From the Star Ledger:
Scientists at a world-renowned climate research lab in New Jersey say their discoveries are being hidden from public view because their conclusions on global warming differ from those in the Bush administration.
“What can I tell you? I was telling them something they didn’t want to hear,” said Richard Wetherald, a career scientist at the federally funded center. “But the public is not being informed when these things are zapped.”
Neither NOAA nor the White House responded to several requests for an interview. President Bush’s science adviser, John Marbuger, was not available for this article.
Tensions between the lab and officials in Washington first came to light last week when the journal Nature quoted Ants Leetmaa, the director of the Plainsboro center, as saying the Bush administration has squelched a public statement on hurricanes and climate change prepared last spring. The paper was the work of a panel of scientists Leetmaa headed.
The problem started in 2001, he said, after Congress rejected the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to restrict the amount of fossil fuel emissions. Shortly after Congress acted, he wrote a press release, he says, with the help of the NOAA press office, on a paper to be published in the prestigious Geophysical Research Letters.
Within days, Jana Goldman, a NOAA press officer, said the press release had been rejected. The journal was sending out its own press release, she told him. NOAA did not want to duplicate efforts.
Wetherald didn’t buy the argument. The journal’s press release would be written in scientific jargon. A NOAA press release would be understandable to the public.
Two other press releases were rejected in 2002 and 2004 on two other global warming papers written by Wetherald. In those cases, he says, press officer Goldman did not give him a reason but merely said “officials” at Commerce rejected them.
Wetherald says Goldman never told him who did the rejecting.
Goldman did not return several calls to her direct line.
“Obviously, the papers had a message, and it was not what they wanted it to be,” Wetherald said. “A decision was made at a high level not to let it out.”
Knutson said he, too, ran into difficulty when he tried to convey the implications of his research to a broader audience. He said he was not permitted to be interviewed on CNBC last October when the discussion was expected to center on post-Katrina analyses of the federal government’s responsibilities and whether global warming is creating more category-5 hurricanes like Katrina.
Knutson said he was also barred from appearing on a national talk show hosted by Ron Reagan Jr. to speak about the same subject.
E-mails obtained by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee, and placed on his Web site last week confirm Knutson’s account, according to Waxman’s spokesperson, Karen Lightfoot.
An Oct. 19, 2005, e-mail from Goldman to Chuck Fuqua, a press representative at Commerce, relays the interview request from CNBC.
In a separate e-mail, Fuqua seeks to gauge Knutson’s scientific position, responding by asking: “What is Knutson’s position on global warming vs. decadal cycles? Is he consistent with Bell and Landsea?”
Gerry Bell, NOAA’s chief hurricane forecast scientist, said at a press briefing held in the wake of Hurricane Katrina that the intensity of the storm was not related to global warming. Chris Landsea is a research meteorologist with the hurricane research division of the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami who questions the connection between global warming and intensified hurricanes.
In contrast, Knutson’s research concludes that global warming may lead to an increasing risk of highly destructive category-5 storms.
In response, Kent Laborde, a NOAA press officer, in an e-mail to Fuqua described Knutson as a “‘different animal” and said he projected a “‘very small increase in hurricane intensity” due to global warming. Fuqua wrote back, “‘why can’t we have one of the other guys then?”
NOAA’s daily media tracking log, also obtained by Waxman, shows that the matter ended there. “Request was denied,” the log states.
In this regard, the public lost out, Knutson said. “I am one of the leading experts in the area, and I should be allowed to speak about my work,” he noted.
Waxman has appealed to Carlos Gutierrez, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, for more information about the incident.