House GOP seeks answers on Biden White House's ouster of climate official

Betsy Weatherhead was removed in April by the White House Office of Science and Technology

Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee are seeking answers into whether politics trounces science after the Biden White House’s ouster of a scientist respected on both sides of the aisle from overseeing the federal government’s report on climate change.

In mid-April, the White House Office of Science and Technology removed Betsy Weatherhead as the director of the National Climate Assessment. Weatherhead was a career civil service employee named to the position during the Trump administration in November 2020. She has more than two decades of experience in climate science in the government, the private sector and academia. Weatherhead has repeatedly stated human-induced climate change is a serious problem.

Two Republicans – Reps. James Comer, R-Ky., the ranking member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, and Ralph Norman, R-S.C., the ranking member of the subcommittee on the environment – are now asking the White House to provide documents from Jan. 20 through May 4 that explain the reason for her removal.

"The Biden Administration seems to follow the politics, not the science, when it comes to its radical environmental agenda," Comer and Norman said in a joint statement to Fox News.

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"Dr. Betsy Weatherhead is a qualified and respected scientist, has decades of experience, and received bipartisan applause when [she] was appointed as the director of the National Climate Assessment," the GOP House members added. "Her abrupt removal raises many questions about political motivation that need to be answered by Biden’s Office of Science and Technology Policy."

The White House has not responded or yet provided any documents to the two House Republicans.

Weatherhead is still employed by the government and was reassigned to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) did not respond to inquiries for this story.

Specifically, the two Republicans are asking the White House for all communications related to the decision to reassign Weatherhead; all documents relating to the OSTP’s plans to finish National Climate Assessment by 2023 without a director in place; and all documents between the OSTP and any outside persons or organizations related to the decision to reassign Weatherhead.

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The National Climate Assessment is a congressionally mandated report meant to guide the federal government’s climate policy and "summarize the impacts of climate change on the United States, now and in the future." A group of more than 300 experts help compile the report, guided by a 60-person Federal Advisory Committee.

Weatherhead had said she wanted to incorporate the viewpoints of a diverse set of scientists with a broad range of perspectives, contending this would make the report’s conclusions more defensible, according to The Washington Post.

Comer and Norman requested the documents in a May 4 letter to the White House Deputy Director for Climate and Environment Jane Lubchenco.

"While Dr. Weatherhead has decades of experience in climate science, both in the private sector and academic arena, it appears the Biden administration is continuing to purge officials in the government based on their ties to the Trump Administration," the letter says. 

It later adds: "When Dr. Weatherhead was named the director of the National Climate Assessment she received widespread adulation from Democrats, Republicans, and even Obama Administration officials. … With deep praise from both sides of the political aisle for the qualifications of Dr. Weatherhead, her reassignment within the first months of a new administration solely based on her ties to the Trump administration demonstrates yet another example of a deeply troubling partisan political agenda."

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Partly because Weatherhead has raised concerns about climate change, some were surprised the Trump administration named her – as a career civil service employee – to lead the climate assessment, The Washington Post reported. Then-OSTP director Kelvin Droegemeir appointed her to the position.

After the Trump administration appointed Weatherhead to lead the assessment, climate officials associated with Democrats hailed the decision, according to the newspaper. These included Don Wuebbles, the director of the fourth climate assessment in President Barack Obama’s White House, and Gavin Schmidt, the Biden administration’s selection to be climate adviser to NASA.

In addition to her time in government, Weatherhead has been a senior scientist at Jupiter Intelligence, a private company that advises businesses and governments on how to prepare for climate change. She also was at the University of Colorado for almost 25 years, where she contributed to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, and was formerly a member of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association’s Science Advisory Board, the Post reported.