This is not a posting about the supposed climategate scandal from over 10 years ago. That was an email hack of a server at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (UEA) that supposedly revealed a nefarious conspiracy but turned out to be no such thing at all.
No instead, this is a posting about the very deliberate manipulation of climate data within the US interior department that has been revealed within a series of emails. It relates to political Trump appointees utilising wildfire data as a means to promote the logging of the Nation’s forests.
The Guardian first broke the news on Friday within an article titled “‘Blatant manipulation’: Trump administration exploited wildfire science to promote logging“. Since then others have picked it up and run with it as well.
Let’s take a look to see what it is all about.
Blatant manipulation’: Trump administration exploited wildfire science to promote logging
The article published last Friday opens as follows …
Political appointees at the interior department have sought to play up climate pollution from California wildfires while downplaying emissions from fossil fuels as a way of promoting more logging in the nation’s forests, internal emails obtained by the Guardian reveal.
The messaging plan was crafted in support of Donald Trump’s pro-industry arguments for harvesting more timber in California, which he says would thin forests and prevent fires – a point experts refute.
The emails show officials seeking to estimate the carbon emissions from devastating 2018 fires in California so they could compare them to the carbon footprint of the state’s electricity sector and then publish statements encouraging cutting down trees.
What exactly is one good example of this manipulation?
They cite this …
James Reilly, a former petroleum geologist and astronaut who is the director of the US Geological Survey, in a series of emails in 2018 asked scientists to “gin up” emissions figures for him. He also said the numbers would make a “decent sound bite”, and acknowledged that wildfire emissions estimates could vary based on what kind of trees were burning but picked the ones that he said would make “a good story”.
What do subject matter experts think of this?
They are not exactly impressed …
Chad Hanson, a California-based forest ecologist who co-founded the John Muir Project and who has opposed logging after fires, called the strategizing revealed in the emails a “blatant political manipulation of science”.
Mark Harmon, a professor emeritus at Oregon State University’s College of Forestry, said while it’s normal for the department to want to quantify emissions from fires, it’s unclear whether they began the process with a particular figure in mind.
“Gin-up is an unfortunate phrase to be sure, but it might have been a very imprecise way to ask for an estimate. It certainly does not inspire confidence,” Harmon said.
He said the resulting quotes from top officials and press releases from the department are “about what you would expect from agencies trying to justify actions they already decided to take with minimal analysis”.
Harmon added that “the effect of logging on fires is highly variable,” depending on how it is done and the weather conditions.
Is Climate Change responsible for Wildfires?
One key talking point being promoted by some is that the wildfires are happening because environmentalists have overzealously encouraged the conservation of forests. The problem here is that there is no data to back this claim up.
There is however robust data that confirms that climate change will lead to an increase in wildfires.
On Jan 14 2020, the following was published …
Climate change increases the risk of wildfires confirms new review
In light of the Australian fires, scientists from the University of East Anglia (UEA), Met Office Hadley Centre, University of Exeter and Imperial College London have conducted a Rapid Response Review of 57 peer-reviewed papers published since the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report in 2013.
All the studies show links between climate change and increased frequency or severity of fire weather — periods with a high fire risk due to a combination of high temperatures, low humidity, low rainfall and often high winds
Industry goals & Mystical theories
Jayson O’Neill, the deputy director of the Western Values Project, said the emails are another example of the administration “trying to find ways to tell a story to achieve industry goals”.
“As wildfire experts have repeatedly explained, you can’t log or even ‘rake’ our way out of this mess,” O’Neill said. “The Trump administration and the interior department are pushing mystical theories that are false in order to justify gutting public land protections to advance their pro-industry and lobbyist dominated agenda.”
- Guardian (25-Jan 2020) – Blatant manipulation’: Trump administration exploited wildfire science to promote logging