|....According to The New York Times, officials at the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (nasa) have attempted to discourage its chief climate scientist, James Hansen, from speaking out on global warming. The same thing may be happening to scientists at noaa. Francesca Grifo, the head of the Scientific Integrity Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, says a noaa scientist complained last year of "being what we now call Hansenized." Emanuel, who regularly talks with noaa scientists, says, "Scientists who don't toe the party line are being intimidated from talking to the press. I think it is a very sad situation. I know quite a few people who are frightened, but they beg me not to use their name." |
The main instrument of suppression seems to be noaa's policy on contact with the press. Since June 2004, noaa, which is part of the Department of Commerce, has had a policy that its employees have to notify a public affairs officer if a member of the press contacts them for an interview. But the policy was often ignored. Then, on September 29, in the midst of growing public debate over hurricanes and global warming, public affairs official Jim Teet issued a memo requiring that "any request for an interview with a national media outlet/reporter must now receive prior approval by DOC [Department of Commerce]."
Noaa Public Affairs Director Jordan St. John insists that Teet's memo merely restated the existing policy, but, by requiring approval and not merely notification, Teet's order--first publicized by reporter Larisa Alexandrovna of "The Raw Story"--erected an entirely new hurdle in the face of noaa scientists who want to talk to the press. Noaa employees, speaking on background, described the policy to me as "strange" and "unfortunate."
Georgia Tech's Curry, who also serves as a noaa adviser on its Climate Working Group, thinks that what is happening at the organization is an "absolute disgrace." Curry knows of noaa scientists who disagree with noaa's position on hurricanes and global warming but are being told not to talk to the press. "They are being muzzled," she says. Curry also says that officials have been trying to prevent certain scientists at the National Climactic Data Center from even working on the problem of hurricanes and global warming. "You hear about Hansen, but nasa is not really that bad. Noaa is really, really bad," she says.
Perhaps the most telling indictment of noaa comes from Jerry Mahlman. Mahlman joined noaa in 1970, the year it was established, and served from 1984 to 2000 as the director of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory. Retired from noaa, he is now a senior research associate at ncar in Boulder, Colorado. Mahlman, who has continued contact with noaa scientists, says that dissenting scientists are being intimidated from talking to the press and that their papers are being withheld from publication. Mahlman tells me, "I know a lot of people who would love to talk to you, but they don't dare. They are worried about getting fired."
According to Mahlman, the architect of noaa's policy on global warming and hurricanes is its director, Lautenbacher, not underlings like Mayfield and Bell. Lautenbacher, a former naval officer with a Ph.D. in applied mathematics whom Bush nominated to head noaa in September 2001, has been an administration point man on global warming at international conferences, where he justifies the administration's rejection of the Kyoto treaty. At a U.N. climate conference in Milan in December 2003, Lautenbacher declared, "I do believe we need more scientific info before we commit to a process like Kyoto."
Lautenbacher's predecessors regularly voiced their opinions on scientific subjects, but they usually tried to steer clear of politics, and they didn't pretend to be presenting an official position on a scientific controversy. But, under Lautenbacher, noaa has been plunged into Bush administration politics. With the issue of hurricanes and global warming, the organization has entered the even murkier realm of scientific censorship. Noaa, which once exemplified the constructive relationship between science and government, has become an instrument of what author Chris Mooney calls "the Republican war on science." And, in this war, the public is the real casualty.
S.O.P. for the neocons.