The gust of wind that surged through Washington D.C. earlier this month was not a warm front moving in. It was the collective sigh of relief when President Barack Obama issued a memorandum that will protect the work of the 100,000 scientists and engineers in the U.S. government.
But it’s likely that no one felt a greater sense of relief – or vindication -- than Rick Piltz.
Rick is the guy who blew the whistle on the Bush Administration’s abuse of federal climate science. More specifically, he’s the guy who told the New York Times about the politically motivated manipulation of climate science reports by Phil Cooney, an oil industry lobbyist who was appointed to a top position in the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).
It wasn’t a pleasant experience for Rick. From his former position as Senior Associate in the office that coordinates the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP), he witnessed a sustained government cover-up of federal climate science. To blow the whistle, he resigned after 10 years in that job andensorship gave up his three-figure salary.
The CCSP is a joint effort by 13 federal agencies to study what climate change is, how it’s progressing and what the impacts will be. Participants include many of the nation’s top climate specialists from the National Aeronautic and Space Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and several other government agencies.
Rick saw the blatantly dishonest and disgraceful pattern of how the White House and its political appointees were handling reports from these agencies. One example was the type of censorship Cooney was doing at the CEQ. Cooney, who came to government from the American Petroleum Institute, oversaw the CCSP’s work for the White House.
“Cooney waited until the 12th hour, after the career scientists had finished reviewing the reports,” Rick recalls. “He edited them at the last minute.” His edits weren’t minor changes in grammar and punctuation; Cooney was watering down scientists’ conclusions. Continued...