Hawaii scientists say political interference in Washington could impact public trust and safety

Hawaii scientists say political interference in Washington could impact public trust and safety
President Trump is denying reports that he instructed his administration to rebuke weather forecasters who contradicted his claim that Hurricane Dorian would strike Alabama. (Source: CNN)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - President Trump is denying reports that he instructed his administration to rebuke weather forecasters who contradicted his claim that Hurricane Dorian would strike Alabama.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service fall under the federal government within the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The concern about politics mixing with climate science is also being felt in Hawaii where leaders and scientists are seeing signs of interference from Washington in their efforts to keep the public safe.

When Hawaii News Now recently contacted the local National Weather Service office here in Honolulu looking for an expert to discuss climate change, we were either referred to their national headquarters or the meteorologist needed clearance to speak with us.

It's a trend local scientists say is troubling.

"To have a filter of political correctness that interferes with scientific integrity, that interferes with legitimate communication of the safety of the public, which is their mission, it's an extremely bad thing," said Chip Fletcher, a professor and climate expert with the University of Hawaii.

Fletcher says he has personally experienced political interference under the Trump Administration when sharing research he worked on with colleagues from federal agencies.

"I have had press releases that mention global warming, climate change, sea level rise scrubbed of those terms at the headquarters offices of the agencies where these colleagues work. We now have administrators who are not necessarily scientists deciding what the scientists are allowed to say and not say," Fletcher said.

On Capitol Hill, Hawaii U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono and other democrats are now investigating claims that Trump Administration officials threatened to fire NOAA employees.

“Hawaii has been hit by hurricanes before, we had a huge one in 1992, Hurricane Iniki, and we’re still recovering from some of that,” Hirono said in an interview with CNN. “So this is serious business when you start changing maps to indicate that a hurricane is going to hit a state.”

The President has called the story a hoax.

Regardless, local experts worry about the impact to public trust, as well as the science community.

“In a time when our climate is changing, and that has impacts on weather events, and we see the growth of natural disasters, we see an intensification of disastrous events, we need meteorologists with the National Weather Service more than ever,” said Fletcher.

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