In 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency determined that greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, were harmful to public health and has since embarked on a campaign to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
But research from a government accountability nonprofit suggests that the scientific underpinnings of the EPA’s greenhouse gas “Endangerment Finding” were not properly peer-reviewed, as required by federal law.
The Institute for Trade, Standards and Sustainable Development (ITSSD) found that the EPA’s peer-review process for their 2009 Endangerment Finding was “compromised,” as the agency relied on science that was peer-reviewed by the very scientists who helped write and develop it — an apparent conflict of interest.
The EPA’s Endangerment Finding relied on 28 climate science assessments developed by U.S. and United Nations agencies. These studies now underpin the Obama administration’s legal authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, including upcoming regulations on coal-fired power plants. Critics say these regulations will effectively ban the building of new coal-fired plants.
Only four of these climate assessments had been developed by the EPA themselves, while seven had been developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Eight of the 28 climate assessments the EPA relied on had come from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the nonprofit National Research Council of the National Academies of Science (NRC) and the regional Arctic Council.
ITSSD, however, found that the EPA’s peer-review process may not satisfy the Information Quality Act. Namely, that numerous government scientists and university scientists getting NOAA funding who helped develop many of the climate assessments also participated in the IPCC’s fourth climate assessment These scientists were then used to peer review the very climate science assessments that relied on their research.
The Information Quality Act requires the EPA to make sure these 28 climate assessments underpinning their 2009 Endangerment Finding were rigorously peer-reviewed, since it was being used to justify far-reaching regulations — but may not have happened, according to ITSSD.
“ITSSD research also reveals that, on six separate occasions, university-affiliated scientists had also played a key role in NRC… peer reviews of the same climate assessments that such… NOAA-employed and -funded scientists had developed,” the group said in a statement.
“And, on several occasions, without explanation, NRC… had repeatedly used the same reviewer(s) in multiple assessments,” they added.