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

As Whistleblower Joel Clement Calls on Interior Secretary Zinke to Resign, Even Stronger Steps for Government Accountability are Needed

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By Anne Polansky
CSPW Sr. Climate Policy Analyst

Sec. Zinke posing at Rocky Mountain National Park. Photo Credit: Ryan David Brown, The New York Times

“Secretary Zinke, you should resign effective immediately,” federal whistleblower Joel Clement wrote in a CNN opinion piece published yesterday evening. After seven years of public service, Clement left his Senior Executive Service (SES) post at the Department of Interior (DOI) last week after submitting a fiery letter of resignation (see our two posts, here and here). After blowing the whistle in July, Clement has been openly and fiercely critical of Secretary Zinke, Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt (a former oil industry lobbyist), and President Trump. The primary point of contention stems from Clement’s abrupt, involuntary reassignment to an office that collects oil company royalty checks from his post as top policy advisor, where he focused primarily on the deleterious effects of climate change on Alaskan communities. Clement, a biologist, was ill-equipped for the role assigned to him because it required sophisticated accounting skills, and he has expressed a strong reluctance to waste the taxpayer dollars needed to train him.

Despite accusations of air travel abuses, the chances that Secretary Zinke will resign are slim to none, and there is no indication that President Trump will ask him to leave. The stronger imperative, regardless of who holds office, is to hold accountable federal officials for any documented wrongdoing. Clement’s courageous actions and words to date highlight the urgent need for critically important checks and balances on Executive Branch overreach. Several important investigations into Clement’s transfer and that of many others at Interior are underway and must continue. At this point, it is critical that we strenuously exercise the checks and balances so central to the US Constitution in order to avoid a dangerous imbalance of power – the sort of imbalance that history teaches us can too easily lead to tyranny.

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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, Global Climate Disruption and Impacts, Global Warming Denial Machine, National Security, Science Communication, Science-Policy Interaction, Scientific Integrity, U.S. Global Change Research Program, Whistleblowers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on As Whistleblower Joel Clement Calls on Interior Secretary Zinke to Resign, Even Stronger Steps for Government Accountability are Needed

Whistleblower Joel Clement Lambasts Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and President Trump in Resignation Letter

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By Anne Polansky
CSPW Sr. Climate Policy Analyst

Federal whistleblower Joel Clement charged both Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and President Donald Trump with “poor leadership, waste, and … failures on climate change” in a fiercely critical letter of resignation submitted yesterday, effective tomorrow. In the letter, Clement accused President Trump and top Department of Interior (DOI) officials of being “shackled to special interests such as oil, gas, and mining” and of being “unwilling to lead on climate change” and thus “[not] to be trusted with our nation’s natural resources.” This administration’s unabashed tendency to side with particular industry sectors over the health and wellbeing of the American people has been demonstrated time and time again.

While serving as a top Interior Department policy advisor for seven years as a member of the Senior Executive Service (SES), Clement had frequently visited Alaska Native villages in an effort to help them better plan and prepare for a set of devastating climate change impacts, such as melting tundra and severe coastal erosion. Then in June he was unexpectedly and involuntarily reassigned to the DOI office that performs accounting services for incoming oil industry royalty checks. Clement has no accounting or oil industry-related skills; he is a trained biologist specializing in climate change adaptation. In response, Clement hired legal counsel, blew the whistle, penned a brilliant op-ed explaining why, and submitted a formal complaint with the US Office of Special Counsel (OSC). Clement is claiming that Secretary Zinke ordered the reassignment in retaliation against his highly visible work on climate change impacts in the Arctic, and that Zinke did so in a deliberate effort to drive Clement out.

“I blew the whistle on the Trump administration,” Clement explains in his October 4 letter, “because I believe you unlawfully retaliated against me for disclosing the perilous impacts of climate change upon Alaska Native communities and for working to help get them out of harm’s way.”

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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 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Whistleblower Joel Clement Lambasts Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and President Trump in Resignation Letter

Award-Winning Department of Interior Official Joel Clement Resigns

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Joel Clement. Source: PBS Newshour

By Nicky Sundt
CSPW Senior Fellow

Former Senior Department of Interior (DOI) official Joel Clement submitted his resignation yesterday to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Clement articulated three primary reasons for the resignation, citing “poor leadership, waste, and [Zinke’s] failures on climate change.”

