Monday, March 25, 2019

Maria Caffrey: Trump Administration Censoring Science

Censorship is a central pillar of the Trump administration's efforts to hide climate science. The Trump White House was in the news late last year for its attempt to bury a government report that squarely refuted the administration's climate denial and government scientists who resist the Trump administration's censorship are being let go by the federal government. Maria Caffrey is a 37 year old scientist who is a model of scientific integrity. She worked under contract for the National Park Service and produced a report outlining the risks of rising seas at national parks.

As reported by Elizabeth Shogren in a Reveal article, she lost her job as a government scientist after she "resisted efforts by federal officials to remove all references to human causes of climate change" in her study. Caffreys report reviews the relationship between greenhouse gas emissions (mostly from the burning of fossil fuels) and sea level rise at 118 coastal parks.

After Democratic members of Congress called for an investigation, the park service released the report with all the references reinstated.

Caffrey said she was yelled at by her supervisors who also threatened to kill the report or remove her name unless she agreed to remove references to climate change. Her supervisors were under intense pressure some of whom told her they could "lose their jobs or be transferred if she didn’t capitulate".

As explained by Shogren, Caffrey's predicament exposes, "the difficult situation many scientists face as President Donald Trump’s administration tries to suppress research on topics that he doesn’t consider a priority."

This is not a unique case. According to a report from Columbia Law School’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law there have been 194 examples of the federal government censoring, hindering, or sidelining climate change science since Trump was elected.

Early drafts of the report obtained by Reveal show some of the ways park services tried to censor the report. This includes removal of the word "anthropogenic" and "human activities" to try to obscure the fact that humans are the primary drivers of planetary warming and climate change.

Caffrey's website that helped people visualize sea level rise has been removed. Her attempts to secure other government science contracts have been rejected.

The Interior Department’s Inspector General and the park service’s scientific integrity officer have closed their investigations into whether the agency violated its scientific integrity policies. However, Congressional Democrats have requested a broader investigation.

As Caffrey explained in a Mother Jones article, she doesn’t regret her decision to stand up for her science saying, "I wouldn’t do anything different". However, her experience begs the question how many other scientists have quietly capitulated to censorship to keep their jobs.

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