientific accuracy of the final product.” [Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 32 pdf file] In April 2006, Ronald Stouffer, a senior NOAA research meteorologist, will say he “stopped trying to get press releases out” because of the difficulty of explaining the science to the agency’s public affairs officers and because of the complexity of the approval process. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 28 pdf file]

Entity Tags: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases

David Shukman, a science correspondent with the BBC, requests another interview with Pieter Tans, a research scientist at the NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory (see October 2004-March 24, 2005 for the first interview). The request is granted only on the condition that NOAA press officer Kent Laborde is present during the interview. Laborde has to fly out to the interview location from Washington, DC. When Tans asks Laborde if he is required to report on the interview, Laborde says no. The Government Accountability Project will later interview Tans about the experience and report, “Tans found it unusual that NOAA public affairs would allow such extensive travel, at taxpayer expense, simply to listen in on a media interview and not report on the proceedings.” [Washington Post, 4/6/2006; 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

James E. Hansen, speaking before an audience at the New School university in New York, says that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) wants to implement a new rule requiring that minders be present for any media interviews with its scientists. “It seems more like Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union than the United States,” he says. Hansen caused a stir in late January when he accused Bush administration officials of suppressing information on global warming and placing restrictions on his communications with the media (see After December 6, 2005). The officials were upset about a speech he had given on December 6, in which he said that commitments to short term profits were taking precedence over curbing greenhouse gases. He repeats this statement in his remarks during the panel discussion at New School. [New School, 2/10/2006 pdf file; Washington Post, 2/11/2006] In his presentation, Hansen also says that the administration is misleading the public about the potential links between global warming and hurricane intensity. He makes the charge that the “public, by fiat, received biased information” when “the NOAA took an official position that global warming was not the cause of hurricane intensification” (see November 29, 2005- December 2005). [New School, 2/10/2006 pdf file]

Entity Tags: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, James E. Hansen

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

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

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

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

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

Jerry Mahlman, a retired NOAA scientist who is writing a book on the history of the NOAA, visits the agency’s David Skaggs Research Center. He later recalls that upon arriving at the lab he was “mobbed” by scientists wanting to discuss the “censorship.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 18 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Jerry Mahlman

Category Tags: Politicization, Political pressure on staff

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

Entity Tags: Tom Delworth

Category Tags: Politicization, Media contact with scientists

Joellen Russell, a former GFDL research scientist who is now an assistant professor of geosciences at the University of Arizona, sends an email to NOAA public affairs officer Jana Goldman explaining why the NOAA should issue a press release on a paper he lead authored. Many of the coauthors are NOAA scientists. He writes: “Ron Stouffer asked me to contact you. He told me that you and Maria had discussed the following paper, ‘The Southern Hemisphere Westerlies in a Warming World: Propping the Door to the Deep Ocean.’ I am the lead author of this paper that describes the critical role of the Southern Ocean in the global climate response to increasing greenhouse gases. I have a number of GFDL [Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory] co-authors (Ronald Stouffer, Keith Dixon, Robbie Toggweiler, and Anand Gnanadesikan) and our study uses the latest GFDL coupled climate models to quantify the large and growing influence of the Southern Ocean on climate. Therefore, we think this paper is worthy of a press release.” But the request is denied. Goldman explains, “The lead author’s organization/agency usually takes the lead in issuing releases.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 30-31 pdf file] In October, the NOAA will issue a press release on a study whose lead author is not a US government scientist. In that study, the conclusion is that hurricane activity is suppressed by dust clouds and that periods of intense hurricane activity seem to have taken place when there were fewer dust storms. (The implication being that dust storm scarcity, not global warming, may have caused the recent increase in hurricane activity) (see October 13, 2006).

Entity Tags: Jana Goldman, Joellen Russell

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases

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

Entity Tags: Ronald Stouffer

Category Tags: Politicization, Media contact with scientists

Screenshot of draft documentScreenshot of draft document [Source: Government Accountability Project] (click image to enlarge)In response to a number of questions for the record (QFRs) submitted by senators Daniel Inouye (D-HI) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) regarding an April 26, 2006 testimony on projected and past effects of climate change, scientists at NOAA submit a document of draft responses to an NOAA legislative affairs specialist for review. The document is ultimately reviewed by individuals at the EPA, Energy Department, White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, who suggest a number of changes. For example, the OMB suggests keeping the sentence, “The full range and magnitude of the biological and biogeochemical effects of ocean acidification are still so uncertain that a reliable and quantitative estimate of the likely socio-economic effects is not yet possible,” but removing the sentence immediately following that: “However, healthy coral reef ecosystems are important to both the fisheries and tourism industries and negative impacts on these ecosystems could affect these industries.” According to the OMB, “[a]s written this seems to conflict with the factual first sentence of the paragraph, which adequately answers the question.” In another instance, the OMB recommends adding a sentence that attributes global warming to increasing water vapor, drawing from a quote taken out of context from an article written by scientists Thomas Karl and Kevin Trenberth. When NOAA scientist James Butler attempts to explain that the edit is not scientifically valid, the OMB insists on keeping the change. Finally, Karl himself enters the fray, recommending a change that the OMB accepts. The Government Accountability Project, which will obtain the draft document that shows the changes, comments, “These two examples show that, while federal climate scientists are occasionally able to correct distortions to scientific findings in congressional communication, political appointees can still introduce inaccurate information that goes unchecked.” [Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 37, 80 pdf file; Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 44-46 pdf file]

Entity Tags: US Department of Energy, Thomas Karl, Office of Science and Technology Policy, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, James Butler, Daniel Inouye, Office of Management and Budget, Frank R. Lautenberg

Category Tags: Politicization, Communications with Congress

A panel consisting of seven climate scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have completed a consensus report on the views of agency scientists concluding that global warming may have an impact on the intensity of hurricanes. The report is due to be released this month. But in an email sent to the panel’s chair, Ants Leetmaa, a Department of Commerce official says the report will not be released and needs to be modified so it is less technical. When this is reported in the journal Nature in September, the NOAA will deny that the report was blocked, insisting that the publication in question was just a two-page fact sheet about the issue. The agency says there were two reasons it wasn’t released: one, it wasn’t completed before the beginning of the annual hurricane season, and two, the agency cannot take an official position on a field of science that is changing so quickly. However Leetmaa notes that the draft did not take an official position of any kind; rather it just referred to the “current state of the science” [Associated Press, 9/27/2006; Giles, 9/28/2006]

Entity Tags: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Hurricane intensity, Politicization, Government reports

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