Ten days ago Georgia governor Nathan Deal abruptly dismissed the state climatologist and assistant climatologist, announcing the climate office would be moved from the University of Georgia, Athens, to the state's Environmental Protection Division in Atlanta. Complaints followed that at least for a time the state would be without climate assessments and forecasts of considerable value to its US $65 billion agricultural sector. A small local movement emerged to reinstate David Stooksbury (photo) and Pam Knox. Now the federal government has decertified the Georgia state climate office on grounds the new operation may not be competent to fulfill its mission.
The decision to move the office has been made in terms of administrative efficiency, and Governor Deal has denied political motivation. Deal, however, is known to count himself among climate science skeptics. In 2009, as a member of the United States House of Representatives, Deal signed onto a petition challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate carbon, despite a Supreme Court ruling that said it could and probably should do so.
Defenders of the Athens climatology office naturally take a dim view of the governor's motivation. One, a close associate of the cashiered climatologists, characterized the sequence of events like this in a personal communication to a fellow scientist:
"(1) Summer 2011 was hot and dry in Georgia. (2) The GA State Ciimatology Office reported that it was hot and dry. (3) Certain drought-sensitive business interests resented that... (4) The governor heard those business interests..."
Last June, Georgia State Climatologist Stooksbury (correctly) predicted the summer would be unusually hot, which will not "give you much comfort," the Atlanta Journal-Constitution warned its readers. Evidently it did not much comfort at least one reader, who happened to be the one who mattered most.
Under the circumstances perhaps we should take comfort from small things. Texas governor Rick Perry, out on the presidential campaign trail, has been casting aspersions on climate science while Texas burns. But he has not actually denied that the world is getting warmer, and Texas along with it. He only casts doubt on the case for human causation.