Energy & Environment

Lawmakers condemn Trump’s ‘destabilizing’ and ‘politicizing’ moves on climate assessment

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Nearly 90 Democratic lawmakers wrote to the White House to protest a recent shakeup at the agency charged with organizing a key assessment that helps the government consider how to respond to climate change.

President Trump recently reassigned Michael Kuperberg, a climate scientist serving as executive director of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), the agency in charge of Fifth National Climate Assessment. 

The White House has since detailed Ryan Maue, the newly-hired chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who has been vocal in questioning the science connecting climate change to extreme weather events, to detail the report. Maue would also serve alongside David Legates, an academic with a history of questioning humans’ influence on global warming, who now serves as NOAA’s deputy assistant secretary of commerce for observation and prediction.

Maue and Legates’s involvement has prompted concerns they may seek to recruit like-minded scientists to draft the report, which typically paints a dire picture of the climate-related challenges facing the U.S. 

“We cannot stand by and tolerate the suppression, censorship, and manipulation of climate science,” lawmakers wrote in the letter spearheaded by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.).

“Peer-reviewed, evidence-based science can and should support and inform policies, and it is vital that the NCA remain free from political interference or bias,” they continued. “We urge you to maintain a collaborative, transparent, peer-reviewed process through USGCRP and provide the nation’s top scientists with the resources necessary to produce a Fifth National Climate Assessment that informs our work and the public about the implications of the climate crisis.”

The White House did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The Fifth National Climate Assessment is already behind schedule following a delay in selecting the hundreds of scientists necessary to draft chapters on their various issues of expertise. The report, which is due every four years, is already expected to land in 2023 instead of 2022.

“Refusing to take the basic steps to prepare the next Climate Assessment is outrageous and dangerous,” Howard Crystal, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a release last month at the first signs of delay.

“We can’t prepare for the droughts, floods, fires and hurricanes to come unless we understand how climate change is affecting our country,” he added. “Congress set a strict four-year timetable for these reports precisely because timely information related to climate change is so important, and the agency must move forward to comply.”

Critics say this isn’t the first time the administration has sought to stall the report. In 2017 the Trump administration disbanded an Obama-era committee designed to help aid in the creation of the 2018 Fourth National Climate Assessment. The report was later released the day after Thanksgiving.

Lawmakers accused the White House in its latest moves of “undermining the trust built into the process” and “destabilizing the NCA process and politicizing the NCA and its findings.” 

“We implore you to preserve the integrity of our nation’s premier climate science report and work with us to support federal science agencies,” they said.

Tags Climate change Climate change in the United States Donald Trump Environmental policy in the United States National Climate Assessment Suzanne Bonamici
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