Hillary Clinton addresses Climate Science Watch issues on integrity of science communication

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We note that, in her remarks on “Scientific Integrity and Innovation” at the Carnegie Institution for Science on October 4, Sen. Clinton took up several issues that Climate Science Watch has raised and stated positions in line with what we have been advocating—including a revived and expanded National Assessment on Climate Change, ending inappropriate political interference with climate science program reports, strengthening protections for whistleblowers who disclose political interference with science, and dealing with the emerging crisis in the space-based global climate observing system.

Climate Science Watch does not and will not make electoral endorsements. We will report on candidate statements and activities that address the climate research and government accountability issues of concern to us.

See the Clinton campaign’s news release, “Ending the War on Science,” and the full text of her October 4 speech.
Excerpts from the news release of particular interest to Climate Science Watch (with our underlining added, on some of the issues that we have developed on this web site and in other communications between March 2005 and the present):

Restoring the Federal Government’s Commitment to Science

Hillary will:

Sign an Executive Order that:

Ends political interference with science. Hillary will ban political appointees from altering or removing scientific conclusions in government publications without any legitimate basis for doing so, and prohibit unwarranted suppression of public statements by government scientists. President Bush’s political appointees have exercised unprecedented influence over the scientific content of government reports on global warming and other issues. In one particularly egregious case, the Chief of Staff for the White House Council for Environmental Quality – a lawyer with no scientific training – systematically edited and weakened government scientists’ conclusions on global warming. (Bush Aide Softened Greenhouse Gas Links to Global Warming, New York Times [June 8, 2005].) In another case, the Bush administration added statements to the National Cancer Institute website that suggested a link between abortion and breast cancer, when experts agreed that no such link existed. (Abortion and Breast Cancer, New York Times [Jan. 6, 2003].) Similarly, the EPA published reports on the environment and air pollution without information on or references to climate change, and political appointees reportedly added references to a study funded by the American Petroleum Institute questioning climate change evidence. Hillary will stop these and other practices once and for all, and will ensure that scientists play their proper role in ensuring that the public receives accurate information on matters of public interest.

Promotes vigilance in protecting scientific integrity. Hillary will direct all department and agency heads to submit annual reports on the steps they have taken to (1) safeguard against instances of political pressure threatening scientific integrity; and (2) promote openness and transparency in decision-making. In a survey of government scientists conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists, nearly half of all respondents perceived or personally experienced pressure to eliminate the words “climate change,” “global warming” and other similar terms for a variety of government communications. A full 87% perceived pressure on government scientists to make changes to their reports that altered the meaning of scientific findings. Dr. James E. Hansen, a climatology expert at NASA, spoke out about pressure by senior officials to minimize the impact of global warming. Hillary will ask all of her agency and department heads to provide a thorough accounting of any improper efforts to influence or suppress scientific conclusions and their efforts to prevent or deal with those instances.

Revives and expands the national assessment on climate change. A 1990 Act of Congress requires the Executive Branch to issue a national assessment every four years outlining the most recent scientific data on climate change and global warming and its projected effects on the country’s environment, economy, and public health. Despite this clear mandate, the Bush administration has not released an assessment in six and a half years – the last one was issued by the Clinton administration in 2000. In August, a federal court ruled that the administration had broken the law. The judge mandated that it complete an assessment by May 31, 2008. Hillary will not only comply with the Congressional directive – she would go further. Her Executive Order will expand the assessment to include not only the anticipated impacts of climate change, but also how U.S. regions and economic sectors can respond to climate change through mitigation and adaptation.

Restore the science advisor’s role in the White House. President Clinton, and President George H.W. Bush before him, relied on the advice of an Assistant to the President for Science and Technology – a senior adviser who reported directly to the President. President Bush eliminated the position of Assistant to the President, and the credibility of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has suffered under accusations that the Administration has manipulated and politicized science. Hillary will once again name an Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, and will do so quickly so that he or she can help recruit top scientific talent into government. That individual will not have his or her advice filtered through political advisors, but instead will be empowered to speak candidly with the President on matters of science and technology policy. Hillary will also fully fund and fully staff the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Re-establish the Office of Technology Assessment. The Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) should be restored to provide authoritative and objective analysis of complex scientific and technical issues for the federal government. From 1972 to 1995, the OTA had been a small department in the federal government providing authoritative and objective analysis to Congress on science and technology issues. Hillary will encourage Congress to re-establish the OTA and ensure that we restore the role of evidence, not partisanship and ideology, to decision making.

Protect the integrity and independence of federal scientific advisory committees. Roughly 1,000 federal advisory committees have been formed over the years to provide advice to the government on a range of issues, including scientific, medical, and technical matters. The Bush administration has been criticized by a number of organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences and the Union of Concerned Scientists, for making politically motivated appointments to these committees. A 2004 GAO investigation and report recommended a number of steps to enhance advisory committee independence. As President, Hillary will not allow political considerations to factor into selections; she will improve conflict-of-interest protections; and she would increase the transparency of committee recommendations. She will also enforce and build upon the scientific integrity provisions of the recently passed FDA reform bill.

Strengthen whistleblower protections for those who disclose potential instances of political interference with science. Ensure that federal employees feel free to speak out when they see threats to scientific integrity.

Develop a comprehensive space-based Earth Sciences agenda. A National Academy of Sciences report found that “[a]t a time of unprecedented need, the nation’s Earth observation satellite programs, once the envy of the world, are in disarray.” (NAS final report of the Decadal Survey Panel, [January 2007].) Incredibly, the number of operating sensors and instruments on NASA satellites that observe the Earth is likely to drop by 35 percent by 2010 and 50 percent by 2015. Among other things, NASA’s Earth Sciences program is vital to our country’s – and the world’s – long-term efforts to confront climate change. Hillary will fully fund NASA’s Earth Sciences program and initiate a Space-based Climate Change Initiative to help us secure the scientific knowledge we need to combat global warming and to prepare for extreme climate events.

And this, from the full text of the speech:

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been forced to delay the launch of important climate and weather-monitoring satellites. These technologies are critical tools to study climate change: measuring the rates of melting ice, temperature and humidity changes, sea level variations. Meanwhile, NASA’s budget for earth sciences has been cut by 30 percent and NASA climate scientists have been muzzled. Last year, the Bush administration went so far as to remove the following phrase, and I quote, “to understand and protect the home planet,” end quote, from NASA’s
mission statement.

 

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