Government Scientists Should Not Be Muzzled

Today, I wrote to Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez about some internal emails I have obtained.  The emails are interesting because they show that a press officer working for Secretary Gutierrez appeared to be making decisions about what scientific views were appropriate to share with the public and what scientific views weren't.

The email exchange took place just after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita when there was great public interest in the connections between global warming and hurricanes.  The emails suggest that Commerce press secretary Chuck Fuqua, who also happened to be the Director of Media Operations of the 2004 Republican National Convention, ensured that only those scientists that were skeptical of the connection would be provided to the media.  Salon.com has obtained additional emails that suggest the Executive Office of the President was involved in approving and disapproving media requests for government scientists.

I can't help but connect this to testimony that the Government Reform Committee received in July that NOAA's official position on hurricanes and global warming is not consistent with the published, peer-reviewed science which suggests that as the planet warms hurricanes will become more dangerous.  Dr. Judith Curry, of the Georgia Institute of Technology, testified as follows:

"The issue that is arguably of greatest concern to research scientists is the public position taken by NOAA on the issue of hurricanes and global warming. Statements by NOAA administrators and selected scientists from the National Weather Service in Congressional testimony, press communications, and website material have categorically denied a connection between global warming and increased hurricane intensity....  This information being disseminated by NOAA is misleading, incomplete and one-sided, and does not accurately reflect the state of knowledge as reflected in the published scientific literature.  NOAA's statements, by default, are viewed by the public as the official federal position on hurricanes and global warming. Government leadership that is willing and able to engage in an appropriate representation of scientific research is essential for scientifically well-informed national planning and preparedness."

I'm concerned about what may be going on over at NOAA and the Commerce Department.  Government scientists should not be muzzled in order to conform with the Administration's ideology.