Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer
Al Gore has said there can be no genuine debate about the reality of global warming and the role of human activity in causing it. But Gore might want to tell that to the state climatologists who have seen their jobs swept away, seemingly by the undertow of global-warming politics.
The most recent example came in Georgia, where Republican governor Nathan Deal signed an executive order appointing a state employee to the climatologist's job, which had been housed at the University of Georgia. That means longtime state climatologist David Stooksbury, a tenured faculty member in biological and agricultural engineering at the University of Georgia, no longer holds the position. His assistant, climatologist Pam Knox, might be out of a job altogether in about a year.
This political posturing comes as we wind down 2011, a year when the United States shattered a record for weather disasters.
Why did Deal make the change? That is unclear, but his choice for the job, meteorologist Bill Murphey, is a state employee who ultimately will answer to the governor. As university employees, Stooksbury and Knox receive much of their funding from independent research grants.
"You've kind of lost that independent voice for informing the public and informing decision-makers," Stooksbury said. "I'm not sure that is good for the state in the long term. In a university setting, there is more independence, more access to the latest scientific information."
Tom Crawford, of gareport,com, smells a political rat in the room. Writes Crawford:
The whole science of climatology has become increasingly politicized in recent years with many leaders of one of our major political organizations, the Republican Party, actively denying the accumulated scientific data supporting the argument that our climate is changing dramatically as the earth gets warmer. Perhaps a Republican governor would not want a climatologist who is not under his control and who would insist upon such quaint notions as making decisions that are based on facts and data.
Chip Knappenberger, of The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), also smells something foul. He writes:
The political battle to control the flavor of scientific discourse seemingly has claimed another victim. This time it was Dr. David Stooksbury, the 12-year veteran state climatologist of Georgia whose middle-of-the-road opinions about climate change apparently ran afoul of Georgia Governor Nathan Deal's more conservative views.
In an executive order issued last week, Governor Deal stripped Dr. Stooksbury of his title and conferred it to a current employee of the state's Environmental Protection Division--a position under direct government control, unlike Stooksbury's rather independent office at the University of Georgia.
If Crawford and Knappenberger are on target, and I'm betting they are, Georgia is not the first state where politics have trumped science on climate issues. Reports GWPF:
Stooksbury's ouster is just the latest in a string of state climatologists who have been replaced in recent years for what seem like political reasons.