Climate Assessment Revives Memories of White House Science Suppression

January 30, 2013

The release this month of the draft National Climate Assessment garnered many headlines. But little notice went to the fact that it was released at all. Earlier versions of this assessment of climate change's impacts on the U.S. were suppressed — and even "unpublished" — by the Bush White House politicos at the urging of fossil-fuel industries and anti-regulatory lobby groups.

A few voices did take note. Rick Piltz, who helped document how an oil company lobbyist rewrote federal climate science for the Bush White House, posted a piece about it on his Climate Science Watch blog. Piltz blew the whistle on Bush-era corruption of science — supplying full documentation — after several years at an insider's seat in the US Global Change Research Program.

Another was Chris Mooney, a science writer who specializes in chronicling the frictions between politics and science. His story for Mother Jones put the new assessment in context of a decade of suppression. He told the story more extensively in his book, The Republican War on Science, and a 2007 article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

The Assessment is important because it is one of the few authoritative statements about the real and potential impacts climate change will have on the backyards and daily lives of Americans. In a 1990 law, Congress required the executive branch to produce it every four years, and a court eventually ruled the Bush administration's refusal to produce it illegal.