The new draft U.S. National Climate Assessment report is a threat to the global warming denial machine because it takes projected global warming seriously and focuses on the implications of climatic disruption, region by region and across socioeconomic and natural resource sectors. The first National Assessment, completed in 2000, was attacked with denial machine litigation and propaganda, then suppressed by the Bush Administration. They chose to make the assessment vanish from public consciousness rather than allow the national conversation it was aimed at encouraging.
Chris Mooney had a very good article on this in Mother Jones when the new National Climate Assessment review draft was released: “Could This Scary Report Get Americans to Care About Climate? Yes, it’s only a draft, but here’s why the National Climate Assessment is a BFD.” Chris wrote (excerpt here – read the full article):
Shortly after his reelection, President Obama pledged to lead a “conversation across the country” about climate change. This new report is perhaps the single best conversation piece he’s likely to encounter.
What makes the new National Climate Assessment so powerful—and accordingly, so threatening to the climate-change deniers—is that it brings the debate down from the atmosphere and puts it, Google Maps-style, right smack in your backyard. And unlike the two previous national assessments—which, largely for political reasons, failed to reach the audience they deserved—this document might finally help push us to deal meaningfully with a problem we should have addressed decades ago.
With a little help from the president, that is.
A quick dive into the checkered history of the national climate assessments conducted so far shows how potentially transformative they are, and just how much an administration’s receptivity (or lack thereof) determines their fate: …
The first assessment, released late in the Clinton years and then handed off to the environmentally hostile Bush team, was widely attacked by the denier crowd and was subject to a censorship campaign by administration itself. … [H]ere’s the gist: Following dubious assertions that the report wasn’t reliable and didn’t live up to “data quality” standards, the Bush administration started refusing to even cite it in other government reports. (For more on this, see the court declaration of climate-science whistleblower Rick Piltz, who described how references to the national assessment would strangely “disappear” during federal editing processes.)
What was it about this document that so scared the climate deniers? Probably the way it got people to care about climate change by zooming in on regional changes, thereby helping to relate them to people’s own lives and communities. …
President Obama would do well to base his “conversation across the country” on the regional scenarios in the national assessment—and talk about how climate change affects everyday Americans, and what they might want to do about it. …
I have written and spoken on numerous occasions and at considerable length about the fate of the first National Climate Assessment under the Bush Administration. I believe their actions, in collusion with the denial machine, to bury and suppress the official use of the first National Assessment – in effect, to make it vanish from public consciousness – was the central climate science scandal of the Bush Administration during 2001-2008.
A few links to this record:
Testimony of Rick Piltz, Director, Climate Science Watch, Government Accountability Project, Washington, D.C., Before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, U.S. House of Representatives, Hearing on Allegations of Political Interference With the Work of Government Climate Change Scientists, January 30, 2007.
Center for Biological Diversity v. Brennan, Declaration of Rick Piltz (link to Declaration and Exhibits). The Declaration in PDF format is here.
Declaration of Rick S. Piltz in Support of Memorandum of Amici Curiae John F. Kerry and Jay Inslee, In the United States District Court for the Northern District of California Oakland Division, Center For Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, and Friends of The Earth, Plaintiffs, v. Dr. William Brennan, In His Official Capacity as Acting Director of The U.S. Climate Change Science Program; Climate Change Science Program; John Marburger III, In His Official Capacity as Director of The Office of Science and Technology Policy and Chairman of The Federal Coordinating Council on Science, Engineering, and Technology, Office of Science and Technology Policy; and Federal Coordinating Council on Science, Engineering, and Technology, Defendants. (This is a very detailed exposition for a lawsuit in federal court challenging the Bush Administration’s failure to produce a second national assessment as required by statute.)
A Federal judge ruled the Bush Administration violated the Global Change Research Act by failing to produce a scientific assessment of global change that was due in November 2004. Ruling on the lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity et al, U.S. District Judge Sandra Brown Armstrong ordered the Administration to produce the assessment no later than the end of May 2008.
In “The Denial Machine,” we reviewed eight years of the climate change disinformation campaign in the Bush administration for a special end-of-2008 issue of Index on Censorship devoted to examining the Bush legacy on human rights, secrecy, and censorship.
U.S. National Climate Change Assessment strategic planning kicks off in Chicago meeting (April 4, 2010). Includes a discussion of the historical context of the U.S. National Assessment process.
Those who are developing the new National Climate Assessment must be prepared to defend it against the attacks that can be expected from the war on climate science. When the first National Assessment was attacked by the denial machine and politically suppressed by the Bush Administration, the science community and the federal climate research program leadership failed to stand up for it.
In 2007, Chris Mooney wrote the best single article on the fate of the first National Assessment, here. It’s a lucid, accurate, detailed, and well-documented piece that should, via fair use, be readily available to students of this topic as a key historical account of first national climate assessment and Bush Administration political interference with climate science communication.
First U.S. National Assessment (2000). U.S. National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change, by the National Assessment Synthesis Team, U.S. Global Change Research Program.