Government Climate Web Sites: Missing in Action
NOTE: The following is one of a series of case studies produced by the Union of Concerned Scientists' Scientific Integrity Program between 2004 and 2010 to document the abuses highlighted in our 2004 report, Scientific Integrity in Policy Making.
Several agency websites providing information about climate science have disappeared or been allowed to stagnate in recent years. Indeed, nearly two in five (38 percent) scientists responding to a Union of Concerned Scientists survey reported that they perceived or personally experienced the disappearance or unusual delay of websites, reports, or other science-based materials relating to climate.1
For example, until July 2006, the State Department maintained an active collection of climate-related materials at http://usinfo.state.gov, a government website that offers information about topics ranging from economics to human rights. Articles posted to the climate change section of this website covered new scientific research, with titles such as “Global Warming Topped Natural Cycles in Fueling 2005 Hurricanes” and “Tropical Ice Cores Show Two Abrupt Global Climate Shifts.”
Then suddenly in July 2006, the website was altered. The old collection of climate postings was at first simply replaced by a notice saying the collection had been “retired,” with no links from the site’s topics page. Later, newer climate change articles (posted after July 2006) were posted on the site, but these are more focused on explanations of Bush Administration policies, rather than on scientific research.2 As of March 2007, the older climate change articles are no longer collected in a central location and can only be found through the site’s search function.
In another example, for four years the Environmental Protection Agency’s climate change web site was paralyzed, its pages remaining virtually unchanged from 2002 to 2006.3 The EPA finally posted a new climate change website on October 19, 2006.4 The new site does contain accurate scientific information on climate change although it lacks references to important reports such as the National Assessment of Climate Change Impacts and the U.S. Climate Action Report.5 The site also prominently features a discussion of uncertainty in climate change science, a topic that has been common in Bush administration discussions of climate change.6
1. Union of Concerned Scientists amd Government Accountability Project, 2007. Atmosphere of Pressure report, p.12.
2. Climate Change Archive at usinfo.state.gov. Accessed March 8, 2007. The March 11, 2005 version of this website is archived here.
3. Piltz, R. "EPA's global warming communication problem - 2. Censored websites." June 28, 2006. Accessed March 9, 2007.
4. Environmental Protection Agency. "Climate Change." Accessed March 9, 2007.
5. Piltz, R. "A look at EPA's new climate change Web site, unveiled after 4 years of suppression." October 20, 2006. Accessed February 28, 2007.
6. Environmental Protection Agency. "State of Knowledge."