CLIMATE SCIENCE & POLICY WATCH is the flagship program of the Government Accountability Project's Environment & Energy Program, covering safety and health issues in the fossil fuel and nuclear power industries, clean air and water, land use, and toxics. We represent whistleblowers, conduct public interest investigations, and lead Know Your Rights Campaigns – read more here.

CSPW CORE INITIATIVES
1. Promoting Scientific Integrity & Exposing Disinformation and the Denial of Climate Science
2. Watchdogging Federal Government Climate Programs & Legislation
3. Investigating the Role of Big Oil in Thwarting Solutions to the Climate Crisis
4. Know Your Rights Campaigns & Public Interest Investigations
5. Ensuring Climate Change is Included in National Energy Policy & Planning
6. Promoting National Preparedness for Climate Change Impacts

HISTORY OF GAP'S ENVIRONMENT & ENERGY PROGRAM
Know Your Rights & Blow the Whistle

Announcing New CSPW Senior Fellow, Nicky Sundt

Facebooktwittergoogle_plus

Nicky Sundt has joined the Government Accountability Project (GAP) as a Senior Fellow for GAP’s Climate Science & Policy Watch (CSPW) program. She is an expert on energy and climate change with over 35 years of experience and accomplishment in government, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector. During the four-month fellowship, Nicky will watch over and report on key US federal climate science obligations under law – especially those relating to communications to the President, Congress, and the public.

“Regardless of the Trump Administration’s dismissive views about climate change, and despite its efforts to undermine U.S. climate action, it still is bound by laws,” Nicky says. “These require climate research, data and observations, and communication – all essential to informed action by both the public and private sectors.  I look forward to helping ensure that our Federal government is fully complying with the spirit and letter of the law, and is serving the public interest.”

Continue reading

Posted in Climate Science Watch | Comments Off on Announcing New CSPW Senior Fellow, Nicky Sundt

Syria, Nicaragua, and now the United States of America:  Official Members of the Climate Change Ostrich Club

Facebooktwittergoogle_plus

“Hello Mr. President, I hope you will take action on climate change,” CSPW founder and George W. Bush White House climate change whistleblower Rick Piltz said politely but firmly to President Bush in the White House Rose Garden on a sunny morning in June 2001. The President was just about to make a much-anticipated statement on climate change. History is repeating itself today, but this time with the stakes raised as atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have now exceeded 400 ppm. Just as news of President Donald Trump’s intention to withdraw the US from the December 2015 Paris Agreement leaked yesterday morning, nearly 16 years ago today, those anxious to hear what President Bush had to say in 2001 about climate change action had already been tipped off that a withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol was eminent, and President Bush would refuse to send the signed treaty to the Senate for ratification. A well-established global warming trend had led to mounting concerns about climate change over the previous decade, and Piltz was one of millions of Americans who worried that gains made under President Clinton would be reversed or perhaps abandoned altogether by President Bush.  Climate change had already become a partisan issue with nascent but promising bitterness, naturally embraced by liberals, generally dismissed summarily by conservatives.

By June 2001, Piltz had been a senior associate at the Coordination Office for the US Global Change Research Program for six years, responsible for editing and producing scientific reports written by federal climate scientists scattered over about a dozen agencies working on the problem. He was proud of the key role he had played in the production of the very first national assessment of climate change impacts across US regions and economic sectors, a comprehensive report to Congress and the public required by a 1990 bill signed into law by George Bush’s father. The 2000 National Assessment, officially released in the waning hours of Clinton’s second term, warned of dire climate consequences already discernible, measurable, and underway. President Bush had already taken active steps to deep-six the study; its message was too contrary to the oil-friendly nature of the new administration. This to say, Piltz very much wanted to know what George W. Bush had to say about climate change.

