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Context of 'October 5, 2002: Study Suggests Global Warming Could Cause Hydrologic Changes'

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Richard Wetherald, a research meteorologist at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), writes a press release on a paper he has written on global warming that will soon be published in the prestigious Geophysical Research Letters. But a few days after submitting the press release, NOAA press officer Jana Goldman informs him that the release has been rejected. The reason provided by NOAA is that since the journal will be sending out its own press release, there is no need for NOAA to do one as well. Wetherald doesn’t buy it. According to Wetherald, NOAA would not be duplicating efforts because while the journal’s press release will be written in technical jargon, the NOAA release he drafted is written in language that is more accessible to the public. [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 10/1/2006]

Entity Tags: Jana Goldman, Richard Wetherald

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

When USGS hydrologist Christopher Milly submits a draft press release about a recent article on the increased risk of extreme flooding due to global warming, he is warned by a USGS press officer that the release might cause problems at the White House due to the sensitive nature of its topic. The news release would generate “great problems with the department,” Milly is advised. As predicted, the release is rejected by the Department of the Interior on grounds that the journal Nature will probably be publishing its own release about the article. [Washington Post, 4/6/2006; Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 33 pdf file] However, it has been noted (see, e.g., (April 2001)) that government press releases issued in conjunction with releases published by scientific journals are helpful to the public because government issued releases tend to be written in a language that it more accessible.

Entity Tags: US Department of Interior, Christopher Milly, US Geological Service

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

In an email exchange between Richard Wetherald, a research meteorologist at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), and NOAA public affairs staffer Jana Goldman, Wetherald complains that the Department of Commerce appears to be turning down press releases that have to do with global warming issues. In the following exchange, Wetherald refers to a study he recently co-authored (see October 5, 2002) on the potential impact global warming might have on soil moisture and run-off rates. In his email, he writes, “I have not bothered to write a draft NOAA press release since the last time it was turned down by the Dept. of Commerce (see (April 2001)). Apparently at that time, greenhouse or global warming papers were considered to be the literary equivalent of ‘persona non grata’ by the current administration. I assume that this is still the case? I don’t want to waste both of our times if it is. Anyway, here is the summary for your information. Please let me know if this policy has changed.” Goldman replies: “What I think I may do is pass the abstract along downtown and see what they think. I agree with you, the attitude seems to have changed regarding climate change, but let’s also avoid doing unnecessary work if it’s not going to go anywhere.” Wetherald says in response: “That sounds like a sensible idea. If by some miracle, you can use it as a NOAA press release, this would be fine as long as it contains the basic conclusions in the summary that I sent. I will certainly help out if it comes to that…” Goldman then writes: “I sent the abstract down to see if it would fly—if so, we would have to draft a release, but at least we would know that it would go through and our work would not be in vain.” [Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 31-33 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Richard Wetherald, US Department of Commerce, Jana Goldman

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

The US Department of Commerce rejects a news release about an article on global warming written by NOAA research meteorologist Richard Wetherald. No reason is provided. This is the second time a news release written on an article by Wetherald has been rejected. The first time was in 2001 (see (April 2001)) [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 10/1/2006]

Entity Tags: Richard Wetherald, US Department of Commerce

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

The Journal of Geophysical Research publishes a study by research meteorologists Richard Wetherald and Syukuro Manabe on how global warming might impact the hydrology of different regions. According to their computer model, high latitudes would experience higher run-off rates as a result of global warming. Winters would see higher soil moisture levels than winters currently do, while summers would see lower than normal soil moisture levels. Soil moisture in lower latitudes would be lower year-round, potentially leading to the expansion of deserts. [Wetherald and Manabe, 2002]

Entity Tags: Richard Wetherald, Syukuro Manabe

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

The Office of Management and Budget, which is reviewing the EPA’s forthcoming “Draft Report on the Environment” (see June 23, 2003) advises the EPA that the report “needs balance” and asserts that “global climate change has beneficial effects as well as adverse impacts.” The office also suggests removing the discussion on global warming completely from the report’s executive summary. “[D]elete climate change or use previously agreed upon material,” writes one staffer at the White House Council of Environmental Quality. Similarly, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy suggests removing a discussion of the potential impacts climate change might have on human health and ecology. The Department of Energy also gets involved, arguing through the White House that EPA should delete any discussion of atmospheric concentrations of carbon because it is not a “good indicator of climate change.” Another official warns, “Take care here and be sure to be consistent with existing administration policy. Let us try to avoid another CAR scenario.” This is a reference to the Climate Action Report (CAR) (see May 2002) that the US submitted to the UN in May 2002. That report concluded that human activities are “causing global mean surface air temperature and subsurface ocean temperature to rise.” White House officials also suggest making edits to particular sentences. For example, the OMB asks the EPA to delete the phrases, “alter regional patterns of climate,” and, “potentially affect the balance of radiation.” It also suggests replacing the passage, “changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly the result of human activities,” with, “a causal link between the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the observed climate changes during the 20th century cannot be unequivocally established.” Several of the edits are made by CEQ chief Philip Cooney, a former oil industry lobbyist. According to a congressional investigation, Cooney removes climate change “from a discussion of environmental issues that have global consequences, delete[s] a chart depicting historical temperature reconstruction, and insert[s] the word ‘potentially’ in several places to reduce the certainty of scientific statements regarding the impacts of climate change.” Cooney also advocates the removal of references to a 2001 National Research Council report (see June 2001) concluding that human activities contribute to global warming and information from a 1999 study indicating that global temperatures rose significantly over the previous decade compared with the last 1,000 years. Cooney also adds a claim to the draft report that satellite data does not support global warming, and removes a phrase that says “regional patterns may be altered” by climate change. In one memo, Cooney writes, “These changes must be made.” [New York Times, 6/19/2003; CBS News, 6/19/2003; Associated Press, 6/20/2003; US Congress, 1/30/2007 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Philip A. Cooney, Office of Management and Budget, Bush administration (43), Office of Science and Technology Policy, Council on Environmental Quality

