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Global Warming

Press releases

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

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An unnamed NOAA scientist attempts to generate media attention for a recently published paper that used a comparison of climate models and empirical data to approximate the influence of human activities on ocean temperatures. However the media advisory is repeatedly downgraded by NOAA officials until it is eventually canceled. In an interview with the Government Accountability Project, the scientist later says that publishing such news became increasingly difficult after the Bush administration took office. [Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 31 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases, Public outreach, Causal factors

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

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases

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

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases

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

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases

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

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases

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

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases

The number of NASA news releases drops dramatically from four dozen in 2004, to one dozen in 2005, and to eight in 2006. [New York Times, 2/16/2006; Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 35-36 pdf file]

Entity Tags: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases

NASA announces in an email sent to the agency’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and possibly other science centers as well, that “there is a new review process.… The White House [is] now reviewing all climate related press releases.” [CBS News, 3/19/2006]

Entity Tags: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Presentation of science, Press releases

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

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases

NASA headquarters informs some climate scientists that any public releases of their research must first be cleared by headquarters and that all interviews with the media must be monitored by a NASA press officer. According to Drew Shindell, an ozone specialist and NASA climatologist, “these were conveyed orally, with no written documentation even when one was requested.” This policy applies only to climate scientists, not to other NASA scientists, such as those researching space or earth science, Shindell later tells Congress. [US Congress, 1/30/2007 pdf file Sources: Drew Shindell]

Entity Tags: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases

According to an unnamed NASA public affairs officer, between 12 and 15 NASA press releases dealing with the issue of global warming “disappear,” mostly in the weeks ahead of the 2004 elections. Other releases are allegedly “smothered” or “watered down to inconsequence” by NASA headquarters. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 35 pdf file]

Entity Tags: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases

Drew Shindell, an ozone specialist and NASA climatologist, submits a press release to the Goddard Space Flight Center public affairs office (PAO) announcing the publication of a paper he has co-authored on climate change in Antarctica (see September 25, 2004). Shindell and the PAO agree on the title “Cool Antarctica may warm rapidly this century, study finds,” for the release. But NASA headquarters asks them to “soften” it. The next suggested title, “NASA Scientists expect temperature flip-flop at the Antarctic,” is also rejected. The title that is finally approved—over the objection of Shindell—is “Scientists predict Antarctic climate changes.” In testimony before Congress, Shindell will later recall, “I have worked on numerous releases during my 12 years at the Goddard Institute. While previous to this time, press releases had been issued rapidly and with revisions from headquarters that were made primarily to improve clarity and style, this release was repeatedly delayed, altered, and watered down.” [US Congress, 1/30/2007 pdf file; Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 33 pdf file] The press release is finally issued on October 6. [NASA, 10/6/2004]

Entity Tags: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Drew Shindell

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases

Thomas Knutson, a research meteorologist with the NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, NJ, prepares a one-page summary for a press release on his soon-to-be published paper in the Journal of Climate (see September 28, 2004). His article, co-authored with hurricane expert Robert Tuleya, suggests that an increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may increase the intensity of hurricanes. The press release is not approved. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 28 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Thomas Knutson

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases, Hurricane intensity

James E. Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, tells the New York Times that the Bush administration has been putting pressure on scientists to produce studies that are in-line with official policy on issues like global warming. He says this practice has penetrated deep within the government bureaucracy. “Under the Clinton-Gore administration, you did have occasions when Al Gore knew the answer he wanted, and he got annoyed if you presented something that wasn’t consistent with that,” he says. “I got a little fed up with him, but it was not institutionalized the way it is now.” The Times reports that Hansen, along with two other NASA scientists and several officials at NASA headquarters and at two agency research centers have “described how news releases on new global warming studies had been revised by administrators to play down definitiveness or risks. The scientists and officials said other releases had been delayed.” [New York Times, 10/19/2004]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), James E. Hansen

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Politicization, Whistleblowers, Press releases, Political pressure on staff

