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Interior Dept.

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Interior Dept. censors climate change from news release on coastal flooding: ‘It didn’t add anything’

Study co-author disagrees: “The suppression of this information is a scandal,” part of “a crime against the American people.”

A parking lot of yellow cabs in Hoboken, NJ flooded by Superstorm Sandy, Oct. 30, 2012. CREDIT: AP/Charles Sykes

The Department of the Interior deleted a line explaining how climate change drives sea level rise from the news release accompanying a new study on coastal flooding, the Washington Post reported.

Last week, six scientists published a journal article, “Doubling of coastal flooding frequency within decades due to sea-level rise,” which explains that coastal flooding will be much worse than previously expected, explicitly citing the role of “climate change.”

Since three of the scientists were from the Interior Department’s U.S. Geological Survey, the USGS sent out a press release. Typically, these releases rely heavily on the original study and its abstract.

Instead, according to three of the study’s co-authors, the following line was censored from the release: “Global climate change drives sea-level rise, increasing the frequency of coastal flooding.” The significance of the line is underscored by the fact it is the very first line of the study’s abstract. The Post reports that “the decision to change the news release came from officials at the Interior Department itself.”

As a result of this deletion, the news release never explains what is causing the sea level rise. The USGS’s lead press officer, Anne Wade, told the Post, the excised line “didn’t add anything to the overall findings.”

She explained that because climate change causes sea levels to rise is not a new finding, it did not warrant inclusion in the news release.

Unsurprisingly, the co-authors don’t agree. “It did not cause any direct inaccuracy, but it did eliminate an important connection to be made by the reader — that global warming is causing sea-level rise,” geophysicist Chip Fletcher explained to the Post.

If Americans aren’t informed of the cause of ever worsening coastal flooding, then they won’t know one of the key solutions — reducing human-caused carbon pollution.

Of course, President Donald Trump has long called global warming a “hoax,” and his Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, is a climate science denier. Team Trump started deleting and suppressing climate science from his first day in office and has never stopped since.

Trump administration scrubs climate science pages from EPA website

“The suppression of this information is a scandal,” geophysicist and coauthor Neil Frazer said of the deletion and similar efforts by other agencies. “It’s a crime against the American people,” he told the Post, “because scientists have known for at least 50 years that anthropogenic climate change is a reality.”

As the study itself notes in the first line of the introduction, “global sea level is currently rising at ~3–4 mm/yr [millimeters/year] and is expected to accelerate due to ocean warming and land-based ice melt.”

The study’s key finding is that when you consider the action of waves along with storm surge and sea level rise, the resulting coastal flooding will be worse than scientists had previously thought. The fact that humans are the driving force behind all this should be of the greatest concern to the American public and the federal government, considering the trillion-dollar stakes involved.

Climate change poses ‘nightmare scenario’ for Florida coast, Bloomberg warns


Interior Dept. was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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