Continue reading

Posted in Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Attacks on Climate Science and Scientists, Climate Change Education and Communication, Climate Change Mitigation, Climate Change Preparedness, Climate Science Censorship, Congress: Legislation and Oversight, Energy, General, Global Climate Disruption and Impacts, Global Warming Denial Machine, International Climate Policy, National Security, Obama Administration, Science Communication, Science-Policy Interaction, Scientific Integrity, U.S. Global Change Research Program, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Syria, Nicaragua, and now the United States of America:  Official Members of the Climate Change Ostrich Club

The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Catastrophe: After 7 Years, We’re Still Stuck with Toxic Corexit

Facebooktwittergoogle_plus

Source: Greenpeace

On the anniversary of this horrific event, we are reminded of the tragic loss of life and health, devastation to marine life and the coastline ecosystems, and distress to local economies and livelihoods. But we are also reminded that we are no more prepared to handle devastating oil spills now than we were 7 years ago. The need to respect scientific understanding is critical: both when examining the use of the toxic dispersant Corexit and when discussing general climate change science. To combat this neglect of scientific integrity, understanding, and transparency, GAP will stand at the March for Science. At a 10 a.m. teach-in about the importance of truth-tellers in science, GAP’s Director of Education & Strategic Partnerships Dana Gold will educate attendees about the critical role that whistleblowers play in protecting the public interest and promoting science-based policy. We stand with courageous whistleblowers and invite you to also.

Recollecting when he first heard about the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and commenting on the current state of affairs, the following blog post is written by GAP’s Executive Director & CEO Louis Clark, cross-posted from the GAP website: www.whistleblower.org.
Continue reading

Posted in Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Attacks on Climate Science and Scientists, Climate Change Education and Communication, Climate Change Preparedness, Energy, General, Global Warming Denial Machine, Scientific Integrity, Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Catastrophe: After 7 Years, We’re Still Stuck with Toxic Corexit

ExxonMobil and Climate Change: A Story of Denial, Delay, and Delusion, Told in Forms 10-K (2009-2016) – Part Three (D): 2012

Facebooktwittergoogle_plus

Severe drought affects a stock pond just south of Dallas. Source: http://n.pr/2oPn2xH

This sixth installment of our series covers events occurring throughout 2012 that point to disparities between what was known and knowable by leadership at the Exxon Mobil Corporation, and what the oil giant was communicating to its shareholders regarding the risks to its operations associated with climate change and its impacts. The question is, do these known disparities rise to the level of fraud? Ongoing investigations by the NY and MA Attorneys General will determine the answer and, potentially, could find ExxonMobil guilty. Such a finding and punitive measures that could follow would represent a major turning point in the way society deals with energy corporations that peddle doubt and disinformation regarding a global threat it regards solely as a threat to annual earnings.

Pressure to deal fairly and squarely with climate change mounted in 2012: nearly a third of ExxonMobil’s shareholders voted to mandate a corporate plan to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions to specific target levels. A clever television ad campaign was launched, one that carried a message no CEO wants to hear: “Exxon Hates Your Children.” In his reelection campaign, President Barack Obama vowed to take away the comfortable crutch fossil fuel companies had come to rely on and think of as an entitlement: $4 billion of oil and gas subsidies. As it had always done, ExxonMobil under the leadership of Rex Tillerson fought back aggressively with well-funded ad campaigns, legal action, and a stubborn insistence that maximizing extraction and production took precedence over all else. Meanwhile, in its own corporate backyard, Texas continued to suffer from a debilitating, costly drought. One would have had to live in a bubble not to take notice and recognize that the long stretches of high temperatures and the prolonged rain deficit were atypical of normal weather patterns.

CSPW is preparing a White Paper that will integrate this series, covering the period from 1993 to the present (See Part One (1993-2000); Part Two (2000-2008); and Part Three(A) (2009), Part Three(B) (2010), and Part Three(C) (2011)).

