Climate scientist ousted under Trump returning to key federal role

Climate scientist ousted under Trump returning to key federal role

The White House announced Wednesday that it has reinstated the former director of the office that writes the government’s official climate change assessments, six months after he was ousted in the waning weeks of the Trump administration.

Michael Kuperberg, who the White House said has served in government for more than 18 years under presidents of both parties, is returning to his former role as executive director of the U.S. Global Change Research Program. The program coordinates 13 federal agencies that conduct scientific research to produce the National Climate Assessment, a central document that lays out the consequences of inaction on climate change.

“We face urgent climate threats, but we have the knowledge needed to take bold action to combat them,” Kuperberg said in a statement provided by the White House. He added: “President Biden and Vice President Harris have committed to providing the muscle we need to mitigate the causes and impacts of climate change, and I look forward to continuing to serve this nation by helping USGCRP deliver non-partisan, science-based results to guide those actions.”

Kuperberg, who oversaw the fourth edition of the National Climate Assessment in 2018, was unceremoniously removed from the role without explanation in November 2020 shortly after Trump’s defeat in the election and returned to his previous role at the Energy Department. The assessment is produced every four years, positioning Kuperberg to once again helm the drafting of the next report in the coming year.

The scientist’s removal near the end of Trump’s administration marked the latest effort by the then-outgoing president to lock in his approach to governing and policy by clearing out senior officials deemed disloyal or uncommitted to Trump’s goals, which included reversing measures intended to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

The Biden administration has sought to make a public showing of restoring science-based decision-making and weeding out hand-picked Trump appointees, including by resetting the membership of two Environmental Protection Agency advisory panels in March.

Under Kuperberg, the office will take on a “heightened role” in addressing climate change “by ensuring that science informs and guides strong action on the urgent threat,” the White House said.

Returning Kuperberg to the job underscores “the importance of non-partisan leadership in global climate change research to ensure bold action on the climate crisis.” it said.

“If we’re serious about tackling this crisis, we need proven scientific leadership that transcends politics,” said Jane Lubchenko, deputy director of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy. “Having faithfully served both Republican and Democratic presidents to deliver world-class scientific results and assessments, Dr. Kuperberg has earned the trust of the science community and policymakers regardless of party stripes.”

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