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

The NOAA announces in a press release that it has awarded “over $3.4 million to Princeton University for Climate…’ as envisioned in the Bush administration’s Climate Change Research Initiative.’” The release was coordinated with Princeton, which also issues a press release. In an email sent before the release, Steve Mayle, administrative officer of the NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, wrote, “George [Philander, a Princeton professor and researcher] said the University would probably issue its own press release. If that turns out to be the case, we should put your press people in touch with our press people so that they can coordinate the issuance of the releases.” In other instances where a proposed NOAA press release would have mirrored a release being issued by another organization, the NOAA has rejected the release, citing unnecessary duplication (see, e.g., (April 2001) and 2002). In those cases, the press releases concerned studies that undercut the Bush administration’s position on global warming. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 30 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Steve Mayle

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

The American Geophysical Union (AGU), representing over 41,000 scientists from 130 countries involved in the study of atmospheric and ocean sciences, solid-Earth sciences, hydrologic sciences, and space sciences, issue a statement titled, “Human Impacts on Climate.” The opening paragraph states: “Human activities are increasingly altering the Earth’s climate. These effects add to natural influences that have been present over Earth’s history. Scientific evidence strongly indicates that natural influences cannot explain the rapid increase in global near-surface temperatures observed during the second half of the 20th century….” [World Wildlife Fund, n.d.; American Geophysical Union, 12/2003]

Entity Tags: American Geophysical Union (AGU)

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

The US Department of Commerce blocks publication of a news release about an article on global warming written by NOAA research meteorologist Richard Wetherald. No reason is provided. This is the third time the DOC has rejected a news release written about an article by Wetherald. The other two times were in 2001 and 2002 (see (April 2001) and Fall 2002, respectively). [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 10/1/2006]

Entity Tags: Richard Wetherald, US Department of Commerce

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

A study surveying media coverage of global warming finds that, on average, news organizations give “roughly equal attention” to opposing views on the causes of climate change. In its effort to be fair and balanced, the media, in many cases, has treated the opinion of a handful of industry-paid scientists and free marketeers as being equal in value to the consensus view of hundreds of the world’s top climate scientists. According to the authors, this has created the false impression that there is no prevailing scientific consensus on the causal factors of global warming. The authors—Maxwell T. Boykoff, a UCSC doctoral candidate in environmental studies and his brother, Jules M. Boykoff, a visiting assistant professor of politics at Whitman College—surveyed 636 stories published by the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal between 1988 and 2002. They found that 53 percent of these articles “gave roughly equal attention to the views that humans contribute to global warming and that climate change is exclusively the result of natural fluctuations.” The results of this study contrast starkly with those of another study which had surveyed 928 articles in peer-reviewed science journals. In that study, the percentage of articles expressing uncertainty about the cause of global warming was zero percent (see December 3, 2004-May 2005). The authors say this difference—between how the causes of global warming is described by the media and between how it is understood by the scientists—represents “a disconnect between scientific findings and public understanding.” “By giving equal time to opposing views, these newspapers significantly downplayed scientific understanding of the role humans play in global warming,” says Maxwell Boykoff. “We respect the need to represent multiple viewpoints, but when generally agreed-upon scientific findings are presented side-by-side with the viewpoints of a handful of skeptics, readers are poorly served. In this case, it contributed to public confusion and opened the door to political maneuvering.” The authors suggest that “disinformation” campaigns funded by the fossil fuel industry (see April 1998) are to blame for the media’s inaccurate coverage. [Boykoff and Boykoff, 2004; Currents (UC Santa Cruz), 9/6/2004; Extra!, 11/2004]

