“We Live in the State of Denial, the State of Texas” Censored Rice University Oceanographer John Anderson Tells Climate Progress
In one of the most flagrant recent instances of scientific censorship, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) refused to publish a report chapter unless all mention of climate change and its impact on sea level rise were eliminated. The author — Rice University oceanographer John Anderson, a leading expert on sea level rise with more than 200 publications — refused. As a result, TCEQ killed his chapter in The State of the Bay, a regular publication of the Galveston Bay Estuary Program.
Climate Progress interviewed Anderson along with other Texas scientists who revealed that this is not the first time officials removed references to climate change in a state report. Dr. Wendy Gordon, a scientist who spent 8 years working for the TCEQ and its predecessor agencies, told me she was not surprised by this censorship at all. She related the story of one of her colleagues whose attempt to incorporate climate change into a state water planning report was “eviscerated by the higher-ups.”
Governor Rick “4 Pinocchios” Perry is a proud denier of climate science, as is his appointed head of TCEQ, Bryan Shaw, so it’s no surprise his entire administration walks in lock step. No doubt this is what the country should expect from a Perry presidency. After all, we saw similar climate science censorship the last time an anti-science Texan was in the White House.
What makes this especially tragic is that Texas is one of the states most at risk from unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions — because of its vast low-lying shoreline, its vulnerability to hurricanes, and, of course, its vulnerability to devastating drought and heat wave.
But this is censorship of sea level rise, which is why I call it Flood-Gate. Indeed, Anderson told me that “In Texas, I find people far less informed on sea level rise than even in Louisiana. The state is not allowing this information to get out there.” As he told Mother Jones:
“Sea level doesn’t just go up in Louisiana. We’re the next in line. We are in fact starting to see many of the changes that Louisiana was seeing 20 years ago, yet we still have a state government that refuses to accept this is happening.”
Here is a 2009 analysis of the “The Socio-Economic Impact of Sea Level Rise in the Galveston Bay Region” by Texas scientists of what a Category 2 Hurricane like Ike would do after sea level rise (SLR) of 0.69 meter (27 inches) — click to enlarge:
And 27 inches is, optimistically, half the current business-as-usual SLR projection for 2100 (see here).
Anderson was particularly “shocked” at how ham-fisted all of this was. His discussion of sea level rise is focused entirely on peer-reviewed data that isn’t controversial at all. Indeed, his discussion focused on sea level rise estimates from thermal expansion of the ocean — even though he is an expert on the West Antarctic ice sheet and thinks we are at great risk of catastrophic sea level rise this century.
The paper stated in the Summary (page 19): “Current rates of sea level rise … are approaching 3 mm per year and may well exceed 4 mm per year by the end of this century.” In fact, SLR is projected to be several time faster than that by the second half of the century. Anderson was bending over backwards to avoid exactly what happened.
“We can’t even present a conservative viewpoint,” he told me. Below is the final draft he submitted and the stunning line edits demanded by senior TCEQ officials :