A former policy advisor to the Interior Department has become, in his words, a “whistleblower” on the Trump administration’s treatment of climate scientists.
Joel Clement was director of the Office of Policy Analysis at the Interior Department for nearly seven years. But on June 15, he was summarily transferred to the accounting office, an area in which he has no expertise.
In a troubling op-ed published in The Washington Post, Clement claims that the move was retaliatory and intended to quash his efforts to raise awareness about climate change:
“I believe I was retaliated against for speaking out publicly about the dangers that climate change poses to Alaska Native communities. During the months preceding my reassignment, I raised the issue with White House officials, senior Interior officials and the international community, most recently at a U.N. conference in June.
“It is clear to me that the administration was so uncomfortable with this work, and my disclosures, that I was reassigned with the intent to coerce me into leaving the federal government.”
In Senate testimony a few days after Clement and 40 to 50 of his colleagues were reassigned, Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Interior Department, confirmed that reassignments and other strategies would be used to eliminate the equivalent of 4,000 full-time jobs from the department.
Clement, however, is taking action. In addition to sounding the alarm, he filed a disclosure of information with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. The disclosure argues that since the Department of the Interior eliminated his position, the Native American communities who he fought for in his policy role will suffer even more serious threats to their health and safety.
He also filed a formal complaint with the OSC claiming that he was retaliated against for speaking out about an issue that the White House clearly doesn’t want to address.
President Donald Trump has long been a vociferous climate change denier. In 2012, he called climate change a hoax invented by China. He later said his comment was a joke, but his nominees to executive agencies are no laughing matter: he’s installed climate deniers to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (Scott Pruitt), the Department of Justice (Jeff Sessions), and the Department of Energy (Rick Perry).
These appointments, along with his systematic dismantling of U.S. environmental protections, leave both America and the world more vulnerable to ecological catastrophe.
Still, Clement is hopeful. In an interview with NPR, he said:
“I’m going to stay in public service as long as I can, as long as I’m allowed to. I’m hoping that the process will work out. The Office of Special Counsel will investigate. And ideally, I can be put back in my job and serve those Americans in Alaska and other places where we’re very threatened by the impacts of climate change.”
Featured image via YouTube.