Richard Feely, an NOAA scientist employed at the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL), works with colleagues inside and outside the government to organize a national workshop on the “Impacts of Increasing CO2 on Coral Reef Organisms and Other Marine Calcifiers.” The workshops are scheduled to take place from April 18 to April 20. In a January 5 email to public affairs officer Jana Goldman, he explains the importance of an NOAA-issued press release for the event. “Since NOAA has a major role is [sic] protecting critical marine ecosystems including coral reefs, NOAA is a major sponsor of this workshop [it] would be great if we could build up wide interest in this workshop through press releases from your office…,” he writes. He follows up on the request on February 16 with another email. “If you want to see what other country’s [sic] are saying about the impacts of CO2 on Coral Reefs go to Google News and type in Carol Turley. She is the director of the Plymouth Laboratory in England and just participated in a major international conference on the Impact of Global Warming. Her presentation was picked up by all the major news organizations throughout the world with the obvious exception of the United States! I wonder why? The US has the second largest coral reef systems in the world and we can’t even read about what might happen to them if we keep going down the same path that we are. Hopefully, we can change that lack of understanding of this important impact in the US with [your] help at the workshop.” Some time before March 7, Feely submits a draft press release to Goldman, but according to a report by the Government Accountability Project, the “NOAA’s online news release archives reveals that NOAA did not issue it.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 31 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Richard Feely, Jana Goldman, Carol Turley

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases

Columbia University’s Earth Institute issues a press release announcing the publication of a study in Science Express which found that the earth is absorbing more energy from the sun than it is releasing back into space. As a result, the authors conclude, the planet’s energy is “out of balance.” The lead author of the study was NASA scientist James E. Hansen. The Earth Institute press release refers readers to the NASA website for more information and images that it says will be posted after 2:00 p.m. However, NASA’s press release is not issued until the following day (though it bears the April 28 dateline). The text of the NASA release is almost identical to that of the Earth Institute, with the exception of apparent language changes that have the effect of downplaying the significance of Hansen’s conclusions. [Earth Institute, 4/28/2005; NASA, 4/28/2005; Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 35-36 pdf file]

Entity Tags: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases

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

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases, Hurricane intensity

NOAA public affairs officer Jana Goldman works with agency scientists on a press release about a forthcoming paper co-authored by Richard Feely, an NOAA scientist employed at the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. The paper, to be published in the journal Nature, presents evidence that increased carbon dioxide levels are increasing the acidity of oceans and lowering the level of calcium carbonate saturation. Lower levels of calcium carbonate pose a threat to marine organisms, such as corals and some plankton, which need the compound to maintain their calcium carbonate exoskeletons. A colleague of Feely, Pieter Tans, says of the paper: “The association of ocean acidification with high atmospheric CO2 is about as solid as it gets.” But the press release, which would have coincided with the publishing of the study, is blocked by “higher-ups.” Tans tells the Government Accountability Project, “It appeared that NOAA didn’t want to be associated with it, even though they had reason to be proud of a good paper.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 32 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Jana Goldman, Richard Feely, Pieter Tans

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases

A Department of the Interior public affairs officer removes keywords like “global warming,” “warming climate,” and “climate change” from the text of a press release dealing with the impact of climate change on water supplies. The press release was drafted by USGS hydrologist Christopher Milly. [Washington Post, 4/6/2006; Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 33 pdf file Sources: Christopher Milly]

Entity Tags: US Department of Interior, Christopher Milly

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases

Flowchart showing NOAA’s review process for press releasesFlowchart showing NOAA’s review process for press releases [Source: Government Accountability Project] (click image to enlarge)A February 2006 NOAA document features a flowchart outlining the review process that news releases must go through before they are published. According to the flowchart, the press release is submitted and reviewed by several layers of bureaucracy within the NOAA and the Department of Commerce. As a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists will note, “a successful press release must pass review by several entities that primarily serve political and public relations functions, and scientists do not have a right of final review to ensure scientific accuracy of the final product.” [Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 32 pdf file] In April 2006, Ronald Stouffer, a senior NOAA research meteorologist, will say he “stopped trying to get press releases out” because of the difficulty of explaining the science to the agency’s public affairs officers and because of the complexity of the approval process. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 28 pdf file]