The best use of my skills is to join with the majority of Americans who understand what’s at stake, working to find ways to innovate and thrive despite the many hurdles ahead. You have not silenced me; I will continue to be an outspoken advocate for action, and my voice will be part of the American chorus calling for your resignation so that someone loyal to the interests of all Americans, not just special interests, can take your job.”

On June 15, Clement was among dozens of senior DOI Senior Executive Service (SES) officials who were notified that they were being involuntarily reassigned, apparently with the intention of prompting their resignations. In an op-ed piece published on July 19, 2017 in the Washington Post (“I’m a scientist. I’m blowing the whistle on the Trump administration”), Clement said he had filed a retaliation complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. He also filed a disclosure of information with the counsel because, he said, “eliminating my role coordinating federal engagement and leaving my former position empty exacerbate the already significant threat to the health and the safety of certain Alaska Native communities.”

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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, Global Climate Disruption and Impacts, Global Warming Denial Machine, Science Communication, Science-Policy Interaction, Scientific Integrity, U.S. Global Change Research Program | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Award-Winning Department of Interior Official Joel Clement Resigns

Interior Department Whistleblower Joel Clement Receives Award for Civic Courage

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Joel Clement

On Sept 21, 2017, Joel Clement received the Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Courage from the Shafeek Nader Trust for the Community Interest. According to the award website, “the award recognizes individuals in any area of endeavor who, with integrity and at some personal risk, take a public stance to advance truth and justice, and who challenged prevailing conditions in pursuit of the common good.” In announcing Clement as one of this year’s recipients of the prize, the trust said that Clement upheld “the highest standards of his civil service oath as a senior federal official” when “he blew the whistle on the Trump Administrations Interior Department for using personnel reassignment to shut down climate change programs, muzzle scientists and undermine subject matter experts.”

Until early July, Clement directed the Department of Interior’s (DOI) Office of Policy Analysis and was one of the agency’s top climate experts. He led DOI’s engagement on climate adaptation and resilience, and on Arctic issues. Among his concerns and responsibilities were the impacts of climate change in the Arctic, and preparing Alaska communities for those impacts.

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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, General, Global Warming Denial Machine, Science Communication, Science-Policy Interaction, Scientific Integrity, U.S. Global Change Research Program, Whistleblowers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Interior Department Whistleblower Joel Clement Receives Award for Civic Courage

Exxon Mobil Has Been Silent About Climate Change Risks to Its Operations: Will Hurricane Harvey Change That?

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By Anne Polansky
CSPW Sr. Climate Policy Analyst

Black smoke billows out of facilities at ExxonMobil’s massive oil refinery in Beaumont, Texas several days after Hurricane Harvey made landfall. Photo by Julie Dermansky of DeSmog blog. SOURCE LINK: http://bit.ly/2xvhrPg

As detailed in the most recent installment of our ongoing investigation into how the Exxon Mobil Corporation has characterized risks to its business operations associated with climate change in its annual 10-K reports to shareholders, year after year, the company has alleged that one of the risks to its operations is the regulation of carbon dioxide emissions as a public policy to mitigate global climate change, but has failed to list climate change itself as a risk when communicating with its shareholders (See previous segments of our investigation here: Part One (1993-2000)Part Two (2000-2008)Part Three(A) (2009)Part Three(B) (2010)Part Three(C) (2011), and Part Three(D) (2012)). On this matter – the subject of a criminal investigation by at least two state Attorneys General for this failure – the largest publicly traded oil and gas company in the world has been silent. It has been tight-lipped even about the risks for its massive oil refinery facilities in coastal areas subject to storm surges and flooding and associated with sea-level rise and the projected increased intensity and rainfall rates of North Atlantic hurricanes.

Hurricane Harvey inflicted a large amount of damage on ExxonMobil oil refining and chemical processing facilities in Baytown and Beaumont, Texas, though the full extent of the damage has not yet been fully assessed. The floating roof on an oil storage tank collected so much rainwater that the sheer weight caused it to partially collapse, resulting in a large volume of toxic air emissions. Countless other repairs are being conducted in the weeks following the unprecedented rains accompanying the hurricane and its aftermath. There is no question that climate change added extra energy and moisture to Hurricane Harvey, exacerbating its devastating effect. Will ExxonMobil change its tune and start reporting climate change impacts as potential risks to its operations, or will it continue to bury its head in the sand?

