One of the country’s leading climate change scientists is quitting the Agriculture Department in disgust at the Trump administration’s efforts to bury his study about rising carbon dioxide levels affecting rice yields, Politico reported on Monday.
Lewis Ziska, who has worked at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service for more than two decades, said he was alarmed when department officials not only questioned the study's findings, but also tried to minimize press coverage of it after it was published in the journal Science Advances last year.
Ziska’s resignation follows several other government officials recently quitting their jobs over accusations that the administration is censoring climate science, which has raised concerns about scientific integrity in the federal government.
The USDA has repeatedly denied the claims and insisted that objections to promoting Ziska's study were based on scientific disagreement involving career officials, not political appointees.
Ziska said he has worked across five administrations, but only since Trump entered the White House has there been such dramatic pressure to steer research in certain directions.
He charged that scientists, due to Trump’s open rejection of broadly accepted climate science, quickly understood they must self-censor themselves to some extent if they wanted their research projects to receive the necessary funding.
Ziska warned that the politicization of climate science poses a threat to agriculture, saying that “To ignore it. To just dismiss it and say ‘oh that's political' ... I don't have the words to describe that.”
He added that he had the sense at his work that “this is not a place for you to be exploring things that don't agree with someone's political views. That's so sad. I can't even begin to tell you how sad that is.”
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