An Interior Department official pushed misleading information about climate change into the agency’s reports, according to The New York Times, at a time when the Trump administration has rolled back environmental protection regulations and repeatedly downplayed the effects of the climate crisis.
Citing emails and documents from the department, the paper reported Monday that Indur M. Goklany, who was promoted to the office of the deputy secretary and tasked with reviewing climate policies in 2017, pushed misleading language in at least nine reports on environmental studies. The misleading information was also included in studies and statements about watersheds in Klamath and Upper Deschutes river basins in California and Oregon, the paper reported.
The paper also reported “Goks uncertainty language,” as it was referred to internally and drawn from the official’s nickname, inaccurately claimed there was disagreement among scientists about the earth warming.
Goklany also told scientists that climate science “may be overestimating the rate of global warming, for whatever reason,” the paper reported, citing emails from 2017. He also directed scientists to say rising carbon dioxide is beneficial because it “may increase plant water use efficiency” and “lengthen the agricultural growing season,” the paper reported.
Interior spokesman Connor Swanson called the report “misleading, beginning with the headline.”
“Mr. Goklany is not and has never been a Trump appointee. Rather, Mr. Goklany is a longstanding career civil servant whose service spans multiple decades and Administrations of both parties,” Swanson told CNN Monday afternoon in a statement. “The Department is committed to following the law, using the best available science and relying on the expertise from our professional career staff. By acknowledging the full range of outcomes, we incorporate the most comprehensive analysis of climate in our decision making.”
Goklany did not return requests seeking comment from the Times. The Interior Department referred inquiries from the paper to the Bureau of Reclamation, who published the language. Marlon Duke, the bureau’s acting public affairs chief, said “uncertainty is a part of climate modeling, as it is with all scientific modeling.” Duke also told the paper the bureau was not formally required to include specific language in documents, “but we strive to be fully transparent in recognizing and sharing appropriate uncertainties in the information we use to make decisions.”
The Trump administration has been criticized by environmental activists over its response to the climate crisis. CNN’s KFile previously reported that William Perry Pendley, who leads the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, has repeatedly denied the existence of climate change and falsely claimed in a speech there was no credible evidence of a hole in the ozone layer.