The Biden administration reinstalled the scientist responsible for producing the federal government’s top climate change reports after he was removed from his post by former President Donald Trump last year.
The White House said Wednesday Michael Kuperberg, a climate scientist who ran the production of the documents for six years before his ouster, would return as the executive director of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). The agency is responsible for the National Climate Assessment ― a compilation of work from hundreds of scientists across more than a dozen agencies that helps guide the country’s climate policy ― every four years.
“As a scientist, it’s been my honor to serve the American people under Democratic and Republican administrations to help deliver science to inform solutions,” Kuperberg, who had been reassigned to the Department of Energy in the interim, said in a statement Wednesday. “And as a public servant, it’s been my privilege to work with the Nation’s best scientists and policymakers, both inside and outside of government.”
Trump removed Kuperberg in November despite his being midway through work on the Fifth National Climate Assessment, which is due out in 2022. Kuperberg was reportedly “shocked” by his ouster, as he had expected to stay in his position through the publication of the document.
He was replaced by David Legates, a scientist who worked closely with climate denial groups and had falsely claimed that increased levels of carbon dioxide (a potent greenhouse gas) in the atmosphere were actually good for the planet. The Washington Post noted that Legates used his brief time in the role to craft documents that undercut the science behind climate change, even though the papers were not peer-reviewed.
Trump also denied the science of climate change, and under his administration the White House worked to effectively bury the Fourth National Climate Assessment, which ultimately included damning predictions for the United States.
Trump used his waning days in office to remove senior government scientists from their roles across various agencies. His administration also removed Craig McLean, the acting chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in October.