Senior officials had concerns

The Trump gang drives another scientist out of government work:

One of the nation’s leading climate change scientists is quitting the Agriculture Department in protest over the Trump administration’s efforts to bury his groundbreaking study about how rice loses nutrients due to rising carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Lewis Ziska, a 62-year-old plant physiologist who’s worked at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service for more than two decades, told POLITICO he was alarmed when department officials not only questioned the findings of the study — which raised potentially serious concerns for the 600 million people who depend on rice for most of their calories — but also tried to minimize press coverage of the paper, which was published in the journal Science Advances last year.

Will there be anyone left by January 2021?

Last week, an intelligence analyst at the State Department said he left his post after administration officials blocked his testimony to Congress about the wide-ranging national security implications of climate change. A National Park Service employee also stepped forward, alleging she lost her job after refusing to scrub mentions of human-caused climate change from a peer-reviewed paper that was set to publish.

A POLITICO investigation revealed last month that USDA has routinely buried its own climate-related science and other work on climate change that continues. POLITICO also recently reported USDA suppressed the release of its own plan for studying and responding to climate change.

It’s so crazy. What do they think is going to happen? Climate change will be rough for poor people but it will leave rich people alone? That their children and grandchildren will be just fine because they’ll have enough money to deal with it?

Ziska, in describing his decision to leave, painted a picture of a department in constant fear of the president and Secretary Sonny Perdue’s open skepticism about broadly accepted climate science, leading officials to go to extremes to obscure their work to avoid political blowback. The result, he said, is a vastly diminished ability for taxpayer-funded scientists to provide farmers and policymakers with important information about complex threats to the global food supply.

Well, the less we know, the freer we are to make colossal mistakes.

Ziska and another leading researcher at USDA, Naomi Fukagawa, who is the director of USDA’s Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville, had collaborated for more than two years with scientists at the University of Washington, University of Tokyo, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the University of Southern Queensland, in Australia, and Bryan College of Health Sciences, in Lincoln, Neb., on what they considered a groundbreaking achievement. The paper looked at how an atmosphere increasingly rich in carbon dioxide could affect rice, which some 600 million people rely on for the majority of their calories, particularly in developing Asian countries.

600 million people is a lot. Their nutrition would seem to be important.

The study found that rice not only loses protein and minerals, which confirmed earlier research, but they also for the first time found that key vitamins can drop.

The journal editors anticipated that the paper would attract international press interest, so they asked the researchers to have their institutions help prepare a press packet. USDA officials initially wrote their own press release to tout the findings, but ended up spiking the release at the last minute because they said senior officials within ARS had concerns about the paper, according to emails obtained by POLITICO from one of the study’s other co-authors.

A communications official went as far as to call the University of Washington and suggest the university reconsider its plans to promote the paper.

Ziske asked for a meeting with the senior officials. No response.

“That’s when it occurred to me,” he said. “This isn’t about the science. It’s about something else, but it’s not about the science.”

My guess? It’s about the profits.

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