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Censored scientist John Anderson on how to restore sound policy-making in Texas and (maybe) save the Texas coast

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Michael Barajas

“Whenever I'm talking to a group of people about global warming, especially to a lay audience, I say well you can debate global warming and it's a very complicated thing because climate responds to changes and atmospheric whatever — it's a very complex response. … But the oceans are really, I think, the best evidence for global warming because they just filter all that noise, and over the last several decades they've been heating up and they've been expanding. How else do we explain a six-fold increase in sea level rise over the last several decades if it's not global warming? There's really no known mechanism for changing sea-level rise that rapidly other than heating the oceans. … But as long as we have people in Austin, and a governor who denies global climate change and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality who denies it, then we haven't even made the first step, which is the educational step.”

Where Texas stands on coastal preservation

“I think we really need to reconsider how we spend money in the name of coastal preservation. They respond to a lot of pressure from local groups who are beachfront property owners and putting truckloads of sand on the beach, for example. And I have to be very careful here. I don't wanna say they should spend that money on research, because then everyone will say, 'Oh I know what his motive is.' That's exactly what they're looking for. But I do think that money could be spent in wetlands preservation very effectively. But there are other examples of things that the state has done, where they just don't seem to seek out scientific information. Maybe that's our fault as scientists. Frankly, I don't think it is, that's why I wrote this damn chapter. So we're trying to make sure that information is available. The frustrating part is I hear from the policymakers who say, 'Well you guys aren't really forthcoming with your information.' Then you write a chapter aimed at that particular group, and there's this mess over publishing the chapter. And I wrote a book on the Texas coast, and it was aimed at the non-science community.

“I think the information is there. It just seems like the decisions that are being made by the General Land Office, by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which are the two agencies that tend to get their fingers into the pie here, are being made without a lot of really good scientific input. And I think taking a look a that is one of the first things that needs to be done. The government for a while had this coastal advisory group — not one scientist among them, they were all political appointees. I went to one of those meetings, sat in the back of the room, and someone would be like, 'Well how's the banking business, Bob?' and all that kind of thing. They chatted for an hour and a half, then they went home. Nothing got done. And really, I think the science community needs to step out in front.

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