U.S. Scientist to File Whistleblower Complaint after Agency Halts His Climate Work

A climate scientist for the Trump administration’s health protection agency who was ordered to drop work on climate issues will file a whistleblower complaint this week with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, his lawyers said on Wednesday.

Source: Reuters | Published on August 15, 2019

CDC eye drop outbreak

George Luber, who ran the climate and health program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is an expert on the health impacts of climate change including risks to hospitals and public health infrastructure and of diseases borne by mosquitoes and ticks as they increasingly move into northern regions as temperatures rise.

Luber has been a contributor to U.S. government reports including the National Climate Assessment, which last year warned that climate change could cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars.

The administration of President Donald Trump, who rejects mainstream climate science, has a policy of rolling back regulations limiting emissions scientists link to climate change and has ordered cuts to climate science advisory panels.

Luber’s office of about 18 people was rolled into a bigger asthma program, which initially was set to include the word climate in its title, but was ultimately named asthma and community health. Ken Archer, a deputy of the climate office, was moved into unrelated work.

The CDC offered Luber the top job at the merged program, but he attracted attention for complaining that the combination of the offices would result in an illegal blending of $10 million the U.S. Congress had set aside specifically for climate work.

The CDC then filed papers charging Luber with misconduct including that he had failed to renew ethics clearance paperwork five years earlier, and that he wrote a book in 2013 without agency authorization, moves his lawyers said were retaliation for complaining.

Although those were the first charges against Luber, who has worked at CDC for 16 years, the agency stripped him of his badge and keys. He now works from home reviewing CDC science papers unrelated to climate, must be accompanied by an armed guard to visit his old office and is prohibited from contacting former colleagues who did climate work, his lawyers said.

“As our climate spins out of control, bureaucrats eager to please the Trump administration have worked feverishly to destroy the reputations of climate scientists who stand in its way,” said Kevin Bell, a lawyer for Luber at the watchdog group the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, or PEER, who is filing the complaint.

The CDC does not comment on personnel matters, a spokeswoman said. She added that the combined office allows climate, asthma and air pollution experts to work on a range of shared health impacts.