Buildings are seen near the ocean as reports indicate that Miami-Dade County in the future could be one of the most susceptible places when it comes to rising water levels due to global warming on March 14, 2012 in North Miami, Fla.
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty

Trump administration gives sea-level study a little touch-up

It would make sense for Republicans, like all Americans, to be concerned about rising sea levels. But in recent years, GOP officials’ concerns have been limited to squelching the discussion about the environmental problem instead of addressing it.

As regular readers may recall, in 2012, Republicans in North Carolina tried to prohibit a state-appointed science panel from relying on the scientific evidence related to sea levels. Around the same time, Republican state lawmakers in Virginia commissioned a study on climate change and the state’s Eastern shore, but “sea-level rise” was to be omitted. The GOP sponsor of the study pointed to “sea-level rise” as an example of “liberal code words.”

That kind of thinking appears to have reached the Trump administration. The Washington Post reported yesterday:
On Thursday, a group of scientists, including three working for the U.S. Geological Survey, published a paper that highlighted the link between sea-level rise and global climate change, arguing that previously studies may have underestimated the risk flooding poses to coastal communities.

However, three of the study’s authors say the Department of Interior, under which USGS is housed, deleted a line from the news release on the study that discussed the role climate change played in raising Earth’s oceans.
The public statement originally said, “Global climate change drives sea-level rise, increasing the frequency of coastal flooding.” The U.S. Geological Survey changed the text so that it now says, “The frequency and severity of coastal flooding throughout the world will increase rapidly and eventually double in frequency over the coming decades even with only moderate amounts of sea level rise.”

In other words, officials were comfortable describing the problem, but not identifying the cause of the problem. The news release isn’t wrong, exactly, so much as it was made deliberately incomplete.

The Post’s report added that the decision to change the news release “came from officials at the Interior Department itself,” adding, “During the first days of the Trump administration, federal agencies halted scientists from publishing news releases and doing other communication with the public. Later, the Environmental Protection Agency and Departments of Interior and Energy scrubbed portions of their websites that discussed the science and risks of climate change.”

In case federal officials need a reminder, sea levels will continue to rise whether Republicans accept climate science or not.