A federal advisory committee on climate change was dissolved by the Trump administration last year due to concerns that scientists on the panel were not sufficiently balanced by industry insiders, according to The Washington Post.
An exchange among Commerce Department officials, which was released in response to a lawsuit by the advocacy group Center for Biological Diversity, sheds light on the demise of a panel aimed at helping policymakers and the private sector incorporate the government’s climate science into long-term planning.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross allowed the 15-person Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment — which included scientists and representatives from companies and local governments — to expire in August. The newly released emails and memos chart an intense debate between career and political officials last summer over whether the group’s two-year charter should be renewed.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration deputy chief of staff George Kelly complained in an email that only one industry representative sat on the committee and said the “process to gain more balance” would take a couple of years.
But some of NOAA’s senior career employees, who worked with members of the committee, said it helped inform a sweeping federal assessment of climate science, which is supposed to be issued every four years. The government is finalizing its fourth such assessment; the underlying climate science report for it was issued in November.
In a June 16 email, Craig McLean, NOAA’s assistant administrator for oceanic and atmospheric research, warned Kelly that failing to renew the committee’s charter “would stop their work mid-stream, and likely have backlash.”
Though McLean indicated that the Trump administration would be able to shift the group’s ideological makeup over time, pointing out that members would rotate out in April 2018 and present the opportunity to bring in “more industry focused members”, the panel was allowed to expire.
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy was in support of dissolving the committee, The Post reports, and Ross insisted the advisory board was not critical to producing the National Climate Assessment:
“The Advisory Committee on Sustained National Climate Assessment simply was not necessary for the completion of the report,” Ross said, signaling that the panel also became a target as his department looked “for methods to cut duplicative spending.”
Even so, its former members “are free to comment on the report so their comments can be included in the final,” Ross said.
While it’s true that multiple agencies work to put the assessment together, the “outside advisory panel worked to translate those findings so they would useful for everyone from a water manager out West to a business owner on the Atlantic seaboard.”
“It’s disturbing that the Trump administration dumped a scientific advisory committee for having too many scientists,” said Center for Biological Diversity senior attorney Howard Crystal, who filed the lawsuit to obtain the Commerce records. “These experts provided critical guidance on protecting the American people from monster hurricanes and climate chaos. But if lifesaving expertise is inconvenient for the fossil fuel industry, the Trump administration won’t hesitate to throw it out the window.”