An announcement posted March 29 on Senator Frank Lautenberg’s Web site begins: “In an effort to prevent future government reports dealing with the issue of climate change from being altered by White House political aides, several members of the United States Senate called for all future reports to be audited by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).” Senators Lautenberg, Inouye, and Kerry in a letter sent March 29, urged Dr. James Mahoney, the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Director of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, to put in place procedures that would give the NAS oversight for future government climate science reports, including the annual Our Changing Planet report.
Senator Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI) is the Ranking Minority Member of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which has oversight jurisdiction for NOAA and for “science research and policy.” Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and John F. Kerry (D-MA) are also members of the Committee.
Note: Our Changing Planet is the annual report to Congress of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP). The report is widely disseminated and published editions are posted on a CCSP Web site. Our Changing Planet for Fiscal Year 2006 was released in the fall of 2005. Other government “climate science reports intended for use by decision-makers” (to quote the Senators’ letter) would include the forthcoming CCSP Synthesis and Assessment Products.
The director of Climate Science Watch formerly worked in the Climate Change Science Program Office during the period 1995-2005. Beginning with the 1997 edition and ending with a draft of the 2006 edition, he worked with career program professionals in the federal science agencies to develop and edit the Our Changing Planet reports, which had to go through a White House review and final edit prior to publication.
The full text of the letter:
The Honorable James R. Mahoney, Ph.D.
Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere
& Deputy Administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
U.S. Department of Commerce
Washington, DC 20230
Dear Dr. Mahoney:
As you are well aware, the annual “Our Changing Planet” report and other federal climate science reports have been tainted by allegations of political interference and altered scientific findings in recent years. As you and the Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) begin the task of preparing the “Our Changing Planet” reports for Fiscal Year 2007 and Fiscal Year 2008—and any other reports that synthesize or summarize the results of federal climate science—we are writing to urge you to take immediate, extraordinary steps to repair public confidence in these reports and protect their scientific integrity.
In particular, the Fiscal Year 2003 edition of the annual “Our Changing Planet” climate change report and the 2003 “Strategic Plan for the United States Climate Change Science Program” were tainted by allegations of political interference and editing that altered those reports’ robust scientific findings.
We are writing specifically to request that you empower the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) with an oversight and auditing role in the preparation of the upcoming “Our Changing Planet” report. The NAS could certify to the public that the final version of the Fiscal Year 2007 report accurately reflects scientific findings, not political wishful thinking. We also ask that you provide NAS a similar certification role for other climate science reports intended for use by decision-makers.
Global warming is one of the most serious challenges we face, and Congress mandated reports summarizing the results of federal climate research to provide a solid scientific basis for public policy. Political interference has now tainted these reports and diminished their usefulness to Congress and the American people.
Although you are leaving your position soon, we hope you will not delay in making the changes necessary to restore the integrity and reputation of the CCSP.
Our nation cannot afford to have a political cloud over government-sponsored scientific research. The NAS can play a critical role in maintaining the high level of independence and integrity that we expect from federally-supported science, so we can make the best decisions to protect current and future generations of Americans.
Frank R. Lautenberg
Daniel K. Inouye
John F. Kerry