Perry Officials Censored Climate Change Report
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality doesn't want you to know that climate change is causing sea level rise in Galveston Bay.
Rick Perry takes Texas pride in being a climate change denier—and his administration acts accordingly.
Top environmental officials under Perry have gutted a recent report on sea level rise in Galveston Bay, removing all mentions of climate change. 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.
John Anderson, the oceanographer at Rice University who wrote the chapter, provided Mother Jones with a copy of the edited document, complete with tracked changes from top TCEQ officials. You can see the cuts—which include how much sea level rise has increased over the years, as well as the statement that this rise "is one of the main impacts of global climate change"—here and embedded at the end of this story. As the document shows, most of the tracked changes came from Katherine Nelson, the assistant director in the water quality planning division. Her boss, Kelly Holligan, is listed as a reviewer on the document as well.
Holligan and Nelson are top managers at Perry's commission; lower-ranking staff at the agency had already approved the document, according to the publication's editor. The changes came only after the two managers reviewed the issue. TCEQ's commissioners, who are direct political appointees of the governor, select the top managers at TCEQ. Although the director and assistant director jobs aren't technically political appointments, those hires are usually vetted by the governor's office.
Anderson, whose complaints were first reported by the Houston Chronicle on Monday, says that the cuts to his paper were political and had nothing to do with science. The research underlying the study was peer-reviewed and is part of a decadelong study Anderson has conducted in partnership with other scientists. The Geological Society of America published the scientists' results in 2008. "I was a bit astonished," Anderson tells Mother Jones. "Really this paper is just a review of papers we published previously. There's no denying the fact that sea level rise has significantly accelerated. The scientific community is not at all divided on that issue."