The White House has removed Betsy Weatherhead, an experienced atmospheric scientist, from her role leading the U.S. National Climate Assessment and reassigned her to the U.S. Geological Survey, The Washington Post reports. Weatherhead was put in charge of the U.S. government’s definitive report on the effects of climate change last November by Kelvin Droegemeier, director of President Trump’s White House Office of Science Technology Policy (OSTP). Officials at President Biden’s OSTP made the decision to return her to USGS, the Post reports.
Weatherhead’s appointment surprised many science policy experts, but pleasantly so, because she accepts the scientific consensus that climate change is happening and poses a serious threat to the planet and the economy, the Post reports. Despite her long experience in the field and mainstream views, the Post says, Weatherhead had clashed with other federal officials in the 13 agencies involved in the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which coordinates the report.
Weatherhead wanted to bring in more authors from the private sector, include more viewpoints, and increase the number of chapters on options to mitigate and adapt to climate change, the Post says, and she has also “historically placed great emphasis on communicating scientific uncertainty.” One of Weatherhead’s previous bosses in the private sector, Juniper Intelligence CEO Rich Sorkin, called her “one of the world’s experts on uncertainty,” speculating that may have been what resonated with the Trump administration.
The Biden administration has yet to pick a replacement for Weatherhead or a new director of the Global Change Research Program. Trump removed the previous director, career appointee Michael Kuperberg, in November and replaced him with David Legates, who rejects the consensus on climate change. Droegemeier, who is not a climate change skeptic, reassigned Legate and another Trump political appointee, Ryan Maue, in January after they contributed to unapproved papers casting doubt on climate change, and both men resigned from the government a few days before Biden took office. Peter Weber