To all you Bush administration underlings who've been tempted to block or divert a government scientist's media interview request, or modify a scientific report, or suppress it entirely, a word of advice:
It's going to come out eventually.
That's a lesson to remember as we await today"s House hearing--the third since the Democrats took over--on the administration's pervasive interferences with the communication of climate science to Congress and the American public. A vast treasure trove of Freedom of Information Act documents pertaining to this subject have now been uncovered by various investigators and muckrakers, ranging from Greenpeace to congressional committees. They show, fairly comprehensively, what was going on behind the scenes. Much of it looks pretty ugly.
And now, the latest evidence has been compiled into a comprehensive report by the Government Accountability Project (PDF), a document likely to feature heavily in the hearing later this afternoon. As someone who has picked over this record in pretty much detail (and filled an entire book chapter with it), even I found much new information in here.
The GAP report covers interference with the communication of climate science across our government. But one of the most prominent outrages--and one I expect to draw heavy attention today--is the attempt by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (or NOAA; it's part of the Department of Commerce) to dismiss links between hurricanes and global warming in the wake of the disastrous 2005 Atlantic hurricane season.
By mid-season and especially by season's end, the hurricane-climate relationship was being hotly debated by scientists, some of whom had grown increasingly convinced that where there was smoke, there was indeed fire. Yet instead of simply admitting the existence of a lively debate on this subject and moving on, NOAA opted to take an apparently coordinated stance dismissing the notion that global warming had substantially intensified the average hurricane. The agency did so through press conferences, through congressional testimony, and through statements on the agency's website. And as the latest report highlights, it also did so in a subtler way: By making it easier for some government scientists to express their views to the media than for others to do so.
There's nothing wrong with skeptical government experts, like the National Hurricane Center's Chris Landsea, stating publicly their earnestly held doubts that hurricanes have measurably intensified due to global warming. But what is wrong is for NOAA to simultaneously block other experts who might have a somewhat different view, like Landsea's colleague Thomas Knutson of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, from expressing their own opinions in major media interviews. There's no doubt any more that this happened: read the report. Read the emails. As I said, it's ugly.
And that's just one of many, many, many case studies, now backed up by voluminous evidence. When people living many years in the future look back on this behavior--and view it in the context of the very different planet that they may, by then, be forced to occupy--their denunciations might sound quite a lot stronger than anything you or I can muster at present.
UPDATE: For inscrutable reasons, the link to the GAP report does not seem to be working, but it can be downloaded from here.
Also, for my report from the hearing over at "The Intersection," click here.