Continue reading

Posted in Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Climate Change Preparedness, Climate Science Censorship, Global Climate Disruption and Impacts, Global Warming Denial Machine, International Climate Policy, Science Communication, Science-Policy Interaction, Scientific Integrity | Comments Off on ExxonMobil and Climate Change: A Story of Denial, Delay, and Delusion, Told in Forms 10-K (2009-2016) – Part Three (D): 2012

Retiring EPA Career Veteran Michael Cox Pens Letter to Scott Pruitt: “We Are Insulted”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plus

Michael Cox. SOURCE: A 2015 speaker bio http://www.wasla.org/2015-wasla-conference_lunch-presentation

 A 27-year veteran of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) retiring from his position as Climate Change Advisor for EPA’s Region 10 office in Seattle, Washington took EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and President Donald Trump to task in a March 31 departure letter (also copied below) he has made public. Many EPA staff, he wrote to Administrator Pruitt, “are becoming increasing alarmed about the direction of EPA under your leadership,” citing Pruitt’s blatant denial of established climate science, his frequent demonizing of the agency, his decision to bring in political appointees openly hostile to the EPA, his failure to grasp the role of EPA’s 10 Regional Offices, and his recommended slashes to the budget that would eliminate important programs that protect major ecosystems and human health. He described Pruitt’s claim that carbon dioxide is not a primary contributor to climate change as “shocking,” likening it to the tobacco industry’s refusal to acknowledge the link between smoking and lung cancer.

President Trump visited the EPA headquarters on March 28 and before an audience of coalminers,  signed an executive order to overturn the Clean Power Plan to curb carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants, and to allow coalmining leases on federal lands. “We were frankly insulted,” wrote Cox, that the new leadership would be so dismissive of the climate change threat, which he characterized as “the most urgent environmental problem of our generation.” Cox further excoriated the move: “It was beyond comprehension that an Administration could be so arrogant and callous.”

Continue reading

Posted in Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Attacks on Climate Science and Scientists, Climate Change Education and Communication, Climate Change Preparedness, Climate Science Censorship, Energy, General, Global Climate Disruption and Impacts, Global Warming Denial Machine, Science Communication, Science-Policy Interaction, Scientific Integrity, Whistleblowers | Comments Off on Retiring EPA Career Veteran Michael Cox Pens Letter to Scott Pruitt: “We Are Insulted”

ExxonMobil and Climate Change: A Story of Denial, Delay, and Delusion, Told in Forms 10-K (2009-2016) – Part Three (C): 2011

Facebooktwittergoogle_plus

Maura Healey & Eric Schneiderman SOURCE: http://bit.ly/2ouw2Ja

This is the fifth installment of our series analyzing how Exxon Mobil Corporation has communicated to its shareholders the risks associated with climate change over the last two and a half decades, using the company’s annual 10-K reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The sixth and final installment covering the years 2012 – 2016 will be published within the next two weeks.

Under active investigation by the New York and Massachusetts Attorneys General, ExxonMobil has been turning over tens of thousands of documents, under subpoena, to New York AG Eric Schniederman, and is expected to do the same for Massachusetts AG Maura Healey. Investigators are using the discovery process to look for evidence that the oil and gas giant has been downplaying and disregarding risks associated with climate change in its communications to shareholders, to the extent the company has committed securities fraud. CSPW has compared what ExxonMobil leadership has been disclosing to investors, year by year, contrasted with what was known and readily knowable regarding the state of climate science and related impacts. The two-part question many are putting significant effort into answering is: What has ExxonMobil known about climate change that it has not wanted its own investors (and the public) to know, and what steps has it taken over the years to keep us from knowing it?

Continue reading

Posted in Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Attacks on Climate Science and Scientists, Climate Change Education and Communication, Climate Science Censorship, Climate Science Watch, Energy, Global Climate Disruption and Impacts, Global Warming Denial Machine, International Climate Policy, Obama Administration, Science-Policy Interaction, Scientific Integrity | Comments Off on ExxonMobil and Climate Change: A Story of Denial, Delay, and Delusion, Told in Forms 10-K (2009-2016) – Part Three (C): 2011

The Insanity of Self-Censorship: Climate Change, Politics, and Fear-Based Decision-Making

Facebooktwittergoogle_plus

Climate change has a long list of known human health consequences, not the least of which is a set of adverse impacts on mental health. As more and more people are directly affected by destructive floods, heat waves, drought, deadly storms and other extreme weather events – all worsened by increasing concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide – experts predict a steep rise in mental and social disorders: anxiety, depression, PTSD, substance abuse, increased suicide rates, and outbreaks of violence. Hardest hit will be children, the poor, the elderly, and those with existing mental health problems: collectively, this amounts to about half the US population! Worse, the consensus seems to be that the mental health profession is unprepared to handle these challenges.

