Friday, June 5, 2015

Instigators of "seepage" Case Studies on the Abuses of Science, UCS

Manipulation of Global Warming Science

NOTE: The following is one of a series of case studies produced by the Union of Concerned Scientists' Scientific Integrity Program between 2004 and 2010 to document the abuses highlighted in our 2004 report, Scientific Integrity in Policy Making.

Since taking office, the George W. Bush administration has consistently sought to undermine the view held by the vast majority of climate scientists that human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases are making a discernible contribution to global warming.1  Despite promises by the president that “my Administration’s climate change policy will be science-based,”2 the past several years have seen widespread political interference in the work of federal climate scientists, edits to official scientific documents and a general attempt to foster uncertainty about robust scientific conclusions.

After coming to office, the administration asked the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to review the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and provide further assessment of climate science’s “certainties and uncertainties.”3  In 2001 the NAS panel rendered a strong opinion affirming the conclusions of the IPCC and stating that “Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise.”4 

Also in 2001, President George W. Bush established the U.S. Climate Change Research Initiative (CCRI). One of the initiative’s two main priorities was to study “areas of uncertainty” in global climate change science.5 

In May 2002, President Bush expressed disdain for a State Department report6 to the United Nations that pointed to a clear human role in the accumulation of heat-trapping gases and detailed the likely negative consequences of climate change; the president called it “a report put out by the bureaucracy.”7  In September 2002, the administration removed a section on climate change from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) annual air pollution report,8 even though the climate issue had been discussed in the report in each of the preceding five years.

The American Geophysical Union (AGU), the world’s largest organization of earth scientists, released a strong statement in 2003 describing human-caused disruptions of Earth’s climate.9  “Human activities are increasingly altering the Earth's climate,” the AGU statement declared. Yet Bush administration spokespersons continued to contend that uncertainties in climate science were too great to warrant mandatory action to slow emissions.10 

Scientists were also largely excluded from internal policy discussions relating to climate change.  “This administration seems to want to make environmental policy at the White House,” an EPA scientist said. “I suppose that is their right. But one has to ask: on the basis of what information is this policy being promulgated? What views are being represented? Who is involved in the decision making? What kind of credible expertise is being brought to bear?”11  The Bush administration often “does not even invite the EPA into the discussion” on climate change issues, the scientist said.

Dr. Rosina Bierbaum, a Clinton administration appointee to the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) who also served during the first year of the Bush administration, also said that science was kept out of the process of policymaking on the topic of climate change. From the start of the Bush years, Bierbaum said, “The scientists [who] knew the most about climate change at OSTP were not allowed to participate in deliberations on the issue within the White House inner circle.”12 

Through such consistent tactics and a focus on uncertainty, the Bush administration has avoided fashioning any policies that would significantly reduce the threat implied by those findings.

The discussion may have changed with the February 2007 release of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), made up of hundreds of scientists from 113 countries, which declared that “human-generated greenhouse gases account for most of the global rise in temperatures over the past half-century.” The New York Times quoted Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, as saying “Feb. 2 [2007] will be remembered as the date when uncertainty was removed as to whether humans had anything to do with climate change on this planet.”13 

The 2007 report Atmosphere of Pressure, by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Government Accountability Project, extensively documents Bush administration efforts to manipulate the work of federal climate scientists and exercise strict control over which scientists are allowed to talk to the media and which scientific results are communicated to the public.14 

1. This page contains material excerpted from the 2004 UCS Report, Scientific Integrity in Policymaking.
2. White House, President’s Statement on Climate Change (July 13, 2001).
3. National Academy of Sciences, Commission on Geosciences, Environment and Resources, Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions, 2001.
4. Ibid.
5. U.S. Climate Change Science Program.  2003. The Climate Change Research Initiative.  Washington, DC. Accessed October 25, 2006.
6. US Climate Action Report, Department of State, May 2002.
7. K.Q. Seelye, “President Distances Himself from Global Warming Report,” New York Times, June 5, 2002.
8. Past EPA Air Trends Reports can be found at; the 2001 report is the first Summary Report that doesn’t discuss climate change.
9. American Geophysical Union, Human Impacts on Climate, December 2003.  Accessed March 13, 2007.
10. P. Dobriansky, “Only New Technology Can Halt Climate Change,” Financial Times, December 1, 2003.
11. Author interview with EPA scientist, name withheld on request, January 2004.
12. As quoted in N. Thompson, “Science friction: The growing—and dangerous—divide between scientists and the GOP,” Washington Monthly, July/August 2003.  Accessed March 13, 2007.
13. Rosenthal, E. and Revkin, A.C., Science Panel Calls Global Warming “Unequivocal,” New York Times, February 2, 2007.  Accessed March 13, 2007.
14. Union of Concerned Scientists and Government Accountability Project.  2007. Atmosphere of Pressure.

