Photo credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr/CC BY
News broke on Monday that the Texas government was working to censor a scientific report that mentioned the impacts of manmade climate change on Galveston Bay. The impacts it described, which included increasing sea level rise, were totally uncontroversial (even amongst skeptics). But a board of political operatives appointed by Governor Rick Perry nonetheless worked to censor any information that would indicate that the climate is changing, and that humans are causing it. This event, paired with Perry's atypically belligerent anti-climate science views, give us an insight into how he would shape his climate policy if elected president.
Hint: It'd probably look a lot like another president in recent memory who's had trouble grappling with scientific evidence ... Of course I'm referring to Mr. Bush, who became notorious for his anti-science stances. The famous "unopened email" that included important policy suggestions regarding climate change is only the most famous example. He also appointed officials that actively spurned the scientific findings of their own scientists (most famously, in the EPA, but also in the Center for Disease Control) -- and he did so in a manner with plenty of similarities to the incident that's currently under scrutiny in Texas.
For the past decade, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), which is run by Perry political appointees, including famed global warming denier Bryan Shaw, has contracted with the Houston Advanced Research Center to produce regular reports on the state of the Bay. But when HARC submitted its most recent State of the Bay publication to the commission earlier this year, officials decided they couldn't accept a report that said climate change is caused by human activity and is causing the sea level to rise. Top officials at the commission proceeded to edit the paper to censor its references to human-induced climate change or future projections on how much the bay will rise.Also noted is how the scientists were in unanimous agreement on the paper's findings, and that the lower-ranking staff at TCEQ were prepared to approve them -- the censorship only began when the references to climate change came to the attention of the top brass. The Perry-appointed officials, it seems, knew that the paper would anger the bossman -- so they "edited" it accordingly.
This is precisely the sort of top-down censorship that pervaded the Bush administration. And while Obama certainly hasn't been any star climate policymaker, at least his administration recognizes the science -- if Perry were elected, it could herald a return to the 'science blackout' policies that have already set us behind the rest of the world in tackling climate change. In fact, the difference would be that Perry is even more vocally opposed to climate science than Bush was -- at least Bush didn't have the gall to make ridiculous statements about climate scientists perpetrating a hoax on the American people.
Sheppard's piece also includes the document Texas is trying to censor itself, so check it out at Mother Jones.