Entity Tags: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases

Joellen Russell, a former GFDL research scientist who is now an assistant professor of geosciences at the University of Arizona, sends an email to NOAA public affairs officer Jana Goldman explaining why the NOAA should issue a press release on a paper he lead authored. Many of the coauthors are NOAA scientists. He writes: “Ron Stouffer asked me to contact you. He told me that you and Maria had discussed the following paper, ‘The Southern Hemisphere Westerlies in a Warming World: Propping the Door to the Deep Ocean.’ I am the lead author of this paper that describes the critical role of the Southern Ocean in the global climate response to increasing greenhouse gases. I have a number of GFDL [Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory] co-authors (Ronald Stouffer, Keith Dixon, Robbie Toggweiler, and Anand Gnanadesikan) and our study uses the latest GFDL coupled climate models to quantify the large and growing influence of the Southern Ocean on climate. Therefore, we think this paper is worthy of a press release.” But the request is denied. Goldman explains, “The lead author’s organization/agency usually takes the lead in issuing releases.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 30-31 pdf file] In October, the NOAA will issue a press release on a study whose lead author is not a US government scientist. In that study, the conclusion is that hurricane activity is suppressed by dust clouds and that periods of intense hurricane activity seem to have taken place when there were fewer dust storms. (The implication being that dust storm scarcity, not global warming, may have caused the recent increase in hurricane activity) (see October 13, 2006).

Entity Tags: Jana Goldman, Joellen Russell

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases

Warren Washington, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, accuses the Bush administration of suppressing climate change data, limiting journalists’ access to government scientists, and rewriting news releases on global climate change. According to Washington, Bush administration officials are “trying to confuse the public.” He says these tactics are taking place at numerous federal agencies, including NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA ), and the US Forest Service. NOAA spokesman Jordan St. John denies the allegations. “NOAA is an open and transparent agency,” he says. “It’s unfair to the people who work at this agency that this kind of characterization keeps being made. Hansen said it once (see After December 6, 2005), and it took on a life of its own and just keeps getting repeated.” [Rocky Mountain News, 6/8/2006]

Entity Tags: Warren Washington, Bush administration (43), Jordan St. John

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Whistleblowers, Politicization, Media contact with scientists, Press releases

The NOAA issues a press release on a study co-authored by Jason Dunion, a hurricane researcher with the agency’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory. The study finds that dust storms suppress hurricane activity. The authors say that periods of intense hurricane activity seem to have taken place when there were fewer dust storms, suggesting the possibility that dust storm scarcity, not global warming, may have caused the recent surge in hurricane activity. The lead author of the study was Amato Evan of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 10/13/2006; Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 31 pdf file] Earlier in the year, the NOAA rejected a press release linking global warming to greenhouse gases because, according to the public affairs office, the “lead author’s organization/agency usually takes the lead in issuing releases.” (see April 10, 2006).

Entity Tags: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Jason Dunion

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases, Hurricane intensity

An anonymous public affairs officer tells the Government Accountability Project that political appointees in the NOAA have been instructing career employees in the agency’s public affairs office to closely monitor what scientists communicate to the media on the topic of global warming. Their jobs depend on it, he says. He says he must inform his superiors of any interview requests from major news outlets, provide them with minute details about the interview, and specify whether the interviewee is considered to be a “loose cannon” or someone who will “go along with the company line.” If it’s suspected that the scientist will say something that undermines the credibility of the administration, his bosses ask him to redirect the reporter to a different scientist more willing to toe the line. He might tell the reporter, “Oh, such and such is not going to be available, but I’ve got such and so.” In at least one instance, according to the anonymous public affairs officer, an appointee actually instructs him to silence a certain scientist (see (2004)). The public affairs officer also says that his bosses have been closely involved in the vetting of press releases. They require that he personally provide them with hardcopies of draft releases on “sensitive” issues, such as those mentioning “global warming,” “warming,” “melting,” and “glaciers.” He says he was instructed not to email any drafts to them. When the superiors disapprove of a certain press release, they tell him to inform the researchers that the release has been rejected because it is not news worthy, that there were already too many press releases on the issue, or “some other excuse.” In some cases, where rejecting a press release would be too conspicuous, political appointees have sought to undermine the press release by having another press officer repeatedly mark up the document with requests for changes and corrections in an effort to delay the release until it is too outdated to publish. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 89-90 pdf file]