Abuses of Science: Case Studies

Examples of political interference with government science documented by the UCS Scientific Integrity Program
From its beginning in 2004, the UCS Scientific Integrity program collected over 100 stories of scientific integrity abuses from a variety of government agencies. Linked below are some of the most compelling—not to say outrageous—of these stories: tales of interference, suppression of data, muzzling of scientists, the well-traveled "revolving door" between industry and public service, and the stacking of scientific advisory boards.

Click on the table headers to sort the list by issue, agency, title or year.
EnvEPA2006EPA Library Closings Limit Researchers’ Access to Information
EnvDOI2001Scientific Advice on Endangered Salmon Deleted
EnvNOAA2004Agencies Control Scientists’ Contacts with the Media
PCEPA2004Agency Experts “Aghast” as EPA Adjusts Air Quality Models
NSDOS2001Arms Control Panel Dismissed
PHCDC2007Hushing Up the Health Hazards of Climate Change
EnvDOI2007Designated Spokesperson Required for Polar Bear Travels
EnvUSDA2003Agricultural Brochure Cancelled Due to Climate Implications
NSDOE2002Evidence on Iraq’s Aluminum Tubes Misrepresented
PHCDC2003Scientific Knowledge on Breast Cancer Distorted
NSEAC2006Election Panel Delays, Edits Reports on Voter Fraud
EnvDOI2007Federal Agency Doesn't Give a Hoot about Owls
EnvDOI2004Interior Department Overrules Scientists on Marbled Murrelet Designation
PHCDC2002Scientific Knowledge on HIV/AIDS Prevention Distorted
PHPCB2004President's Council on Bioethics
PCEPA2003Multiple Air Pollutants Information Suppressed
EnvDOI2006Endangered Frog Loses, Developers Win as Critical Habitat is Reduced
NSNASA2005No Space for Aviation Safety at NASA
NSEDU2006Department of Education Ignores Politically Inconvenient Study on School Performance
PHNIH2002National Institute on Drug Abuse Subjects Scientific Appointees to Litmus Test
EnvDOI2006BLM Cuts Forest Grant after Study Criticizes Tree Cutting
NSDOJ2005Justice Department Demoted Official Who Fought Suppression of Racial Profiling Study
PCEPA2008Integrity of Public Toxics Database Threatened by Interagency Review
EnvDOI2004Political Appointee Edits Science on Greater Sage Grouse
NSNNSA2003National Nuclear Security Administration Panel Dismissed
PCEPA2004Selenium Standards Misinterpret Key Research
OMB2003Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Proposed Changes to "Peer Review"
PHNIH2004Fogarty International Center Advisory Board
EnvUSDA2004Forest Brochure Misrepresents Science to Promote Logging Initiative
EnvDOS2006Government Climate Web Sites: Missing in Action
PHHHS2002Workplace Safety Panel Nominees Face Political Litmus Tests
PCFEMA2006FEMA Exposes Gulf Coast Residents to Formaldehyde
EnvUSDA2003Scientific Plan On Forest Management Altered
NOAA2001Press Releases Controlled for Political, Not Scientific, Importance
NOAA2004Press "Minders" Required at Scientists’ Interviews
PHFDA2002Underqualified Nominee Installed on FDA Reproductive Health Advisory Committee
EnvEPA2003White House Alters EPA Scientific Document on Climate Change
PHHHS2006U.S. Surgeon General Muzzled by Political Appointees
PHHHS2004HHS Seeks Right of Approval Over Experts on WHO Health Panels
EnvDOI2004Timber Industry ‘Gets What They Want’, Birds Don’t Get What They Need
PCEPA2006EPA Removes Lead Scientists, then Considers Removing Lead Air Quality Protections
PHCDC2004CDC Experts Prevented from Presenting At International AIDS Conference
PCEPA2006Should Air Pollution Rules be Based on Politics?
EnvDOI2002Science Undermined at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
PHCDC2004Abstinence-Only Sex Education Curriculum
EnvDOI2006FWS Decrees the Southwestern Bald Eagle is Safe, in Spite of Science
EnvDOI2003Science Regarding Endangered Species Act Manipulated
EnvDOI2006Prairie Dog Science Reversed by Interior Department Decree
EnvDOI2003Misrepresenting Scientific Knowledge on Trumpeter Swans
PHHHS2004Political Pressure Sidelined HHS Efforts to Increase US Breastfeeding Rates
EnvDOI2003Bull Trout Habitat Analyses Manipulated
EnvEPA2006EPA Scientists Restricted From Presenting Findings at Conferences
EnvDOI2003Science Washed Away in Missouri River Decision Making
EnvEPA2002White House Council on Environmental Quality Edits EPA Administrator’s Op-Ed
EnvDOI2006BLM Prevents Listing of an Endangered Plant, Promotes Oil Shale Development in its Habitat
EnvDOI2002Distorting Scientific Knowledge on Florida Panthers
EnvDOI2007Wildlife Manager Pressured on Border Wall
EnvEPA2002EPA Scientists Restricted from Speaking Freely with the Media
EnvEPA2003White House Office Overrules Science and Procedures at the EPA
