SILVER SPRING, Maryland - October 23 - With the impacts of global warming spiraling out of control in the form of wildfires, heat waves, hurricanes, floods and sea-level rise, protesters today dramatically occupied the entrance to a leading federal agency and demanded an immediate change in U.S. policy toward fossil fuels.
Gathering at the headquarters of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Silver Spring, Md., two protesters peacefully occupied a ledge above the building's front entrance and unfurled a huge banner reading: "Bush: Let NOAA Tell the Truth." Other protesters on the ground blocked and occupied the building's main entrance.
With political influence from the White House, leaders at NOAA have repeatedly ignored or actively suppressed agency science detailing the threat of global warming. NOAA has also blocked journalists from talking to scientists warning about climate danger. These widely reported actions have drawn growing condemnation from the media and Congressional leaders. (See Greenpeace summary)
Today's protest is part of an escalating campaign to draw attention to the Bush Administration's failed policies on global warming. Calling George Bush the nation's "Denier-in-Chief," protesters associated with the U.S. Climate Emergency Council and Chesapeake Climate Action Network carried large photos showing climate chaos worldwide. Demonstrators called for the resignation of NOAA director Conrad Lautenbacher.
"Every day, wherever one looks in the world, there are accelerating signs of climate danger," said Mike Tidwell, director of the U.S. CEC and one of the protesters arrested. "From satellite imagery from space to measurements deep in our oceans to the daily observations of average Americans, weird and alarming climate impacts are now in plain view. Yet NOAA, in blatant violation of its mission statement, suppresses this truth. And George Bush enforces this censorship as policy. It's time for concerned citizens to stand up and demand action."
Protesters called on the Bush Administration to "join reality and the rest of the world" by re-entering the international Kyoto Protocol process designed to cut fossil fuel use. A sensible first step would be for Bush and Congress to drop its utterly failed policy of "voluntary" greenhouse gas reductions and instead adopt a plan similar to the one just signed by Republican California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. That plan calls for a mandatory 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 in California.
A national effort must include dramatic but feasible improvements in energy efficiency, including an average increase to 40 mpg in the nation's car and truck fleet. Huge investments in renewable energy, like wind power and bio-fuels, are also needed immediately, the group says.
Protestors chose NOAA for their action because the agency's politically appointed leadership has failed to fulfill its official mission to warn Americans about "dangerous weather" and "improve our understanding and stewardship of the environment." The NOAA leadership blatantly ignores or denies the growing scientific evidence of climate chaos, including studies from within NOAA itself.
For example, despite having the words "atmospheric" and "oceanic" in its very name, NOAA's Web site contains virtually no reference to the seven major scientific studies in the last 14 months linking atmospheric warming to an observed increase in hurricane intensity. Indeed, according to NOAA scientist Ants Leetmaa, the agency refused to release an internal review by NOAA scientists last May projecting stronger future hurricanes due to global warming. (See USA Today story).
And recent press reports in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and elsewhere show how the NOAA leadership has tried to keep its climate scientists from talking to journalists. In September, U.S. Congressman Henry Waxman called on NOAA to release relevant agency documents after an internal NOAA email showed media officials there intentionally steering an MSNBC journalist away from a climate scientist whose data shows climate impacts to be worsening, something the White House clearly wants to keep from wide public scrutiny. (See Waxman's website and Salon.com article).
The U.S. CEC, as a result, is today calling for NOAA director Lautenbacher's immediate resignation. Such a move would be a good-faith first step in signaling the Bush Administration's willingness, finally, to begin protecting Americans from the economic, agricultural, environmental and national-security harm global warming is beginning to cause.