By Anne Polansky
Senior Climate Policy Analyst
Yesterday, Government Accountability Project submitted to the Office of Special Counsel a letter of support for climate scientist and federal whistleblower Dr. George Luber, whose employer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, retaliated against him. An accomplished epidemiologist whose work is extensively published in the scientific literature, Dr. Luber is one of many government scientists who have been sidelined or ousted by political appointees in the Trump administration simply because their work focuses on human-caused global climate change. The letter is signed by Government Accountability Project’s Legal Director and veteran whistleblower attorney Tom Devine.
CSPW has been working collaboratively with Kevin Bell, Dr. Luber’s attorney at Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) to provide critical support by advocating for the CDC to revive and rebuild its dismantled Climate and Health Program and to restore Dr. Luber’s position as its director.
Dr. Luber founded the CDC’s Climate and Health Program in 2009 and directed it for ten years until he was sidelined in late 2018 following the dissolution of the $10 million program.
Moreover, political appointees at CDC have seen to it that this program championed by Congress could no longer address and make public the array of dangerous and deadly threats to public health that climate change brings to communities across America.
The letter to OSC states that Dr. Luber has suffered retaliation not only for his legal disclosures regarding improper actions taken by his superiors at CDC, but more broadly for his important, public position as a scientific authority on the impacts of human-caused climate change. It notes that Dr. Luber has been a target and victim of politically motivated attacks aimed at those who are best positioned to provide needed public warnings about the threats posed by a dramatically changing climate. Many other career federal employees across numerous administrative agencies have also been subject to retaliation for their work: most notably, former Department of Interior employee Joel Clement, former National Park Service employee Maria Caffrey, former US Department of Agriculture employee Lewis Ziska, and former Environmental Protection Agency employees Betsy Southerland and Jacob Carter. “These attacks are consistent in their impropriety, their indefensibility, and the danger they pose to public health and safety,” the letter states, going on to say that CDC officials “have done incalculable harm to the public well-being by silencing and vilifying a globally-recognized expert on the public health impacts of anthropogenic climate change.”
PEER filed a formal whistleblower complaint in August 2019 that lays out a strong set of arguments for a favorable decision by the Office of Special Counsel. In our view, the actions taken against him are based on bogus accusations and trumped up charges in an attempt to oust him. A decision by the OSC is pending.
We believe it is highly likely that George Luber was targeted for being an effective and outspoken advocate for educating the American people regarding the deleterious public health implications of a climate-changed world. The medical community at large has warned that climate change is a true public health emergency, so it is no less than tragic that our nation’s top human health experts are being prevented from conducting their important work.
Government Accountability Project stands with Dr. George Luber and all such scientists who put their distinguished careers on the line by continuing to sound the alarm about the climate change crisis happening across the planet.
CSPW Senior Climate Policy Analyst Anne Polansky has 30 years of experience in public policies relating to energy and the environment, with a strong focus on climate change and renewable energy. She is a former Professional Staff Member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.