EPA Limits Independent Science Advisors, Provokes Conflict of Interest Concerns
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt announced a new policy Tuesday to limit the presence of researchers who have received EPA research grants on the agency's Scientific Advisory Board (SAB).
The move, which Pruitt has said will promote "objective, independent-minded" advisors, has been promoted by conservative think tanks and industry as a way of including more industry voices on advisory panels.
A list provided to the Washington Post and E&E News of expected new appointees to the advisory board shows several industry representatives, government officials and outspoken proponents of deregulation. The move "bans some independent scientists from providing scientific advice while giving those with conflicts a free pass," Michael Halpern of the Union of Concerned Scientists wrote in a blog post quoted by Politico.
"Collectively, these actions create an abhorrent double standard: scientists who rely on public funding are left out, while industry scientists face no restrictions on service," Halpern added. "Fossil fuel and chemical companies already enjoy undue influence over EPA policy under Pruitt. Now, they're taking control over science advice to the agency."
As reported by the Washington Post:
"The move represents a fundamental shift, one that could change the scientific and technical advice that historically has guided the agency as it crafts environmental regulations. The decision to bar any researcher who receives EPA grant money from serving as an adviser appears to be unprecedented."
The Post added that Terry F. Yosie, the advisory board's director during the Reagan administration, said the changes "represent a major purge of independent scientists and a decision to sideline the SAB from major EPA decision-making in the future."
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By Jeff Masters, Ph.D.
Earth had its second-warmest year on record in 2020, just 0.02 degrees Celsius (0.04°F) behind the record set in 2016, and 0.98 degrees Celsius (1.76°F) above the 20th-century average, NOAA reported January 14.
Figure 1. Departure of temperature from average for 2020, the second-warmest year the globe has seen since record-keeping began in 1880, according to NOAA. Record-high annual temperatures over land and ocean surfaces were measured across parts of Europe, Asia, southern North America, South America, and across parts of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans. No land or ocean areas were record cold for the year. NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information
Figure 2. Total ocean heat content (OHC) in the top 2000 meters from 1958-2020. Cheng et al., Upper Ocean Temperatures Hit Record High in 2020, Advances in Atmospheric Sciences
Figure 3. Departure of sea surface temperature from average in the benchmark Niño 3.4 region of the eastern tropical Pacific (5°N-5°S, 170°W-120°W). Sea surface temperature were approximately one degree Celsius below average over the past month, characteristic of moderate La Niña conditions. Tropical Tidbits
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