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Dr. Marvin Goldberger. [Source: Teises Institutas]One consequence of the Pentagon Papers’ publication (see March 1971) is a heavy social and academic backlash against scientists on the Jason Project. The “Jasons,” as they are sometimes called, are mostly physicists and other “hard” scientists from various universities who have worked as ad hoc consultants to the Pentagon since the Soviets launched their Sputnik satellite in October 1958. Though most of the Jasons are strongly opposed to the Vietnam War, and the Pentagon documents tell of the Jasons’ ideas for “a real alternative to further escalation of the ineffective air war against North Vietnam,” the public focuses on the Jasons’ association with the government’s war effort. After the Papers’ publication, Mildred Goldberger, wife of scientist Marvin Goldberger, recalls that the Jasons’ “name was mud.” Jack Ruina, the head of the Pentagon’s Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA), which often worked with some of the Jasons, says that the Jasons became “the devil” in many eyes. Some of the scientists are publicly labeled “war criminals” and “baby killers,” some have their offices burgled and their homes vandalized, and many face serious questions about their motives and commitment to pure, objective science. Some of the scientists repudiate the Jasons’ work on behalf of the war effort; longtime member Goldberger tells one group of demonstrators, “Jason made a terrible mistake. They should have told [former Defense Secretary Robert] McNamara to go to hell and not have become involved at all.” Others refuse to discuss Vietnam and their work with the Jason Project in their seminars and classes; one, Murray Gell-Mann, is forcibly removed from a Paris university lecture hall after refusing to defend his work with the Jasons to his audience. Physicist Charles Towne accuses the universities of curtailing the Jasons’ freedom of speech. Some of the scientists are falsely accused of helping produce plastic fragmentation bombs and laser-guided shells; some of them are compared to the Nazi scientists who developed nerve gas for use in the concentration camps. A November 1974 article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists will sum up the debate: “The scientists became, to some extent, prisoners of the group they joined…. At what point should they have quit?” The decisions they faced were, the article will assert, “delicate and difficult.” [Finkbeiner, 2006, pp. 102-113]
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 ]
President George Bush appoints Philip A. Cooney as the chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, which helps create and promote administration policies on environmental issues. In that position, he also serves as the Bush’s “climate team leader.” Cooney, a lawyer with a bachelor’s degree in economics, was formerly a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute. He has no background in science. [New York Times, 6/8/2005]
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 ]
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 ]
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 ]
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 ; Mother Jones, 5/2005]
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 ]
The National Research Council issues a report on global climate change that was commissioned by the White House. The opening paragraph of the document reads: “Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth’s atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise. Temperatures are, in fact, rising. The changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities, but we cannot rule out that some significant part of these changes is also a reflection of natural variability. Human-induced warming and associated sea level rises are expected to continue through the 21st century. Secondary effects are suggested by computer model simulations and basic physical reasoning. These include increases in rainfall rates and increased susceptibility of semi-arid regions to drought. The impacts of these changes will be critically dependent on the magnitude of the warming and the rate with which it occurs.” [Committee on the Science of Climate Change, National Research Council, 2001; CBS News, 6/19/2003; Boston Globe, 6/20/2003]
A study conducted by the General Accounting Office (GAO) finds that the scientists and experts who sit on the Science Advisory Board panels which advise the EPA often have ties to the affected industries or other conflicts of interest. The study, requested by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (Calif.), says that EPA officials regularly fail to identify potential conflicts of interest when panel members are chosen and do not adequately disclose the existence of such conflicts to the public. Though it is prohibited for a federal employee to participate in any “particular matter” that could affect their financial interests, there is an exemption that permits special government employees to serve on advisory panels when the topic being studied directly affects the financial interests of their employer—as long as the employer is not “singularly affected.” [Washington Post, 7/16/2001]
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 ]