Just three days after the presidential inauguration, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced in a terse email that it was cancelling a three-day conference, the “Climate and Health Summit,” that was to take place in Atlanta from February 14-16. With the “translation of science to practice” as the planned theme, scientists were to present their most recent research on the physical and mental health effects of climate change, and conferees were to explore ways to improve interagency cooperation and stakeholder engagement. Though no official reason was given, it quickly became evident that the CDC had engaged in self-censorship. President Trump has alleged that global warming is a notion invented by the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing noncompetitive and, more recently, that climate change is a hoax. This “strategic retreat,” as one scheduled speaker characterized it, was the result of a fear-based decision to shut down the event preemptively, before the new administration had a chance to shut it down for them, absent any foreknowledge or hint that they would.

As taxpayers who underwrite interagency federal climate science to the tune of about two billion dollars a year, we should be as intolerant of self-censorship as we are of outright censorship of government information. The unfettered communication of research findings regarding climate change impacts across regions and sectors is necessary for public awareness, preparedness, and sound policymaking. As global temperatures rise, all will be better served if civil servants inoculate themselves against the chilling effect that normally accompanies the sort of tyrannical rule we’ve already witnessed from our new President. In all likelihood, the CDC Summit was not on the White House radar, and could have proceeded unimpeded. Instead, Al Gore and several health-related organizations swooped in, came to the rescue, and sponsored a distilled down, one-day version they called the Climate & Health Meeting. But it is not the responsibility of private citizens and organizations to pick up the slack when agencies cower.

Continue reading

Posted in Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Climate Change Preparedness, Climate Science Watch, General, Global Climate Disruption and Impacts, Global Warming Denial Machine, National Security, Science-Policy Interaction, U.S. Global Change Research Program, Uncategorized, Whistleblowers | Comments Off on The Insanity of Self-Censorship: Climate Change, Politics, and Fear-Based Decision-Making

Will Changes at ExxonMobil Lead to More Social Responsibility on Climate Change?

Facebooktwittergoogle_plus

INCOMING: CEO Darren Woods; Source: ExxonMobil

INCOMING: Susan Avery; Source: NASA

Three recent changes at the Exxon Mobil Corporation could lead to meaningful and much needed improvements in corporate behavior and attitudes towards the growing existential threat of climate change and broader environmental concerns – or they may not. Only time will tell. New developments – a brand new CEO, Darren Woods, at the helm; a new board member, Susan Avery, with climate expertise and top credentials as an atmospheric scientist; and the sudden resignation of an advisory panel member, Sarah Labowitz, in protest of ExxonMobil’s unsubstantiated claim in court that the normal engagement of NGOs with public officials amounts to “an illegal conspiracy” – could prove to be a combined force serving to raise the company’s overall failing grades in corporate social responsibility. Or not. We are cautiously pessimistic.

OUTGOING: Sarah Labowitz; Source: NYY Photo Bureau

Widely known (even among its peers in the oil and gas industries) for its corporate culture marked by stubborn recalcitrance and hard resistance to external pressures – especially those related to carbon emissions resulting from the products it sells when used as intended – these new forces may not be strong enough to overcome the heavy inertia of this oil giant. Woods is a virtual unknown; Avery is just one board member of thirteen; and Labowitz’s departure letter, while elegantly clear in its condemnation of Exxon’s use of vicious attacks in reaction to being the subject of multiple investigations, could easily fall on deaf ears. Moreover, even larger forces will now be at play: its newly departed CEO and board chair Rex Tillerson, now freshly confirmed as US Secretary of State, can be expected to favor more oil drilling over drilling down on keeping and improving international climate agreements. CSPW will continue to keep a close eye on things and report back on any changes in the corporate culture we observe: good, bad, or ugly.

