Updated Apr 20, 2021 - Politics & Policy

White House removes Trump-appointed scientist from overseeing climate report

U.S. President Joe Biden
U.S. President Joe Biden. Photo: Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images

The Biden administration has removed Trump-appointed atmospheric scientist Betsy Weatherhead from her role overseeing a comprehensive report on how climate change is affecting the U.S., the Washington Post first reported Monday.

Why it matters: Weatherhead has not been fired — merely reassigned to the U.S. Geological Survey — the move represents an effort by the Biden administration to remove Trump-era appointees from scientific roles, per CNN.

Of note: The move could cause further delays to the next edition of the National Climate Assessment, which is congressionally mandated to be produced every four years.

The big picture: Weatherhead's original appointment to the position in November came as a surprise given that she is a mainstream climate scientist whose work reflects that climate change is a serious threat — unlike some other Trump-appointees.

  • However, Weatherhead did allegedly clash with some of the other officials involved about the "direction of the report," per the Post.

What they're saying: Jane Lubchenco, a top White House climate official who ultimately supervised Weatherhead in her position, told Axios in an interview Monday that the White House is committed to producing a "robust" and "effective" assessment.

  • "All I can really say is that Dr. Weatherhead's detail is ending, she's returning to USGS, her home agency," Lubchenco, who serves as the deputy director for climate and the environment at the Office of Science and Technology Policy. said. "We're very grateful to her for her service."
  • Lubchenco left open the possibility that the next assessment, currently due out in 2023, might be subject to further delays. "We will do everything possible to adhere to the schedule but that I guess remains to be seen," she said.

Flashback: The last climate assessment, published in 2018, warned of increasingly damaging climate impacts on the U.S., raising the possibility of severe economic damage in coming decades.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from Lubchenco.

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