The jet fuel that spilled from Flight 11 when it hit the North Tower (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) has mostly burned up by this time. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which investigates the collapses, will say “The initial jet fuel fires themselves lasted at most a few minutes.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 183] Engineering professor Forman Williams will say the jet fuel “burned for maybe 10 minutes.” [Popular Mechanics, 3/2005] Flight 11, a Boeing 767, had a fuel capacity of 23,980 gallons, but was only carrying about 10,000 gallons when it hit the WTC. NIST will estimate that less than 1,500 gallons were consumed in a fireball inside the tower and a comparable amount was consumed in the fireballs outside the building. Therefore, approximately 7,000 gallons splashed onto the office furnishings and started fires on various floors. However, after the jet fuel is used up, office fires burn until the building collapses. NIST will calculate that there were about four pounds per square foot of combustibles in the office space, or about 60 tons per floor. Offices in the WTC actually have fewer combustibles than some other similar spaces due to the small number of interior walls and limited bookshelf space. NIST will later find that only three of sixteen perimeter columns it recovers reached a temperature of 250°C and neither of the two core columns it retrieves reached this temperature. NIST will also find that none of the samples it acquires reaches a temperature above 600°C (see August 27, 2003). Although steel does not melt until its temperature is about 1,600°C, it may begin to lose significant strength at over 500°C. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 20, 29, 24, 77] The jet fuel will also burn up in the South Tower about 10 minutes after it is hit (see 9:13 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Security is extremely poor at USAMRIID, the Fort Detrick, Maryland, laboratory linked to the 2001 anthrax attacks, as well as other bio-weapons facilities, in the years prior to the anthrax attacks. The security flaws are documented in two reports that will be completed in 2002. One report will be produced by Sandia National Laboratories, which focused on USAMRIID, and the other by the US Army Inspector General’s office, which examined security at Fort Detrick, as well as other locations, including Battelle Memorial Institute. The existence of these reports will first be disclosed in a joint news report by McClatchy Newspapers, ProPublica, and PBS’s Frontline. According to the McClatchy/ProPublica/PBS article, the reports “describe a haphazard system in which personnel lists included dozens of former employees, where new hires were allowed to work with deadly germs before background checks were done, and where stocks of anthrax and other pathogens weren’t adequately controlled.” Additionally, “The existing security procedures… were so lax they would have allowed any researcher, aide, or temporary worker to walk out of the Army bio-weapons lab at Fort Detrick, Md., with a few drops of anthrax.” The FBI will later claim to have identified, and eliminated as suspects, 419 people at Fort Detrick and other locations who either had access to the lab where Bruce Ivins worked, or who had received samples from anthrax flask RMR-1029. The FBI and Justice Department will claim that RMR-1029 was the source of the anthrax used in the attacks, and that Ivins was the sole perpetrator of the attacks (see August 6, 2008). Both of these claims will be called into question (see August 1-10, 2008, August 3-18, 2008, August 5, 2008, August 9, 2008, April 22, 2010, and February 15, 2011). [Propublica, 10/24/2011]
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 ] 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.
The State Department meets with industry lobbyists who are “unhappy” about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and its current chairman, Robert T. Watson. The following day, the New York Times reports that the US will not support Waston’s nomination, but instead will back Rajendra K. Pachauri, an Indian economist and engineer who is currently one of the panel’s five vice chairmen. [New York Times, 4/3/2002] The decision to nominate Pachauri is made despite letters from numerous influential climate experts who have written to the department in support of Watson, including one by Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone, an atmospheric scientist who is chancellor of the University of California, Irvine, and chairman of a National Academy of Sciences panel that reviewed the IPCC’s climate analyses for the White House. Cicerone wrote in an e-mail to the State Department that the administration should support Watson, or at least another atmospheric scientist.
Otherwise, “such a change would greatly reduce the emphasis on science in IPCC,” he said. It would be “very, very difficult to find anyone better than Watson.” Industry on the other hand has complained that Watson’s views are biased and that he uses his position to advance his personal anti -coal and -oil agenda. [New York Times, 4/2/2002] In February, an ExxonMobil lobbyist had written to the White House suggesting that Watson not be reelected as chairman (see February 6, 2001).
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).
