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

Scientific Integrity at Risk: Government Censorship of Climate Change Information

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By Anne Polansky
CSPW Sr. Climate Policy Analyst

The Trump Administration’s overall approach to climate change is basically akin to shouting LA-LA-LA-LA-LA with your hands over your ears. Cabinet members and top officials across departments and agencies are refusing to admit that this existential threat even exists, and are behaving as though the problem is not real or will magically disappear if it is not talked about or acknowledged in any way. This bizarre case of group denial does have one plausible explanation: scientific findings (i.e., anthropogenic climate change is real, and has dangerous impacts that are happening now and will worsen over time) are antithetical to a shared ideology (i.e. “climate change is a hoax”). Moreover, facing the problem squarely and honestly runs contrary to a shared value system – one that discounts the need for government regulation, favors industry growth and profit over public health and safety, and places a high priority on maximizing domestic fossil fuel extraction. Al Gore had it right: the truth of climate change is simply too inconvenient for this bunch.

Scientific integrity across US government agencies is at risk, and must be aggressively defended…

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US Global Change Research Program Released Three Major Climate Reports Today

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By Nicky Sundt
CSPW Senior Fellow

The US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) released three major reports this afternoon: the final Climate Science Special Report (CSSR), the public review draft of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) and the public review draft of the 2nd State of the Carbon Cycle Report (SOCCR-2). The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced the release of the reports yesterday, November 2, in a media advisory: “Experts to discuss new federal climate science report for the U.S.” It announced that the CSSR and draft NCA4 were being released today. We provide a few comments related to the CSSR and the NCA4, and will have more to say about all three reports once we review them.

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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 Warming Denial Machine, Science Communication, Science-Policy Interaction, Scientific Integrity, U.S. Global Change Research Program, Whistleblowers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on US Global Change Research Program Released Three Major Climate Reports Today

Gag Orders Imposed by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on Research Staff Infringe on Civil Servant First Amendment Rights and May Violate EPA Policy Restricting Censorship

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Source: Tim Faulkner on Twitter, see: http://bit.ly/2gUk5Xy

By Anne Polansky
CSPW Sr. Climate Policy Analyst

Last week, the Trump Administration’s sustained attack on federal scientists studying climate change science and impacts escalated when US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt issued last-minute gag orders preventing several EPA research staff from giving planned presentations at a workshop about the overall health of the Narragansett Bay. This is the first such documented incident of speech censorship at the EPA of which we are aware. It is possible, if not likely, that there have been other similar instances that have gone unreported and relatively unnoticed.

News of the intervention by EPA headquarters got out, and The New York Times broke the story last Sunday afternoon; the Washington Post published a similar account that evening. By Monday morning, protesters holding signs reading “Science Trumps Silence,” “Un-gag Science,” and “Denial is Not a Policy” had gathered and lined the entrance to the Save The Bay Center in Providence where the workshop and press conference were held (see photo above).

CSPW is investigating the incident, and GAP attorneys are concerned that the EPA may not only be in violation of its own “scientific integrity” policy restricting censorship, but that it is attempting to infringe on the First Amendment rights enjoyed by all Americans, including civil servants. Details of the gag order, the response from Members of Congress and the public, and a discussion of the potential legal recourse available to the EPA staff follow.

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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, Science Communication, Science-Policy Interaction, Scientific Integrity, Whistleblowers | Comments Off on Gag Orders Imposed by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on Research Staff Infringe on Civil Servant First Amendment Rights and May Violate EPA Policy Restricting Censorship

Trump Administration Extends for 6 months the subcommittee overseeing U.S. Global Change Research Program

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By Nicky Sundt
CSPW Senior Fellow

We reported on Friday, October 20th, that the charter of the interagency Subcommittee on Global Change Research (SGCR) was set to expire the next day on Saturday, October 21, 2017. The SGCR is a subcommittee of the committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Sustainability (CENRS) of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC). It is responsible for overseeing the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). Climate Science and Policy Watch had for months been trying to obtain the current SGCR charter from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and on Wednesday October 18th, finally received a copy in response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

In our piece, Charter Set to Expire for Interagency Subcommittee Overseeing Federal Climate Research (October 20th, 2017), we noted that there were several possible scenarios going forward. “One scenario is that the SGCR charter is extended once again. This could happen before the current charter expires or sometime soon.” That indeed is what has happened. On Monday, October 23rd, we obtained a copy of an extension to the charter. The latest extension, dated Friday, October 20th, pushes the expiration date to April 21, 2018. It is the second consecutive 6-month extension of the charter. The extension was signed by Chloe Kontos, the Executive Director of the NSTC. The original Obama-era charter that is being extended was valid for well over 3 years. It was adopted in September 2013 under President Obama and expired January 20th, 2017.

The original charter that is being renewed says that “[u]nless renewed by the co-chairs of the CENRS prior to its expiration, this charter of the SGCR shall terminate no later than January 20, 2017.” The extensions made under the Trump Administration explicitly note that before the expiration dates, the SGCR can be terminated by the Assistant to the President on Science and Technology or by the NSTC Executive Director.

Stay tuned for further updates.

 

Nicky Sundt is CSPW’s Senior Fellow. 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.

Posted in Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Climate Change Education and Communication, Climate Change Preparedness, General, National Security, Science Communication, Science-Policy Interaction, Scientific Integrity, U.S. Global Change Research Program | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Trump Administration Extends for 6 months the subcommittee overseeing U.S. Global Change Research Program

Charter Set to Expire for Interagency Subcommittee Overseeing Federal Climate Research

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By Nicky Sundt
CSPW Senior Fellow

The charter of the subcommittee that oversees the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) is set to expire tomorrow, October 21, 2017. This speaks volumes about the Trump Administration’s attitudes toward science generally – and toward climate change science specifically. More ominously, it raises very serious questions about the future of the USGCRP, which in early November is expected to release its Climate Science Special Report, the public review draft of the Fourth National Climate Assessment, and the public review draft of the State of the Carbon Cycle Report.

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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, Whistleblowers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Charter Set to Expire for Interagency Subcommittee Overseeing Federal Climate Research

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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