Credo Action

Tell the inspector general of the Department of the Interior: Investigate the censoring of government scientists and experts

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The petition to the inspector general of the Department of the Interior reads:

"Censoring experts for doing their jobs is an abuse of authority. Launch an investigation into Department of the Interior Secretary Zinke's arbitrary reassignment of Joel Clement and 50 other senior officials and scientists."

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    Tell the inspector general of the Department of the Interior: Investigate the censoring of government scientists and experts

    Joel Clement was the top climate change scientist at the Department of the Interior until this June. That's when Trump's department chief quietly banished him to an accounting job, where he processes royalty payments from fossil fuel companies.

    Clement is one of about 50 scientists and senior officials quietly removed from their posts at the Department of the Interior in June. He believes he was punished for speaking out about the climate risks facing Alaska Native villages.

    Censoring scientists will not solve the climate crisis – but Donald Trump is much more interested in covering it up. Banned from doing his job, Clement filed a whistleblower complaint and called for an investigation.1

    Tell the inspector general of the Department of the Interior: Investigate the reassignment of top officials and scientists.

    Before he was demoted, Clement coordinated the federal response to Alaska Native communities threatened by climate change. In a region that is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, these communities are located on melting permafrost.2 A major storm could flood them away entirely or cause major loss of life.

    Clement was helping these communities prepare. Some want to relocate now, and others need emergency evacuation plans. Now the federal government has abandoned them, and as Clement points out, they are not the only Americans at risk:

    "Right now Alaska Native villages are on the front lines, but every coastal city, the deserts of the Southwest, the farms of the Midwest that are getting these frequent and almost biblical deluges, these are direct impacts on the health and safety of Americans and our economic prosperity."3

    Systematically eliminating the government's expertise on climate change is not only foolish, it is dangerously irresponsible. As temperatures increase, so will the dangerous impacts of climate change – flooding, catastrophic storms, heat waves and droughts. We need our scientists to help us understand how to prevent and respond to these threats.

    Unfortunately, helping out oil and coal companies is a far bigger priority for federal agencies under Trump's authority. Instead of helping us prepare, they are retaliating against anyone who acknowledges the risks we face.

    Joel Clement's story is part of a broader pattern. Trump has appointed anti-science ideologues and industry lobbyists to key agency roles, revoked environmental safety regulations, removed climate information from government websites, censored scientists from speaking up and reduced public access to data. This administration is at war with reality, and our future will be the casualty.4

    Tell the inspector general of the Department of the Interior: Investigate the reassignment of top officials and scientists.

    Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke actually admitted that reassignments are part of his plan to downsize – in other words, he hopes that staff will resign because of their new jobs.5 Trump's government is intentionally pushing out senior scientists and officials by making their jobs intolerable.

    Fortunately, federal employees like Joel Clement who speak up about health and safety risks are protected under whistleblower laws. While his complaint is being investigated, he has no intention of going anywhere.

    And now, eight Democratic senators have called for an investigation into Zinke’s decision to reassign Clement and other officials.6 If we join them, we can add pressure and publicity to Clement's case, making it harder for the Trump administration to quietly sweep scientists under the rug.

    Tell the inspector general of the Department of the Interior: Investigate the reassignment of top officials and scientists.

    References:

    1. Joel Clement, "I’m a scientist. I’m blowing the whistle on the Trump administration." The Washington Post, July 19, 2017.
    2. Ibid.
    3. Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, "Meet the senior federal official blowing the whistle on Trump's suppression of climate science," Democracy Now!, Aug. 8, 2017.
    4. Jacob Carter, et al., "Sidelining science since day one: how the Trump administration has harmed public health and safety in its first six months," Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, July 2017.
    5. Lisa Rein, "Interior chief wants to shed 4,000 employees in department shake-up," The Washington Post, June 21, 2017.
    6. Juliet Eilperin, "Senate Democrats call for an investigation of climate scientist whistleblower complaint," The Washington Post, July 24, 2017.