Entity Tags: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Anonymous Public Affairs Officer

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases

At least 19 Congressional Republicans, including House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), say that the Obama administration’s “cap-and-trade” proposal would cost American families $3,128 apiece in extra taxes.
Misrepresenting an MIT Study - Boehner, McConnell, and their fellow Republicans base their claim on a 2007 MIT study. However, one of the study’s researchers, John Reilly, says that the Republicans are misreading it. According to Reilly, any tax burden on American families would not be felt until 2015, and the cost would be closer to $31 per person and $79 per year. The controversial claim originates in a Web posting by the House Republican Conference on March 24, which says: “The administration raises revenue for nationalized health care through a series of new taxes, including a light switch tax that would cost every American household $3,128 a year. What effect will this have on Americans struggling to pay their mortgages?” The St. Petersburg Times explains that the GOP’s “light switch tax” is a reference to President Obama’s proposal to tax power companies for carbon dioxide emissions, and allow companies to trade emissions credits among themselves. The program is called cap-and-trade. Republicans say the power companies would pass the tax on to electricity consumers, thus creating what they call a “light switch tax”—a term the Times calls misleading in and of itself. According to the MIT study, such a program would raise around $366 billion per year; Republicans divide that figure by the 117 million households in the US and get $3,128 in additional costs. Reilly says the Republicans are “just wrong. It’s wrong in so many ways it’s hard to begin.”
Corrected by Study's Author - And, Reilly says, he told House Republicans so when they contacted him on March 20. “I had explained why the estimate they had was probably incorrect and what they should do to correct it, but I think this wrong number was already floating around by that time.” Republicans also claim that the Obama administration intends to use cap-and-trade money to pay for what they call “nationalized health care,” a claim refuted by details of the program released by Obama officials. (House Republicans later amend this claim to say that the program will pay for “increased spending.”) The Times notes that Boehner rebuffs a second attempt by Reilly to correct the claim that the program will cost American households over $3,000 per year.
Further Falsehoods - Instead, nine other Republicans and the neoconservative Weekly Standard begin echoing the claim, with the Standard claiming that their figures show an annual cost of over $3,900 and accusing Reilly of “low-balling the cost of cap-and-trade by using some fuzzy logic.” Reilly says the Standard “just completely twisted the whole thing.… It’s false.” Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) takes the claim even further, saying that the huge annual tax would be levied on “every living American.” Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) restates the cost to $4,500 per family, and fellow House colleague Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) raises the rate to $4,560. Fox News correspondent Jim Angle reports Gregg’s claim without refutation or examination; on a later Fox broadcast, Gregg says, “every time you turn on your light switch, you’re going to be paying a tax.”
Denouncing the Lies - Reilly has written to Boehner and the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming to denounce the GOP’s distortion of the MIT study. Democratic Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) accuses the Republicans of “using an intentional misrepresentation of the study,” and says: “One of the things I find most distressing is their repeated falsehood about somehow a $3,000 increase in taxes on the American people based on a research done by MIT. They talked about it four times again last night!… The fact is that in the budget we have an opportunity for people who want to be legislators not communicators to help us allocate how those benefits will be utilized.” [St. Petersburg Times, 3/30/2009; Think Progress, 4/1/2009; Think Progress, 4/2/2009]

Entity Tags: Judd Gregg, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Obama administration, John Reilly, Jim Angle, Cynthia Lummis, Earl Blumenauer, House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, House Republican Conference, John Boehner

Timeline Tags: Global Economic Crises

Category Tags: Policies, Politicization, Press releases, Studies-academic

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