Nov 10, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Trump reportedly ousts scientist overseeing climate research


Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui Trinkl/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The White House has removed the scientist overseeing the multi-agency group that crafts influential reports every several years on global warming and its harms, per the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Driving the news: Michael Kuperberg was ousted as head of the U.S. Global Change Research Program — which produces the National Climate Assessment (NCA) — and returned to his prior Energy Department role, both papers report.

  • Per the NYT, he's expected to be replaced by David Legates, a recent appointee to a senior National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration role who disputes mainstream climate science.

Why it matters: The stories note the moves could influence which scientists are initially considered to help write the next NCA due in 2023.

  • The NYT warns of ripple effects, such as a "biased or diminished" report being "used in court to bolster...fossil fuel companies being sued for climate damages."

Yes, but: Or maybe it's just not that big a deal. The incoming Joe Biden administration could reverse the Trump administration's efforts, both papers note.

  • The University of Arizona's Kathy Jacobs, who helmed the third NCA process roughly a decade ago, tells the Post: "I would be more concerned if Trump had won the election."

The big picture: The NCA is written by government researchers and outside scientists. The last one in 2018 warned of steep future economic losses to the U.S., with harmful consequences already underway.

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