GAP’s Environmental program helps whistleblowers expose corporate or government actions that jeopardize the environment. We focus our efforts in the oversight of three arenas – the use of climate science data, environmental agencies, and nuclear facility oversight. GAP serves as a vehicle through which scientists, employees, and contractors can release critical environmental information if they are facing wrongful intimidation aimed at suppressing public-interest data.
GAP has made significant contributions in exposing the suppression of climate change science. In 2005, GAP helped Rick Piltz, former senior associate in the coordination office of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, blow the whistle on the White House’s improper editing and censorship of science program reports on global warming intended for the public and Congress. GAP released edited reports to The New York Times that documented the actual hand-editing by White House Counsel on Environmental Quality Chief of Staff Philip Cooney - a lawyer and former climate team leader with the American Petroleum Institute which was done to downplay the reality of human-driven global warming and its harmful impacts and exaggerate scientific uncertainty. This scandal sparked a media frenzy that resulted in the resignation of the former lobbyist, who found a job at ExxonMobil days later.
With Piltz’ leadership, GAP launched a program in 2006 called Climate Science Watch (CSW), an education and advocacy project dedicated to holding public officials accountable for their use of climate science and related research in policymaking. CSW runs a popular blog that is prominently followed by climate scientists, reporters, and many others and has a nationwide and international audience. Current CSW objectives include:
Rebuffing politically driven attacks on climate science and the climate science community in support of honest public engagement with its role in public policy. In response to the Climategate controversy over stolen e-mails and other attacks, CSW published original statements from key scientists, providing an important venue for the scientific community to intervene in opposition to a destructive and trumped up attack on its integrity. CSW has also been engaged in commentary on the role of political manipulation of climate science in shaping public opinion, and has called upon leaders in the administration to affirm their support for the climate science community and its role in informing domestic and international climate policy.
Beginning with providing recommendations to the Obama transition team on undoing the damage done to the federal climate research infrastructure by the Bush administration, CSW has advocated for the reformation of the United States Global Change Research Program to restore its proper function and encompass new priorities. CSW has called for a reactivation of the National Assessment of Climate Change Impacts, which was suppressed by the Bush administration, and has called on the Obama administration to support long-neglected research on how climate change will affect human and environmental systems, ultimately increasing the relevance of federal climate research to society.
In connection with USGCRP reform advocacy, CSW has called for the creation of a national program and federal coordination center to support federal, state, and local efforts to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Climate change is not a problem that can be solved in the sense of being stopped or its impacts entirely averted, but rather must be prepared for to minimize risk. Its management will require the development of an effective response strategy and an institutional capability for ongoing climate-related decision-making and action, starting with a robust federal strategy and strong leadership. CSW will continue to advocate for and report on the progress of appropriate federal action on national climate change preparedness.
GAP has a long history of monitoring nuclear energy and weapons plants to ensure that extremely hazardous materials are handled properly. This nuclear program, which featured many of GAP’s largest cases during the 1980s, fosters citizen activism and governmental accountability. We seek to reduce environmental, safety, health, and economic consequences of nuclear research and weapons development by protecting and advocating for whistleblowers at relevant corporations.
In this area, GAP has a long history of monitoring the numerous problems at the Hanford Nuclear Site in Washington State – the most contaminated place in the United States, and one of the largest environmental remediation projects in the world.
In recent years, GAP has also taken a public stand with other groups against the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) – a federal plan designed to import the nuclear waste of other countries into the U.S., so that America could reprocess such “spent fuel.”
In 2006, GAP represented prominent climate scientist James Hansen, head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Hansen blew the whistle on NASA officials’ and the Bush administration’s attempts to silence him from speaking out about the dangers of global warming.
Stemming from the case of Piltz and Dr. Hansen, GAP’s Environmental program also chose to begin a focus on Environmental Agency Accountability. GAP conducted a yearlong investigation into federal climate scientist gagging and free speech repression, which generated two widely lauded, in-depth reports. Each was released in 2007.