I just saw this news report on CNN's Lou Dobbs. I found the report on Greenwire. Thought it "fit" in somewhat with this thread:
Climate official resigns, blasting White House influence
Brian Stempeck and Andrew Freedman, Greenwire reporters
A top climate official announced plans to resign his federal post next week, blasting the Bush administration's global warming research plan and raising concern about the potential for politics to influence federal findings.
Rick Piltz, senior associate with the Climate Change Science Program, said he would resign at the end of next week after 10 years at CCSP and the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the agencies responsible for federal climate research.
Piltz expressed frustration with what he sees as the intrusion of politics into the scientific arena and a questionable scientific review process overseen by top White House officials.
"I resigned because of a number of differences with the Bush administration's approach to climate change and climate science over the past four years," Piltz wrote in an e-mail to Greenwire this morning.
"There is a problem with the process that has been established for final review and revision of these reports and clearance for publication," he continued, noting that lead scientists on climate studies are not given the power to approve their final reports. "The final review and clearance would be done inside the administration, through a process that was seen as potentially subject to political influence on how the scientific conclusions were expressed.
"There is a governmental process, and potential political influence, in the way these reports are approved," Piltz said. "It's not clear yet how big a problem this will become in practice. But it occurs in the context of a widespread distrust of the Bush administration in the scientific community -- for exactly the reason that the administration has come to be perceived as not keeping politics out of science, on climate and other issues."
Piltz described oversight of CCSP research at part of a larger pattern. "The administration chose to have the CCSP Synthesis Reports be government documents rather than asking the independent scientists to write them and let the chips fall where they may -- and this leads to a number of potential problems," he concluded.
"He felt some differences in his view about the way the work is being done," said James Mahoney, director of CCSP and deputy administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "I certainly have commended him for his diligent work over 10 years on the program," Mahoney added, noting that Piltz is only one of the 300 officials working on CCSP reports.
But other climate researchers say Piltz's resignation should send a message to the Bush administration.
"I think it's a clear indication of a growing frustration," said Michael MacCracken, a scientist at the Climate Institute who previously worked at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for 34 years and also spent nine years with the U.S. Global Change Research Program. "A number of other people are quite frustrated by the administration's attempt to control the scientific findings, the presentation of the scientific findings."
Just two weeks ago, the lead author of a forthcoming CCSP climate report asked to have his name removed from the study, questioning whether White House officials are looking to put their own spin on climate research.
Eric Sundquist -- formerly a lead author of the U.S. State of the Carbon Cycle Report -- announced he was removing his name from the study in a Feb. 22 letter circulated to his colleagues.
"A year and a half after the submittal of the first SOCCR proposal, not a word of the report has been written," Sundquist wrote. "Inevitably, many potential authors and reviewers of the SOCCR have expressed concerns about the purpose and nature of the government review and approval process."
At issue is the federal scientific review process. When scientists finish their report, they must then submit it to the National Science and Technology Council, a Cabinet-level group, for final approval. Sundquist and other scientists question why their work needs the approval of top Cabinet officials.
"The involvement of the NSTC (or any agency) in giving final clearance to this report seems to be potentially suspect," MacCracken wrote in a public comment about the process. "For an administration supposedly committed to openness and credibility in the scientific process, this is a serious shortcoming."
Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists said there is a concern that changes will be made to the CCSP reports without authors being given the opportunity to review them and make sure they are "scientifically correct or consistent with their research."
"Given the track record that we've seen from this administration in a number of areas, that's not an illegitimate concern," Meyer said.
Meyer cited the example of the 2003 U.S. EPA "State of the Environment Report" that included a short paragraph on climate change after the White House requested that the agency make significant changes to a longer proposed section. According to a UCS account that was confirmed by an EPA official, the White House requested revisions that EPA officials believed stretched the credibility of climate change science (Greenwire, August 30, 2004).
Federal officials maintain that they are not looking to rewrite CCSP findings, and that the review process will be transparent. "The core issue here is that somehow there's going to be an editing or a spin that would tend to change the underlying science," CCSP Director Mahoney explained. "I think it's a hollow critique."
Before a climate report is sent the National Science and Technology Council, a draft will be posted on the Web, making it possible to track changes in the final report. "The full text of these documents will be all posted online for public review before that approval step," he said.
Mahoney conceded that the process is taking longer than CCSP initially thought. "We were somewhat naively optimistic about the scope of the work," he said. "It's been a tremendous amount of effort getting moving. I wouldn't deny that there's an element of criticism.
"This is a bureaucratic process, but these are controversial questions," Mahoney added. "The very process we set up has been set up to make sure all of the relevant views are aired."
Bob Hopkins, a spokesman for the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy, said that CCSP's strategic plan has twice been reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences and received high marks. "They have a track record of getting things done on a timely and professional basis," Hopkins said.
Ultimately, climate researchers are optimistic that kinks in the review process will eventually be worked out.
Anthony King, a researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory who is heading up the carbon cycle report from which Sundquist removed himself, said many scientists are concerned that the review process will provide an opening for political officials to alter report language. But those fears may be allayed following the end of the public comment period on the report "prospectus," he noted.
H.R.H. Nicole Marie
Eve was Framed