Shades of Phil Cooney. High-level state officials under Texas Governor Rick Perry have censored a chapter in The State of the Bay, a regular publication of the Galveston Bay Estuary Program, to remove discussion of climate change and sea level rise. “This is a clear-cut case of censorship,” the author, Dr. John B. Anderson, an oceanographer at Rice University, told Raw Story. “It’s not scientific editing.” And he supplied the report, showing text deleted by the Texas Council on Environmental Quality, to document the point. Looks like the Perry denial machine is practicing to move into Cooney’s old office at the White House CEQ and take up his editing pen.
Bush Aide Softened Greenhouse Gas Links to Global Warming, by Andrew Revkin, New York Times, June 8, 2005
That was then. This is now (my comment is at the end of the post):
Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones reported on October 12:
Rick Perry takes Texas pride in being a climate change denier—and his administration acts accordingly.
Top environmental officials under Perry have gutted a recent report on sea level rise in Galveston Bay, removing all mentions of climate change. For the past decade, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), which is run by Perry political appointees, including famed global warming denier Bryan Shaw, has contracted with the Houston Advanced Research Center to produce regular reports on the state of the Bay. But when HARC submitted its most recent State of the Bay publication to the commission earlier this year, officials decided they couldn’t accept a report that said climate change is caused by human activity and is causing the sea level to rise. Top officials at the commission proceeded to edit the paper to censor its references to human-induced climate change or future projections on how much the bay will rise.
John Anderson, the oceanographer at Rice University who wrote the chapter, provided Mother Jones with a copy of the edited document, complete with tracked changes from top TCEQ officials. You can see the cuts—which include how much sea level rise has increased over the years, as well as the statement that this rise “is one of the main impacts of global climate change” — here and embedded at the end of this story. …
Joe Romm at Climate Progress:
In one of the most flagrant recent instances of scientific censorship, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) refused to publish a report chapter unless all mention of climate change and its impact on sea level rise were eliminated. The author — Rice University oceanographer John Anderson, a leading expert on sea level rise with more than 200 publications — refused. As a result, TCEQ killed his chapter in The State of the Bay, a regular publication of the Galveston Bay Estuary Program.
Climate Progress interviewed Anderson along with other Texas scientists who revealed that this is not the first time officials removed references to climate change in a state report. Dr. Wendy Gordon, a scientist who spent 8 years working for the TCEQ and its predecessor agencies, told me she was not surprised by this censorship at all. She related the story of one of her colleagues whose attempt to incorporate climate change into a state water planning report was “eviscerated by the higher-ups.”
Governor Rick “4 Pinocchios” Perry is a proud denier of climate science, as is his appointed head of TCEQ, Bryan Shaw, so it’s no surprise his entire administration walks in lock step. No doubt this is what the country should expect from a Perry presidency. After all, we saw similar climate science censorship the last time an anti-science Texan was in the White House. …
Stephen Webster at The Raw Story:
Dr. John B. Anderson, an oceanographer at Rice University, told Raw Story that his report on the Galveston Bay estuary, and the effects of rising sea levels on its fragile ecosystem, was censored for purely “political” reasons.
“This is a clear-cut case of censorship,” he said in an exclusive interview. “It’s not scientific editing. It was strictly deletion of virtually any information that related to global change.” …
“That chapter that was censored was actually a summary of scientific literature,” Anderson told Raw Story. “There’s no new data that was actually presented in that chapter. […] One of those statements was even lifted out of Science Magazine, which last I heard was an acceptable scientific journal. So, I was rather shocked that their response was they did not accept some of those viewpoints.”
“To say you don’t accept it, when it’s been published in peer-reviewed scientific literature, usually means that you need some kind of a counter argument to say that there’s also evidence published in peer-reviewed literature that would refute that,” he added. “But [they offered] nothing of that sort. It becomes censorship when they simply omit these references and provide no constructive criticism or comments.” …
The agency also said that information in Anderson’s article was “inconsistent with agency policy,” but offered no elaboration on what that policy is. All of Raw Story’s follow-up questions were subsequently ignored.
“We scientists commonly are criticized for not going the extra step in education, and this was my way of doing that outreach, to write an article that is not directed at the scientific community,” Anderson concluded. “To then have those very policymakers turn around and say we refuse to accept any of this… is quite discouraging. I refer to Texas as a state of denial, and I don’t think we’re the only coastal state that’s in denial.”
“These people have a responsibility to look out for, not just the voters, but the future voters,” he said. “There the ones who are going to have to pay the tab. As long as we live in the state of denial, we’re just passing the check to our grandkids to deal with.” …
Harvey Rice at the Houston Chronicle covered the story on October 10
… TCEQ contracted with the Houston Advanced Research Center to produce the report two years ago; the research center asked Anderson to write an article on sea-level rise in Galveston Bay. The research center received the final edited version of his article about three months ago, Anderson said.
Jim Lester, vice president of the research center and editor of the publication, said he, co-editor Lisa Gonzalez and Anderson have advised TCEQ officials that they do not want their names associated with the edited version.
“We feel it would impact our credibility as scientists on something where the data on sea-level rise has been censored,” Lester said. He said the report would have been published a year ago, if not for the disagreement.
UPDATED October 13 9:30 a.m. with this comment:
Hats off to John Anderson. On this occasion he exemplifies public truth-telling as an essential mode of citizenship. Scientists — in government agencies and labs, in universities and research institutions — ask yourselves: if confronted with this kind of political interference and suppression of honest scientific communication, what would you do? Would you push back, and if necessary blow the whistle and make a public issue of it, naming names, providing documents, and going on the record with a statement? Or would you rationalize silence, as was the common practice in the U.S. Global Change Research Program under the Bush administration (“well, they won the election so they have a right to do whatever they want,” etc. etc.). In my experience, speaking out is good for the soul. It’s not enough that the research and assessments that Dr. Anderson and the rest of the science community are producing get written. They must be defended effectively against political attacks and moved into the public discourse.