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Posted in Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Climate Change Education and Communication, Climate Change Mitigation, Climate Change Preparedness, Climate Science Watch, Energy, General, Global Climate Disruption and Impacts, Global Warming Denial Machine, Science Communication, Science-Policy Interaction | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Exxon Mobil Has Been Silent About Climate Change Risks to Its Operations: Will Hurricane Harvey Change That?

Administration Delays Publication of Climate Science Special Report

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Damage caused by Hurricane Harvey in Rockport, Texas, Aug. 28, 2017. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon

Report identifies rising risks posed by hurricanes as planet warms

By Nicky Sundt
CSPW Senior Fellow

The Climate Change Special Report, arguably the most important report produced by the interagency U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) under the Trump Administration, still has not been cleared for publication. The clearance process already has taken three times longer than originally assumed. Among the report’s findings: climate change is ratcheting up the risks hurricanes pose for the United States.

The political stakes for the Trump Administration have only grown during the review. A June draft of the report was leaked to the New York Times, which ran a front-page story on the report. Then Hurricane Harvey devastated parts of Texas and Louisiana, highlighting not only the connections between climate change and hurricanes, but the costs of inaction in the face of mounting risks. See “Katrina. Sandy. Harvey. The debate over climate and hurricanes is getting louder and louder” (Washington Post, 30 August 2017).

Criticism has grown over local, state and federal officials who have consistently denied the science underlying the Climate Change Special Report and who have systematically undermined efforts to slow climate change and to prepare for its emerging impacts. See the Washington Post editorial: “Houston is paying the price for public officials’ ignorance” (August 29, 2017). Those officials include former Texas Governor Perry who now is the Secretary of the Department of Energy – the only major agency that has not yet cleared the report for public release.
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Posted in Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Climate Change Education and Communication, Climate Change Mitigation, Climate Change Preparedness, Climate Science Censorship, Energy, General, Global Climate Disruption and Impacts, Global Warming Denial Machine, National Security, Science Communication, Science-Policy Interaction, Scientific Integrity, U.S. Global Change Research Program | Comments Off on Administration Delays Publication of Climate Science Special Report

EPA Administrator Misleadingly Criticized Draft Climate Science Special Report; EPA then Cleared Report for Final Release

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Scott Pruitt, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Source: EPA

By Nicky Sundt
CSPW Senior Fellow

“Frankly this report ought to be subjected to peer-reviewed, objective-reviewed methodology and evaluation,” said Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, when asked about the leaked draft of a Federal Climate Science Special Report (CSSR). Speaking on a Texas radio show on August 10, 2017, he added:

“Science should not be politicized. Science is not something that should be just thrown about to try to dictate policy in Washington, DC.”

Funny he should say that. Pruitt himself has a well-established record of politicizing science. Furthermore, he sits on the National Science and Technology Council that has overseen production of the report, and his agency had already twice reviewed and approved earlier drafts. As for peer review, the National Academies of Sciences reviewed and praised an earlier draft.

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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, Global Warming Denial Machine, Obama Administration, Science Communication, Science-Policy Interaction, Scientific Integrity, U.S. Global Change Research Program | Comments Off on EPA Administrator Misleadingly Criticized Draft Climate Science Special Report; EPA then Cleared Report for Final Release

ExxonMobil and Climate Change: A Story of Denial, Delay, and Delusion, Told in Forms 10-K — Part Three (E): 2013

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Source: https://go.nasa.gov/2vXO0Vm

By Anne Polansky

Covering the year 2013, this is our latest installment in a timeline series addressing how the Exxon Mobil Corporation has characterized risks to its business operations associated with climate change (in its annual 10-K reports to shareholders), in light of what corporate leadership knew, or reasonably could have known, regarding anthropogenic global warming and associated climate change impacts. For previous segments, see Part One (1993-2000); Part Two (2000-2008); Part Three(A) (2009), Part Three(B) (2010), Part Three(C) (2011), and Part Three(D) (2012).