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 ]
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 ]
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 ]
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]
One of the key variables in the computer simulations used by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) (see (October 2002-October 2005)) to explain the WTC collapses is the speed of the aircraft that hit the towers. However, there is no consensus on how fast the planes were traveling. The first estimate was contained in an initial research paper by engineers Zdenek Bazant and Yong Zhou, who stated that the planes were traveling at 342 miles per hour. [Bazant and Zhou, 1/2002 ] However, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) report said that the plane that hit the North Tower was traveling at 470 miles per hour, whereas the plane that hit the South Tower was traveling at 590 miles per hour (see May 1, 2002). [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 31] NIST initially estimates speeds of 435 miles per hour for the plane that hit the North Tower and 497 miles per hour for the plane that hit the South Tower. These estimates closely match figures produced by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which finds speeds of 429 miles per hour and 503 miles per hour for the two planes. However, NIST is dissatisfied with these results and does a second study, which finds speeds of 466 and 545 miles per hour. It then uses speeds of 472 and 570 miles per hour in its severe case model, on which its final report is based. In this model, the simulation of the planes traveling faster means greater damage to the towers’ structure, making them more unstable. [Kausel, 5/2002 ; National Institute of Standards & Technology, 9/2005, pp. 152-165 ; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109]
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 ] (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.)
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 ]
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 ]
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]
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 ; New York Times, 10/26/2004]
The Bush administration announces its 10-year “Climate Change Science Program Strategic Plan” which it says is aimed at reducing the “uncertainties” associated with the issue of global warming. Its goals include identifying “natural variability” in climate change; improving climate forecasting; improving methods for determining the risks of global warming; improving methods of measuring the effects of greenhouse gases; and obtaining a better understanding of the impact global warming might have on humans, wildlife, and plant communities. The task will be a collaborative effort shared among 13 different federal agencies that have been charged with producing no fewer than 21 reports over the next four years. Critics of the plan say it is an attempt to prevent anything meaningful from being done to address the human causes of global warming. They note that scientists and governments from more than 150 countries have already reached a consensus on the issue—that global warming is happening, that human activity is the dominant force behind it, and that action needs to be taken immediately, before it is too late. “We can’t wait until we have perfect knowledge on climate change,” says Michael MacCracken, an atmospheric scientist who led US efforts to determine the potential effects of global warming from 1993 to 2001. McCracken mocks the Bush administration’s presumed respect for certainty, noting that it “appears to have no uncertainty about the safety of genetically modified foods,” a technology that many experts have raised concerns about. [Associated Press, 7/23/2003; Inter Press Service, 7/25/2005]
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 ]
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 ]
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]
NASA announces in an email sent to the agency’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and possibly other science centers as well, that “there is a new review process.… The White House [is] now reviewing all climate related press releases.” [CBS News, 3/19/2006]
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 ]
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]
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 ]
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 ]
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 ]
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 ]
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 ; Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 10 ] The media policy will become more restrictive after Hurricane Katrina (see September 29, 2005).
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 ]
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 Sources: Drew Shindell]
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 ]
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 ]
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 ]
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]
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 ]
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]
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]
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 ]
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 ]
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]
Philip A. Cooney, chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, resigns. Two days earlier, the New York Times revealed he had edited reports downplaying the link between greenhouse gases and global warming. According to White House deputy spokeswoman Dana Perino, his departure is unrelated to the recent disclosure. “Phil Cooney did a great job,” she says, “and we appreciate his public service and the work that he did, and we wish him well in the private sector.” Four days later, ExxonMobil announces that Cooney will be working for the company in the fall. [New York Times, 6/15/2005]
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 ]
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 ]
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 ]
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 ]
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 ]
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 ] By August 1, Landsea will have participated in four such “routine, but sensitive” interviews. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 12 ]
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 ]
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 ]