Continue reading

Posted in Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Attacks on Climate Science and Scientists, Climate Change Education and Communication, Climate Change Preparedness, Climate Science Censorship, Energy, General, Global Climate Disruption and Impacts, Global Warming Denial Machine, Science-Policy Interaction, Scientific Integrity, U.S. Global Change Research Program | Comments Off on Will Changes at ExxonMobil Lead to More Social Responsibility on Climate Change?

A Case Study of Political Interference, Censorship, and Suppression of Federal Climate Science Under the Bush-Cheney Administration: A Cautionary Tale for the Trump Administration

Facebooktwittergoogle_plus

As President Trump and his administration attempt to normalize ‘alternative facts,’ they will inevitably try to use similar sophistry to debate climate change. With the new cabinet so blatantly in favor of corporate wealth and expanded oil and gas development, climate change is one reality that is certain to be on the list of inconvenient facts to be denied, deleted from federal websites, and discouraged from being disseminated. Despite unequivocal agreement within the scientific community and evidence conclusively demonstrating a cause and effect relationship between the planet’s warming due to human activity – primarily fossil fuel combustion – and a host of dangerous climate change impacts, we can expect to see heavy-handed censorship of scientific information about how and why the global climate is changing from this climate-change denying administration. President Trump is not the first to employ politically motivated tactics strategically aimed at preventing the federal government from issuing serious warnings regarding a climate-disrupted future – including the evidence behind these warnings embodied in climate science data sets and information – from reaching the public. We can expect, at the very least, many of this new White House’s actions and policies to evolve from or replicate actions taken by appointees during the George W. Bush Administration to edit and suppress the products of federally-supported climate change science and policy research.

Yesterday, The Washington Post announced a White Paper that I researched and authored as a 2016 CSPW Fellow under Harvard University’s Mindich Summer Fellowship. While writing the Paper, it became clear that the orchestrated campaign to keep the American public from grasping the full extent of the climate threat could easily happen again.

Continue reading

Posted in Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Attacks on Climate Science and Scientists, Climate Change Education and Communication, Climate Change Preparedness, Climate Science Censorship, Climate Science Watch, Global Climate Disruption and Impacts, Global Warming Denial Machine, Science Communication, Science-Policy Interaction, Scientific Integrity, U.S. Global Change Research Program, Whistleblowers | Comments Off on A Case Study of Political Interference, Censorship, and Suppression of Federal Climate Science Under the Bush-Cheney Administration: A Cautionary Tale for the Trump Administration

GAP’s CSPW Launches White Paper Identifying History of Climate Science Suppression Under George W. Bush Administration, Outlining a ‘Cautionary Tale’ of How It Could Be Repeated

Facebooktwittergoogle_plus

Of significant concern to GAP and frighteningly reminiscent of the George W. Bush Administration, the Trump Administration is staffed by high-level personnel with oil industry connections and climate change denialist views mirroring those of the new President. In response, as just announced in The Washington Post, today GAP officially launched our latest White Paper, entitled: Promoting and Sustaining the National Climate Assessment After a Period of Suppression and Political Influence: A Cautionary Tale.

Below follows the foreword of the Paper, written by GAP Executive Director & CEO Louis Clark:

Continue reading

Posted in Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Attacks on Climate Science and Scientists, Climate Change Education and Communication, Climate Change Preparedness, Climate Science Censorship, Climate Science Watch, Climate Science Watch Update, Congress: Legislation and Oversight, General, Global Climate Disruption and Impacts, Global Warming Denial Machine, Science-Policy Interaction, Scientific Integrity, U.S. Global Change Research Program | Comments Off on GAP’s CSPW Launches White Paper Identifying History of Climate Science Suppression Under George W. Bush Administration, Outlining a ‘Cautionary Tale’ of How It Could Be Repeated