EnvEPA2007White House Sidelines Science in Regulating Ozone
EnvEPA2006Restrictions on the Right to Publish at the EPA
PCDOI2009The Minerals Management Service: Bad Science in the Name of Private Interests
EnvDOI2008Last-Ditch Effort to Limit Science in Endangered Species Act Rescinded
EnvDOI2002Salmon Experts Pressured to Change Findings
EnvAdm2002Manipulation of Global Warming Science
EnvDOI2004Leveling a Mountain of Research on Mountaintop Removal Strip Mining
EnvNOAA2005Hurricane Science Becomes a Matter of Policy as NOAA Takes Sides
EnvEPA2005EPA Withheld Negative Report on Fuel Efficiency
EnvNOAA2005Can’t Say Climate Change at Carbon Conference
EnvDOI2006Systematic Interference with Science at Interior Department Exposed
EnvNASA2006NASA Reaches for Muzzle as Renowned Climate Scientist Speaks Out
EnvDOD2006Navy Used Flawed Science to Justify New Atlantic Sonar Range
EnvDOI2007Mining Agency Buries Streams and Science
EnvEPA2007The EPA’s Elusive Climate Change Endangerment Report
EnvDOI2008Grazing Regulations Include Doctored Environmental Analysis
EnvNOAA2009White House Politics Collide With Endangered Right Whale
NSDOJ2005Justice Department Interrogation Memos Abuse Sleep Deprivation Research
PCDOD, VA2008Pressure Not to Diagnose PTSD at the U.S. Army and Department of Veterans Affairs
PCDOL2001Coal Slurry Spill Investigation Suppressed
PHUSDA2002Analysis on Airborne Bacteria Suppressed
PCEPA2003World Trade Center Rescue Workers Believed EPA, Ended Up Sick
PCEPA2003EPA Ignored Science When Regulating Power Plant Mercury Emissions
PCEPA2004Chemical Industry Pressures EPA to Protect Herbicide, not Wildlife
PCEPA2004Plywood Rule Used Industry Funded Research, Ignored Independent Scientific Studies
PCEPA2005What Toxic Chemicals Are Released In Your Neighborhood?
PCDOI2009EPA Air Pollution Decision Threatens Public Health
PCEPA2006Industry Pressure Trumps Sound Science in Pesticide Regulation
PHCDC2002Abstinence-Only Education
PHCDC2002Lead Poisoning Prevention Panel Influenced by Industry
PHFDA2004FDA’s Drug Safety System Fails to Protect Public
PHFDA2004Science Overruled on Emergency Contraception
PHHHS2005Mifepristone and Misoprostol: WHO Endorses Safer Abortions Despite U.S. Interference
PHFDA2006Top FDA Official Approves Medical Device Despite Lack of Efficacy
PHDOI2006Ketek: FDA Managers Value Drug Maker Relations Over Patient Safety
PHOSHA, EPA2006Agencies Pressured Not to Warn Mechanics about Asbestos
PHFDA2007The FDA Declares that Bisphenol A is Safe, Despite Scientific Evidence
PHCPSC2007Federal Agency Fails to Protect Children from Lead Lunches
PHCPSC2007Safety Agency Hides Danger of All-Terrain Vehicles
Issue area key: Env = Environmental issues; NS = National security; PC = Pollution and contamination; PH = Public health; — = other
Agency key: Adm = Administration-wide; CDC = Centers for Disease Control; CPSC = Consumer Product Safety Commission; DOD = Department of Defense; DOE = Department of Energy; DOI = Department of the Interior; DOJ = Department of Justice; DOL = Department of Labor; DOS = Department of State; EDU = Department of Education; EPA = Environmental Protection Agency; FDA = Food and Drug Administration; FEMA = Federal Emergency Management Administration; HHS = Department of Health and Human Services; NASA = National Aeronautics and Space Administration; NIH = National Institutes of Health; NNSA = National Nuclear Security Administration; NOAA = National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; OMB = Office of Management and Budget; OSHA = Occupational Safety and Health Administration; USDA = Department of Agriculture; VA = Veterans Administration.

Grading Government Transparency: Scientists' Freedom to Speak (and Tweet) at Federal Agencies (2015)

In 2008, UCS published a report, Freedom to Speak?, that looked at 15 federal agencies and evaluated their media policies and practices. The report found wide disparities among the agencies.

In 2013, more than two years after the Obama administration had issued a directive ordering reform of federal scientific integrity policies—including those governing media access—we published the first version of Grading Government TransparencyThis new report added social media policies to the mix, and expanded the number of agencies to 17. Our analysis showed that while many agencies had substantially improved their policies since 2008, significant issues remained.

Two years later, we've taken another look at these 17 agencies' media and social media policies and re-scored them using the same rubrics. (For details on how the scoring is done, see our methodology appendix.) ...

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