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Global Warming

Communications with Congress

Project: Climate Change and Global Warming
Open-Content project managed by Derek, mtuck

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NOAA scientists’ communications with Congress are vetted by the NOAA’s “policy shop,” housed in the Office of Undersecretary, before being passed on to lawmakers. Many of the communications, especially those that concern sensitive topics like global warming, are edited so they do not contradict the Bush administration’s favored policy positions. According to an unnamed NOAA source interviewed by the Government Accountability Project, “Realizing that it is pointless,” NOAA’s Office of Legislative Affairs “has stopped asking certain scientists what to write in certain circumstances as it is certain to get completely rewritten anyway.” [Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 36 pdf file]

Entity Tags: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Politicization, Communications with Congress

Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, re-circulates a memorandum that was issued in 2001 by then Commerce Secretary Donald Evans, which required that all communications to Congress be vetted by the agency’s Office of Legislative Affairs. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 45 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Conrad C. Lautenbacher

Category Tags: Politicization, Communications with Congress

The NOAA issues the second edition of its “Procedures Manual for Congressional Communications.” According to the 18-page policy document, while the agency’s Office of Legislative Affairs is responsible for coordinating congressional communications, it is the Department of Commerce and the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB ) that have final vetting authority. The OMB’s stated mission is to ensure “that agency reports, rules, testimony, and proposed legislation are consistent with the president’s budget and with administration policies.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 41 pdf file]

Entity Tags: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Category Tags: Politicization, Communications with Congress

NOAA Chief Financial Officer Maureen Wylie distributes a memo to all NOAA employees applying the agency’s 2004 media policy (see June 28, 2004) to communications with Congress. From this point on, the NOAA’s public affairs office will have ultimate authority over all agency communications with Congress. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 45 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Maureen Wylie

Category Tags: Politicization, Communications with Congress

The NOAA implements a new policy requiring that “information and materials” and “meetings or phone calls with congressional representatives or staff and presentations where congressional staff have been invited or can reasonably be expected to attend must be cleared through OAR [Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research] headquarters and sent up through the NOAA Office of Legislative Affairs.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 45 pdf file]

Entity Tags: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Category Tags: Politicization, Communications with Congress

Screenshot of draft documentScreenshot of draft document [Source: Government Accountability Project] (click image to enlarge)In response to a number of questions for the record (QFRs) submitted by senators Daniel Inouye (D-HI) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) regarding an April 26, 2006 testimony on projected and past effects of climate change, scientists at NOAA submit a document of draft responses to an NOAA legislative affairs specialist for review. The document is ultimately reviewed by individuals at the EPA, Energy Department, White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, who suggest a number of changes. For example, the OMB suggests keeping the sentence, “The full range and magnitude of the biological and biogeochemical effects of ocean acidification are still so uncertain that a reliable and quantitative estimate of the likely socio-economic effects is not yet possible,” but removing the sentence immediately following that: “However, healthy coral reef ecosystems are important to both the fisheries and tourism industries and negative impacts on these ecosystems could affect these industries.” According to the OMB, “[a]s written this seems to conflict with the factual first sentence of the paragraph, which adequately answers the question.” In another instance, the OMB recommends adding a sentence that attributes global warming to increasing water vapor, drawing from a quote taken out of context from an article written by scientists Thomas Karl and Kevin Trenberth. When NOAA scientist James Butler attempts to explain that the edit is not scientifically valid, the OMB insists on keeping the change. Finally, Karl himself enters the fray, recommending a change that the OMB accepts. The Government Accountability Project, which will obtain the draft document that shows the changes, comments, “These two examples show that, while federal climate scientists are occasionally able to correct distortions to scientific findings in congressional communication, political appointees can still introduce inaccurate information that goes unchecked.” [Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 37, 80 pdf file; Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 44-46 pdf file]

Entity Tags: US Department of Energy, Thomas Karl, Office of Science and Technology Policy, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, James Butler, Daniel Inouye, Office of Management and Budget, Frank R. Lautenberg

Category Tags: Politicization, Communications with Congress

The White House’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) reportedly refuses to comply with a request (see July 20, 2006) from the House Committee on Government Reform for documents related to communications between CEQ and other government agencies and non-governmental parties on the issue of climate change. On January 30, 2007, Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) will explain: “When the White House resisted, we narrowed our request. When the White House resisted again, we again scaled back what had already been a reasonable request. And when the White House resisted a third time, we again tried to accommodate the president. In addition to repeatedly narrowing our request, we extended the deadlines we had suggested to the White House. But even after all those courtesies, we have received virtually nothing from this administration.” [US Congress, 1/30/2007 pdf file; US Congress, 1/30/2007 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Council on Environmental Quality

Category Tags: Politicization, Communications with Congress

During a Congressional hearing on the US’s response to global warming, Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) says global warming is nothing more than a natural phenomonon, and the only response people need to make is to get some “shade.” Barton says: “I believe that Earth’s climate is changing, but I think it’s changing for natural variation reasons. And I think mankind has been adopting, or adapting, to climate as long as man has walked the Earth. When it rains we find shelter. When it’s hot, we get shade. When it’s cold, we find a warm place to stay. Adaptation is the practical, affordable, utterly natural reflex response to nature when the planet is heating or cooling, as it always is.… Nature doesn’t seem to adjust to people as much as people adjust to nature. Adaptation to shifts in temperature is not that difficult.” Think Progress reporter Satyam Khanna notes that Barton is nicknamed “Smokey Joe” for “his efforts on behalf of big polluters,” and last year “stalled Congressional efforts to decrease power plant emissions.” [Think Progress, 3/25/2009]

Entity Tags: Satyam Khanna, Joe Barton

Category Tags: Policies, Communications with Congress, Causal factors

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