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Bullet policy · Nov 23, 2020

Trump Administration Removes Head of U.S. Climate Program

On November 6, 2020, the White House abruptly removed Michael Kuperberg from his position as Executive Director of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), which oversees the production of the National Climate Assessment (NCA)—a scientific report on climate change that is congressionally mandated to be prepared every four years by scientists from 13 federal agencies.

Kuperberg, a Department of Energy (DOE) employee who had led the USGCRP for more than five years, had been working to advance the fifth and latest installment of the NCA after a months-long delay from the White House. According to E&E News, Don Wuebbles, a climate scientist at the University of Illinois and co-lead author of the first volume of the fourth climate report, said that Kuperberg has been transferred back to DOE.

The Trump Administration announced that David Legates, a climate change denier who was recently appointed as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction at NOAA, will replace Kuperberg as the Head of USGCRP. Legates, a professor of geography from the University of Delaware, is affiliated with the Heartland Institute—a think tank funded partially by the fossil fuel industry. He has long questioned that human activity is causing global warming.

Legates will head the development of the NCA for the next two months and will have influence over the crucial step of contracting scientists to write the report. Scientists are concerned that those contracts could be structured to keep researchers who reject climate science in place after President Trump leaves office in January.