Censorship Allegations at NOAA and Commerce Dept.

Sep 27, 2006 12:59pm

This post comes from Clayton Sandell in our Washington Bureau, who covers global warming issues:Last week, ABC News reported on a series of emails suggesting Commerce Department and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials tried to prevent a government scientist from discussing the possibility that global warming could be making hurricanes worse.  You can read that story HERE. Now, a new report from the prestigious science journal Nature says that Commerce officials (which oversees NOAA) blocked the release of a report earlier this summer that would have contained a consensus statement that global warming may be contributing to hurricane intensity.  The statement was the work of a panel of NOAA hurricane researchers and was set to be released at the start of the hurricane season in June, the Nature report said. The head of NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, according to the Nature report, received an email from a Commerce Department official on May 18 that said the document was too technical and should not be released. Why was the report blocked?  The link between global warming and hurricanes, according to the Nature report, “is a sensitive issue because of the devastation caused by hurricane Katrina and the US government’s reluctance to restrict the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change.” The NOAA administrator, Conrad Lautenbacher, told Nature the document was only an internal exercise and that the report could not be released because the agency cannot take a position on science that he says is changing so rapidly. But a growing body of science, including a report released two weeks ago by 19 top climate scientists, has firmly established a link between stronger hurricanes and the greenhouse gas pollution that humans are pumping into the atmosphere.  The debate, scientists say, is not whether there is an effect on hurricanes, but how much of an effect. Allegations of scientists being censored are not exclusive to NOAA.  Similar allegations were raised at NASA earlier this year. For the record, in the last week NOAA and NASA scientists have told ABC News they believe it has become easier to speak to reporters in recent months. They add, however, that the system still is not perfect.(Tropical Storm Alberto, the first named storm of 2006, imaged by the GOES-12 satellite on June 12.  NOAA image.)

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