In 2013, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide exceeded 400 parts per million for the first time in millions of years, marking a milestone that, while symbolic, called greater attention to escalating greenhouse gas levels and a steady global warming trend. Scientists had already been warning that a runaway greenhouse effect could disrupt Earth’s climate system to a point of no return. Climate change impacts continued to worsen in regions across the globe, and few communities were sufficiently prepared for these impacts. Meanwhile, Exxon Mobil was investing its massive $45 billion in earnings in maximizing extraction and processing of oil and gas, including the controversial use of hydrofracturing (fracking) to extract fuel from tar sands and the expansion of offshore oil drilling. Despite pressure from shareholders to address climate change meaningfully, CEO Rex Tillerson stood his ground in suggesting that bringing fossil fuels to those who lack ready access (such as the 1.2 billion people without electricity) was the “humanitarian” thing to do, rather than leading the transition away from an increasingly risky high-carbon energy future. By 2013, nine of the ten hottest years on record had occurred since the turn of the century, and growing instances of harmful climate impacts across the US and the world were impossible to ignore. Yet, these risks were readily discounted by corporate leadership at ExxonMobil.
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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, Energy, General, Global Climate Disruption and Impacts, Global Warming Denial Machine, 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 — Part Three (E): 2013

Federal Climate Science Special Report Leaked: Clearance Process Raises Concerns Over Upcoming Climate Assessment Report

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Troubled and opaque Administration review process is a harbinger of problems for the Fourth National Climate Assessment

By Nicky Sundt
CSPW Senior Fellow

A final draft of a key federal report on the science behind climate change has been leaked to the New York Times and made public. The “Climate Science Special Report” (CSSR), produced by the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), is a cornerstone of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), a periodic study of climate change impacts across US regions. Many wonder how the Trump-Pence White House will deal with this first major US government report on climate change to come across its desk; a report warning that Americans are feeling the harmful impacts of climate change in real time, and therefore “directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet” as noted by the Times. Initially released for public review and comment during the last days of the Obama Administration, the final draft was submitted to the White House for final approval on June 28.

The same Times piece reports that “[s]cientists say they fear that the Trump administration could change or suppress the report.” Those fears are well founded. As a candidate and as President, Donald Trump has rejected clear scientific evidence that climate change poses a serious global threat, and has populated his cabinet with those who deny that fossil fuel emissions currently are the primary driver of climate change, and reject imperatives to cut carbon emissions and prepare for dangerous climate change impacts happening now. Instead, the Trump White House is actively dismantling the government’s capacity to address climate change, and thus to deal meaningfully with a problem the nation’s defense apparatus has labeled a major threat to national security.

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Posted in Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Climate Change Education and Communication, Climate Change Mitigation, Climate Change Preparedness, Climate Science Censorship, Climate Science Watch, General, Global Climate Disruption and Impacts, Global Warming Denial Machine, Obama Administration, Science-Policy Interaction, Scientific Integrity, U.S. Global Change Research Program | Comments Off on Federal Climate Science Special Report Leaked: Clearance Process Raises Concerns Over Upcoming Climate Assessment Report

Red-Team v. Blue-Team: A Black and White Attack on Climate Science and Scientists

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Secretary of Energy Rick Perry

By Anne Polansky and Nicky Sundt

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and others are calling for a red-team/blue-team (RT/BT) exercise to resolve differences of opinion regarding the science of global climate change. The approach is meant to resolve conflict through a structured debate. It is typically employed by military analysts and business strategists to improve decision-making and reach agreement on contested issues. Pruitt, Perry, and others assert that such an orchestrated process will bridge disagreements around climate change and build consensus.

There is little compelling evidence supporting that assertion. To the contrary, the proposal is likely to intensify conflict over climate science and policy, while needlessly undermining existing scientific and political institutions.

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Posted in Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Attacks on Climate Science and Scientists, Climate Change Education and Communication, Climate Science Censorship, Global Climate Disruption and Impacts, Global Warming Denial Machine, Science Communication, Science-Policy Interaction, Scientific Integrity, U.S. Global Change Research Program | Comments Off on Red-Team v. Blue-Team: A Black and White Attack on Climate Science and Scientists