In Texas, climate change is the thing that must not be named

After deleting references to climate change from a study on rising sea levels, a Texas environmental regulatory agency has reached a standoff with the researcher who authored the report, and will scrap the study entirely.

The Houston Chronicle broke the story last week, when Harvey Rice reported the “long-awaited” study was being held up by the oceanography professor’s concerns over edits by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which had commissioned the study:

“I don’t think there is any question but that their motive is to tone this thing down as it relates to global (climate) change,” Anderson said. “It’s not about the science. It’s all politics.”

The article has several references to climate change but does not say it is caused by humans. However, other references to the impact people have had on the environment were deleted by TCEQ.

TCEQ spokeswoman Andrea Morrow gave no reason for the deletions in an e-mail response, saying only that the agency disagreed with information in the article.

“It would be irresponsible to take whatever is sent to us and publish it,” she said.

The TCEQ commissioners are appointed by Gov. Rick Perry, and include noted climate-change skeptic Bryan Shaw.

The Texas Observer’s Forrest Wilder, who has covered complaints about the TCEQ for years, called it a “straight-up hatchet job,” and “a new low for the highly-politicized agency,” and wrote that simply following the “track changes” feature in Microsoft Word showed TCEQ employees simply snipping out references to global climate change.

Wednesday, the Chronicle reports Anderson has refused to sign off on the report, forcing TCEQ to abandon the study.

“I’m willing to live with not having it published,” Anderson told the paper. “I refuse to have it published with their deletions.”

According to the Chronicle, Anderson’s colleagues backed him in the conflict with the agency:

Two scientists at the Houston Advanced Research Center backed Anderson. The center has a contract with TCEQ, valued at less than $100,000, to publish The State of the Bay.

Research Center Vice President Jim Lester and scientist Lisa Gonzalez, co-editors for the project, had informed TCEQ they did not want their names associated with the TCEQ version, fearing it would hurt their credibility as scientists.

In Mother Jones last week, Anderson told reporter Kate Sheppard that whether or not the report got out, Texas is going to face dramatic changes to its coastline like those already happening next door:

“Sea level doesn’t just go up in Louisiana. We’re the next in line,” he says. “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.”

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Patrick Michels

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