Both towers of the World Trade Center tilted to one side before beginning to fall on 9/11 (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). The National Institute of Standards and Technology, which investigated the collapses (see August 21, 2002), states that the South Tower, which was hit on its south side, tilted about 7-8 degrees to the east and 3-4 degrees to the south, and the North Tower, which was hit on its north side, tilted about 8 degrees to the south, before starting to fall. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 300, 308 ] However, these findings are criticized by Canadian scientist Frank Greening. After examining photo and video evidence, Greening says that the South Tower tilted by no more than two degrees and the North Tower by no more than three degrees before collapse initiation. Greening also says that the tilt angles NIST gives cannot correspond to the downward movement of the towers’ walls NIST claims before they started to fall, and points out that the tilt angles NIST uses are inconsistent throughout its reports. Though Greening agrees with NIST that the towers were destroyed by the plane impacts and fire damage, he concludes that its computer model is “highly inaccurate and therefore of no value in explaining the demise of the Twin Towers.” [Greening, 11/2005 ] Greening is a leading figure in the post-9/11 dispute over why the WTC collapsed and publishes a series of papers dealing with various aspects of the Twin Towers’ collapse. For example, a CBC documentary uses Greening for analysis of the WTC’s fall. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 8/25/2005]
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]
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 ]
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 ]
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 ]
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 ]
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 ]
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 ]
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 ]
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) releases a 12-page appendix to its final reports on the WTC collapses (see October 26, 2005) detailing tests it conducted on samples of the type of fireproofing used in the WTC. An earlier NIST report had concluded that loss of fireproofing was a major factor in the collapses (see April 5, 2005). The appendix was not included in earlier drafts of the report (see June 23, 2005) [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 6/23/2005 ; National Institute of Standards & Technology, 9/2005, pp. 263-274 ; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 149] NIST conducted a series of fifteen tests. In the tests projectiles were fired at fireproofing mounted on 12 inch x 12 inch plates, and steel bars with a one inch diameter. The fireproofing used in the tests was Blazeshield DC/F, one of the two grades of fireproofing used on the impact floors. In thirteen of the tests the projectiles were buckshot, which was fired at the steel samples from a modified shotgun at a distance of 29.5 ft. The other two tests used steel bolts and hexagon nuts, fired with less velocity and at closer range. According to NIST, “The test results support the assumption that, within the debris field created by the aircraft impact into WTC 1 and WTC 2, the SFRM [i.e., fireproofing] used for thermal insulation of structural members was damaged and dislodged.” [National Institute of Standards & Technology, 9/2005, pp. 83, 263-274 ]
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 ]
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 ]
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 ]
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 ]
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)
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 ]
Flowchart 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 ] 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 ]
NASA quietly changes its mission statement, from, “To understand and protect our home planet; to explore the universe and search for life; to inspire the next generation of explorers… as only NASA can,” to, “To pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery, and aeronautics research.” NASA spokesman David E. Steitz says the change reflects President Bush’s goal of pursuing human spaceflight to the Moon and Mars (see January 11, 2004). Some NASA scientists are angered by the change, which was implemented without consulting the agency’s 19,000 employees or giving them advance notice. According to NASA scientists, the phrase “understand and protect” played an important role in determining the agency’s research priorities. “Without it, these scientists say, there will be far less incentive to pursue projects to improve understanding of terrestrial problems like climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions,” the New York Times reports. Philip B. Russell, a 25-year NASA veteran who is an atmospheric chemist at the Ames Research Center, says, “We refer to the mission statement in all our research proposals that go out for peer review, whenever we have strategy meetings. As civil servants, we’re paid to carry out NASA’s mission. When there was that very easy-to-understand statement that our job is to protect the planet, that made it much easier to justify this kind of work.” [New York Times, 7/22/2006]
The Bush administration’s budget request for fiscal year 2007 proposes an 80 percent cut to the EPA’s library budget. The White House wants to trim it down from $2.5 million to half a million dollars. To meet this lean budget, the EPA intends to eliminate its electronic catalog, which tracks some 50,000 documents and studies that are available nowhere else, and shut down its headquarters library and several of its regional libraries. The EPA manages a network of 28 libraries from its Washington headquarters and has 10 regional offices nationwide. The libraries are used primarily by EPA scientists, regulators, and attorneys to enforce existing environmental regulations, develop new regulations, track the business histories of regulated industries, and research the safety of chemicals and the potential environmental effects of new technologies. [PEER, 2/10/2006] Though the EPA insists the closures are necessary to trim costs, internal studies have reportedly shown that providing full library access to its researchers saves an estimated 214,000 hours in professional staff time worth some $7.5 million annually. [PEER, 6/29/2006] Patrice McDermott, deputy director of the Office of Government Relations, says the proposed cuts would put “at risk important environmental information and the public’s ability to access the information they need to protect their health and safety.” [Federal Computer Week, 3/13/2006]
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 ]
In its 2007 budget request, NASA proposes canceling or delaying a number of significant earth science programs that scientists consider critical to understanding global climate change. The Plain Dealer reports that these cutbacks are being made “in order to pay for human spaceflight projects.” [Plain Dealer (Cleveland), 5/28/2006; Boston Globe, 6/9/2006] The Bush administration has pledged that the US will launch manned space flights to the moon by 2020, and eventually to Mars.
