Trump Administration Squashing Science Across the Environmental Agencies At All Levels

Photo: Evan Vucci, AP

An independent investigation looking into agency actions after “Sharpiegate” that was published yesterday determined that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s current political leadership violated the agency’s scientific integrity policy.

  • In addition, the extent of the Trump Administration’s efforts to squash science and even the very words “climate change” from research and policy papers is now clear according to The Washington Post and New York Times, which they obtained revealing emails that tell the story — repeatedly.
  • The Times found a pattern of efforts by managers even at mid-level in the Interior and Energy Departments telling employees that their scientific conclusions contained “red flag words” like the Paris Agreement or “anthropogenic” climate change.
  • The Post obtained emails from the NOAA showing the public’s dismay and anger after the President interfered with the forecast of Hurricane Dorian and agency leaders then backed him up.

Why This Matters:   President Bush’s (’43) Administration also tried to squash climate science and subsequently agencies like NOAA put in place strong scientific integrity policies to prevent such interference with agency research and its results.  This Administration then violated those very policies.  The NOAA emails show what happens when agencies politicize science — they quickly lose the public’s faith and trust.  Sad.

The War on Science at DOE and DOI

The Times story makes clear the issue with the science was climate change — pure and simple.  And even agency career employees were pressured to silence science that did not match the Administration’s political view that climate change is a hoax.  For example, The Times describes the Park Service leadership working to delete every mention of humanity’s role in climate change in a report on sea-level rise, and when its lead author objected, the report was released as drafted, but the author was then demoted before her position was eliminated. On several other occasions, scientists’ work was objected to by agency middle managers, and the conflict was resolved by the employees publishing their works as private citizens.

Loss of Faith in NOAA

After the President last September held up a chart on which he had altered the storm track of Hurricane Dorian with his sharpie, the public flooded NOAA with emails and complaints, according to The Post.  NOAA emails show that the President’s actions undermined the entire agency.  Leaders received emails from members of the public saying things like, “Going forward, I will have less faith in NOAA’s forecasts, because I won’t know how they might have been tainted by politics” and asking “How can I trust anything coming from NOAA anymore?”  The Post asked Gretchen Goldman, research director for the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, whether this might hurt the agency’s credibility and she predicted that there may be issues with how much the public trusts NOAA hurricane forecasts this season, and also questions about whether agency scientists would dare to speak up if a political leader contradicted a forecast again.

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