National Politics

White House blocks testimony by retired Cal Poly professor on dangers of climate change

Retired Cal Poly professor testifies on climate change to House Intelligence Committee

Former Cal Poly professor Rod Schoonover testified before the House Intelligence Committee on the national security risks of climate change on June 5, 2019. His written testimony was blocked from the record by White House officials, news reports say.
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Former Cal Poly professor Rod Schoonover testified before the House Intelligence Committee on the national security risks of climate change on June 5, 2019. His written testimony was blocked from the record by White House officials, news reports say.

A former Cal Poly professor recently testified before the House Intelligence Committee on the significant risk of climate change to national security — but his written testimony was blocked by the White House when it did not align with the Trump administration’s stance, according to news reports.

The Washington Post reported that written testimony prepared by Rod Schoonover for a hearing on the national security implications of climate change was heavily edited and ultimately barred from submission to the record by White House officials.

Schoonover, who has a doctorate in chemical physics from the University of Michigan, testified before the House panel on June 5. He said that while scientists are a long way from understanding all the ways people and governments will be affected, “we see few plausible future scenarios to where significant harm does not arise from the compounded effects of climate change.”

On Monday, a news release about the hearing on the House Intelligence website included links to written statements for the record by other witnesses — but not by Schoonover, who has studied the issue for a decade as a senior scientist with the U.S. Bureau of Intelligence and Research.

Before joining the State Department, Schoonover was a longtime professor in Cal Poly’s Chemistry and Biochemistry Department. He retired from the San Luis Obispo university at the end of the 2012-2013 academic year.

He told the House Intelligence Committee on June 5 that global temperatures will continue to increase in the next few decades due to past greenhouse gasses, which will produce hotter days and melting ice caps, along affecting other earth processes like the ocean, soil, permafrost, and the migration of plants and animals, including people.

“Climate change effects could undermine important international systems on which the U.S. is critically dependent, such as trade routes, food and energy supplies and the global economy and domestic stability abroad,” Schoonover said in his testimony.

“Most countries if not all are already unable to fully respond to the risks of climate-linked hazards under present conditions,” he said, adding that how people and societies act to decrease their vulnerability to anticipating climate-linked hazards is a critical factor to determining the degree of harm.

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Large parts of Dr. Rod Schoonover’s written testimony on national security risks of climate change was crossed out by White House officials, according to a leaked document.

He also warned of an increase in humanitarian crises around the globe as a result of extreme events that may occur with greater frequency or severity due to climate change.

Officials in President Donald Trump’s administration who spoke with reporters said the White House’s Office of Legislative Affairs decided that Schoonover’s written testimony would not be submitted into the record because it did not “jibe” with the administration’s stance on climate change, according to the Washington Post.

That tension is apparent in a leaked document that shows edits and comments allegedly written by officials from the White House’s Office of Legislative Affairs, Office of Management and Budget and the National Security. One comment says that the document “includes lots of climate-alarm propaganda that is not science at all.”

Large chunks of the document are crossed out in red, especially a section titled “Scientific Baseline,” which one commenter described as “heavily biased toward alarm.”

Another comment reads, “a consensus of peer reviewed literature has nothing to do with the truth.”

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