Several climate scientists who work for NOAA and the USGS claim that their work has been hidden from the public. In particular, political appointees have blocked media requests and rewritten press releases to prevent the agencies' researchers from speaking publicly about climate change.
The incidents reported in this article are but the latest in a series of actions in which the administration has attempted to hide essential information from the public. Whether it is in foreign policy, public health, or environmental threats, the American people need accurate information.
These scientists -- working nationwide in research centers in such places as Princeton, N.J., and Boulder, Colo. -- say they are required to clear all media requests with administration officials, something they did not have to do until the summer of 2004. Before then, point climate researchers -- unlike staff members in the Justice or State departments, which have long-standing policies restricting access to reporters -- were relatively free to discuss their findings without strict agency oversight.
"There has been a change in how we're expected to interact with the press," said Pieter Tans, who measures greenhouse gases linked to global warming and has worked at NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder for two decades. He added that although he often "ignores the rules" the administration has instituted, when it comes to his colleagues, "some people feel intimidated -- I see that."
Christopher Milly, a hydrologist at the U.S. Geological Survey, said he had problems twice while drafting news releases on scientific papers describing how climate change would affect the nation's water supply.
Once in 2002, Milly said, Interior officials declined to issue a news release on grounds that it would cause "great problems with the department." In November 2005, they agreed to issue a release on a different climate-related paper, Milly said, but "purged key words from the releases, including 'global warming,' 'warming climate' and 'climate change.' "
One interesting point is that the funding for climate research has actually increased in the last two years. Maybe someday we will learn what the researchers are finding.