Entity Tags: Jules M. Boykoff, Maxwell T. Boykoff

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

Rick Rosen, the assistant administrator for the NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, contacts Ahsha Tribble and suggests that the agency issue a press release to publicize a piece by climate scientist Chris Landsea that will be published several months later in the Journal of Climate. Landsea’s article, dealing with the issue of hurricane intensity and climate change, takes a position that is supportive of the Bush administration’s view on the issue. Rosen writes in an email, “It challenges the conclusions reached by Knutson and Tuleya (2004) (see September 28, 2004) regarding the potential for more intense hurricanes in a warmer climate. It is not likely to attract the same media attention as the original Knutson and Tulyea [sic] paper, but we should consider drafting a NOAA press release nonetheless.” Often, proposed press releases suggesting a link between human activity and global warming or global warming and hurricane intensity are delayed because of the “politically sensitive” nature of the topic. Sometimes they are not published at all. Such was the case for the 2004 Knutson and Tuleya study referred to by Rosen. Knutson submitted a press release on the paper, but it was never approved (see Before September 28, 2004). [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 30 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Rick Rosen, Ahsha Tribble

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

When reporter Kitta MacPherson contacts the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for a story she is writing about the NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Plainsboro, New Jersey, she is told that she will be granted “unprecedented access” to the lab’s scientists. She interviews nine scientists for 30 minutes each. However a request to interview Richard Wetherald, a scientist who has complained about censorship (see September 26, 2002), is rejected, and her interview with scientist Ants Leetmaa is only permitted on the condition that a press official is present. [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 12/6/2006]

Entity Tags: Ants Leetmaa, Richard Wetherald, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

Some skeptics of global warming embrace a recent scientific study showing that ocean bacteria, not greenhouse gases and fossil fuels, are the primary cause of global warming. Unfortunately for the skeptics, the study is a hoax. The faux study, published in the “Journal of Geoclimatic Studies,” is laden with pseudo-scientific jargon “proving” that bacteria in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans emit at least 300 times more carbon dioxide than industrial activity, and apparently fools skeptics. A British scientist e-mails the report to 2,000 colleagues before realizing it was a spoof. A US scientist calls the report a “blockbuster.” [Reuters, 11/8/2007] The conclusion of the “study” is especially interesting to those who dispute global warming. The authors write, “[W]e recognize that in [overturning man-made climate change] we lay our careers on the line. As we have found in seeking to broach this issue gently with colleagues, and in attempting to publish these findings in other peer-reviewed journals, the ‘consensus’ on climate change is enforced not by fact but by fear. We have been warned, collectively and individually, that in bringing our findings to public attention we are not only likely to be deprived of all future sources of funding, but that we also jeopardize the funding of the departments for which we work.” [Note: The site hosting the spoof study has disappeared from the Web, but remains for now in Google’s cache.] [Institute of Geoclimatic Studies, 11/3/2007; Grist Magazine, 11/9/2007]
Rush Limbaugh Taken In - Talk show host Rush Limbaugh tells his listeners of the study, apparently misunderstanding a warning from global warming skeptic Dr. Roy Spencer. While Spencer tells Limbaugh that the study is a spoof, Limbaugh tells listeners that the study proves global warming itself is a hoax. Spencer will apologize to Limbaugh for “not being clear.” [WeatherQuestions (.com), 11/11/2007] (Spencer is a scientific adviser for the “Interfaith Stewardship Alliance,” a “coalition of religious leaders, clergy, theologians, scientists, academics, and other policy experts committed to bringing a proper and balanced Biblical view of stewardship to the critical issues of environment and development.” [Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, 2005] Conservative blogger and global warming nonbeliever Neil Craig writes: “This could not be more damaging to man-made global warming theory.… I somehow doubt if this is going to be on the BBC news.”
Hoax Exposed and Revealed - But real scientists quickly knock the study down. Deliang Chen, professor of meteorology at Sweden’s Gothenburg University, says, “The whole story is a hoax.” Two of the report’s supposed authors claim to be on the Gothenburg staff, but Chen says they are not students or faculty at his school. [Reuters, 11/8/2007] The research center cited by the article does not exist. Nor does the “Journal of Geoclimatic Studies,” which supposedly published the study. [WeatherQuestions (.com), 11/11/2007] The actual author of the spoof uses the pseudonym “Dr. Mark Cox” in an interview for Nature magazine’s blog, “The Great Beyond.” “Cox” says he wrote the spoof “to expose the credulity and scientific illiteracy of many of the people who call themselves climate skeptics. While dismissive of the work of the great majority of climate scientists, they will believe almost anything if it lends support to their position. Their approach to climate science is the opposite of skepticism.” He says the science proving global warming “could scarcely be clearer.” To a question asking what he would say to those taken in by his hoax, he replies, “More fool you.” [Nature, 11/9/2007]

Entity Tags: David Roberts, Deliang Chen, Rush Limbaugh, Gothenburg University, Neil Craig, Roy W. Spencer, Mark Cox, Nature

Timeline Tags: Global Warming


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