National Park Service officials have deleted every mention of humans’ role in causing climate change in drafts of a long-awaited report on sea level rise and storm surge, contradicting Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s vow to Congress that his department is not censoring science.
The research for the first time projects the risks from rising seas and flooding at 118 coastal national park sites, including the National Mall, the original Jamestown settlement and the Wright Brothers National Memorial.
…In changes dated Feb. 6, a park service official crossed out the word “anthropogenic,” the term for people’s impact on nature, in five places. Three references to “human activities” causing climate change also were removed.
The 87-page report, which was written by a University of Colorado Boulder scientist, has been held up for at least 10 months, according to documents obtained by Reveal. The delay has prevented park managers from having access to the best data in situations such as reacting to hurricane forecasts, safeguarding artifacts from floodwaters or deciding where to locate new buildings.
…Columbia University’s Silencing Science Tracker documents more than 100 instances of government trying to restrict research or public information about climate change. Among them are reports on climate change that have been stripped from government websites. Climate change was removed from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s strategic plan. Environmental Protection Agency employees were issued talking points that promote an inaccurate message about gaps in climate science and downplay the role of human activities in global warming.
The edited national parks report “is probably the biggest scientific integrity violation at the Department of Interior, by far … because this is an actual scientific report.”
…The introduction also was substantially altered in February. These two sentences were deleted: “While sea levels have been gradually rising since the last glacial maximum approximately 21,000 years ago, anthropogenic climate change has significantly increased the rate of global sea level rise. Human activities continue to release carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, causing the Earth’s atmosphere to warm.”
…The National Park Service’s scientific integrity policy prohibits managers from engaging in “dishonesty, fraud, misrepresentation, coercive manipulation, censorship, or other misconduct that alters the content, veracity, or meaning or that may affect the planning, conduct, reporting, or application of scientific and scholarly activities.” It also requires employees to differentiate between their opinions or assumptions and solid science.
Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences, said “the edits are glaringly in violation” of the science cited in the report and “such alterations violate” the policy.
“The individual who edited the document is making a personal opinion/assumption that runs counter to the scientific consensus that greenhouse gas emissions responsible for sea level rise are of anthropogenic origin and that the threat to the National Park Service assets arises primarily from human activities,” said McNutt, who led the U.S. Geological Survey, the Interior Department’s main scientific agency, from 2009 to 2013.