(see January 11, 2004)
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 ]
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 ]
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 ] 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).
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 ]
Screenshot 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 ; Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 44-46 ]
When Cornelia Dean of the New York Times contacts James Titus, EPA project manager for sea level rise, for an interview, he says he is no longer permitted to discuss such issues publicly. Instead, he refers Dean to the EPA public affairs office, which says it will not allow him to be interviewed on the record. Dean wants to interview Titus for an article she is doing on global warming and rising sea levels. In 2000, Titus wrote an essay titled “Does the US Government Realize That the Sea Is Rising?” The EPA redirects Dean to Bill Wehrum, the agency’s acting assistant administrator for air and radiation. He tells her: “The administration’s strategy for dealing with climate change is to continue to put significant resources into understanding climate change. The goal is to develop information that will be useful for local planners. This is about looking at coastal areas and assessing how those areas are used and then helping people with the question of how much protection they might want to provide for those areas if sea level continues to rise.” [New York Times, 6/20/2006; Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 37-38 ]
The White House’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) reportedly refuses to comply with a request (see July 20, 2006) from the House Committee on Government Reform for documents related to communications between CEQ and other government agencies and non-governmental parties on the issue of climate change. On January 30, 2007, Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) will explain: “When the White House resisted, we narrowed our request. When the White House resisted again, we again scaled back what had already been a reasonable request. And when the White House resisted a third time, we again tried to accommodate the president. In addition to repeatedly narrowing our request, we extended the deadlines we had suggested to the White House. But even after all those courtesies, we have received virtually nothing from this administration.” [US Congress, 1/30/2007 ; US Congress, 1/30/2007 ]
The EPA publishes a notice in the Federal Register that it will be closing its headquarter library on October 1. The library contains 380,000 documents on microfiche, a microforms collection of abstracts and indexes, 5,500 hard copy agency documents, and more than 16,000 books and technical reports produced by other government agencies. The EPA has already quietly closed several regional libraries, whose collections are currently not available to anyone, even the agency’s own scientists (see August 15, 2006). Though agency officials insist that the collections from these libraries will be digitized and made available via the Internet, no funds have yet been allocated for this purpose. [PEER, 8/21/2006; Environmental Protection Agency, 9/20/2006 ] Unlike today’s notice about the closing of the headquarter library, no public notice was given for the closures of the agency’s regional libraries (see August 15, 2006).
A group of 14 Democratic lawmakers, led by Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, sends a letter to the inspector generals of both the Commerce Department and NASA requesting formal investigations into allegations that Bush administration political appointees suppressed evidence linking global warming to increased hurricane intensity (see 2005, October 16, 2005, October 19, 2005, and November 29, 2005- December 2005). [Office of Senator Frank Lautenberg, 9/29/2006; Associated Press, 11/2/2006]
Entity Tags: Frank R. Lautenberg, Hillary Clinton, Maria Cantwell, Thomas R. Carper, Harry Reid, James Jeffords, Jeff Bingaman, Robert Menendez, Barbara Boxer, Joseph Lieberman, Dianne Feinstein, Richard (“Dick”) Durbin, John Kerry, Barbara Mikulski
Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Global Warming
Citing proposed cuts in its 2007 fiscal year budget, the EPA begins ordering its regional offices to cancel subscriptions to several of the technical journals and environmental publications that are used by its scientists. One internal email reveals that the agency’s Mid-Atlantic Region is being asked “to cut its journal renewals about in half.” According to the organization Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the subscription cancellations mean that “agency scientists and other technical specialists will no longer have ready access to materials that keep them abreast of developments within their fields. Moreover, enforcement staff, investigators, and other professionals will have a harder time tracking new developments affecting their cases and projects.” The cancellations come on top of the closures of several EPA libraries that have already cut employees’ access off from tens of thousands of documents (see, e.g., September 20, 2006 and August 15, 2006). When news of the library closures sparked protest from EPA scientists over the summer (see June 29, 2006), agency officials attempted to assuage their concerns with promises that the EPA would implement a “new library plan to make environmental information more accessible to employees.” But critics say the subscription cancellations contradict this claim and are a clear sign that the agency does not intend to improve its staff’s access to the information. [PEER, 10/9/2006]
The Mexican Department of Agriculture turns down all seven requests filed by biotech companies to plant experimental fields of genetically engineered corn in northern Mexico. Companies that applied for permits included Monsanto, Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., and others. [Associated Press, 10/18/2006]
The NOAA issues a press release on a study co-authored by Jason Dunion, a hurricane researcher with the agency’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory. The study finds that dust storms suppress hurricane activity. The authors say that periods of intense hurricane activity seem to have taken place when there were fewer dust storms, suggesting the possibility that dust storm scarcity, not global warming, may have caused the recent surge in hurricane activity. The lead author of the study was Amato Evan of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 10/13/2006; Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 31 ] Earlier in the year, the NOAA rejected a press release linking global warming to greenhouse gases because, according to the public affairs office, the “lead author’s organization/agency usually takes the lead in issuing releases.” (see April 10, 2006).
