Science Prevails as Climate Science Data Won’t be Censored in Texas Report

A public conflict between a Rice University oceanographer and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has been resolved, ending a case that brought back unpleasant memories of the climate science censorship scandals of the George W. Bush administration. The agreement, reported Wednesday by the Houston Chronicle, will allow a chapter on sea level rise to be included in a report on the state of Galveston Bay.

Homes line the shores of Galveston Bay, Texas. Credit: flickr/The Brit_2.

In October, it was revealed that TCEQ had heavily edited the sea level rise chapter by removing references to manmade causes of sea level rise, among other edits, spurring the oceanographer who wrote it, John Anderson, to withdraw his name from the report. In a show of solidarity, all the other scientists who contributed to the report withdrew their names as well.

Anderson issued a statement Wednesday expressing relief that the conflict has been resolved: “My research found that the rising sea levels in Galveston Bay are due to climate changes that are caused in part by humans. It is important that people have access to my complete scientific findings.”

In October, Anderson had slammed the Perry administration for censoring the report, saying: “I don’t think there is any question but that their motive is to tone this thing down as it relates to global change… It’s not about the science. It’s all politics.”

As I wrote for Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang blog, TCEQ's changes to the chapter brought back memories of alterations the Bush administration made to federal climate science reports:

“In one instance, the term “sea level rise” was edited to read, “sea level change.” In most places, all references to sea level rise from manmade climate change was taken out of the report, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that sea level rise is one of the main impacts of manmade global warming, and that it is already occurring.”

“This incident raises the issue of whether Perry, the Texas governor who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination and is an outspoken skeptic of the consensus among climate scientists that human activities are very likely a predominant cause of recent global warming, is censoring climate science activities in Texas, and if that would continue should he ascend to the White House. It brings to mind the climate science scandals under the George W. Bush administration, whose White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) routinely watered down scientific assessments of climate change.”

“In the most widely publicized example of the Bush administration’s political meddling in climate science activities, Philip A. Cooney, Bush’s chief of staff at CEQ, was caught editing multiple climate reports to play down links between climate change and human activities, such as the burning of oil and coal for energy. Cooney worked for the American Petroleum Institute prior to his stint at the White House, and subsequently left the administration to work for ExxonMobil. In another incident, NASA climate scientist James Hansen spoke out against attempts to prevent him from speaking about climate change in the press and with Congress.”