An anonymous public affairs officer tells the Government Accountability Project that political appointees in the NOAA have been instructing career employees in the agency’s public affairs office to closely monitor what scientists communicate to the media on the topic of global warming. Their jobs depend on it, he says. He says he must inform his superiors of any interview requests from major news outlets, provide them with minute details about the interview, and specify whether the interviewee is considered to be a “loose cannon” or someone who will “go along with the company line.” If it’s suspected that the scientist will say something that undermines the credibility of the administration, his bosses ask him to redirect the reporter to a different scientist more willing to toe the line. He might tell the reporter, “Oh, such and such is not going to be available, but I’ve got such and so.” In at least one instance, according to the anonymous public affairs officer, an appointee actually instructs him to silence a certain scientist (see (2004)). The public affairs officer also says that his bosses have been closely involved in the vetting of press releases. They require that he personally provide them with hardcopies of draft releases on “sensitive” issues, such as those mentioning “global warming,” “warming,” “melting,” and “glaciers.” He says he was instructed not to email any drafts to them. When the superiors disapprove of a certain press release, they tell him to inform the researchers that the release has been rejected because it is not news worthy, that there were already too many press releases on the issue, or “some other excuse.” In some cases, where rejecting a press release would be too conspicuous, political appointees have sought to undermine the press release by having another press officer repeatedly mark up the document with requests for changes and corrections in an effort to delay the release until it is too outdated to publish. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 89-90 ]
The EPA quietly closes its Office of Prevention, Pollution, and Toxic Substances (OPPTS) Library, packing its paper-only collection of documents into boxes and storing them in a basement cafeteria. The uncataloged collection is now completely unaccessible to government scientists. The library was used by EPA scientists who review applications from chemical companies who want to market new chemicals. Critics say the closure will make it more difficult for EPA scientists to determine the safety of new chemicals. In violation of federal policy (Office of Budget & Management Circular A-130), the agency issued no public notice about dismantlement of the library. [PEER, 10/30/2006] Not even the scientists who use the library were given prior notice. [PEER, 11/20/2006] Nor was the library included in the “EPA FY 2007 Framework” listing libraries slated to be shut down. [PEER, 10/30/2006] The library’s collections is supposed to be distributed to other EPA libraries, but some of the documents will be tossed into garbage bins (see October 20, 2006 and After).
On October 20, the EPA quietly closed its Office of Prevention, Pollution, and Toxic Substances (OPPTS) Library, which housed thousands of one-of-a-kind documents relating to the safety of chemicals (see October 20, 2006). Material from the library had been used by government scientists to review industry applications for new chemicals. Since the closure, the agency has asked other EPA libraries to take possession of the documents. But documents that have not been claimed by other libraries are being tossed into garbage bins. Jeff Ruch, of the organization Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), has been an outspoken critic of the EPA library closures. According to him, it appears as if “the appointed management at EPA is determined to actually reduce the sum total of human knowledge. EPA is not an agency renowned for its speed, so its undue haste in dumping library holdings suggests a political agenda rather than anything resembling a rational information management plan.” [PEER, 11/20/2006]
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