Whistleblower Hall of Fame: Rick S. Piltz (1943-2014)

Rick S. Piltz, 1943-2014

Rick S. Piltz, 1943-2014

Do you remember when the Bush White House was caught modifying science research publications to play down the existence of anthropogenic climate change?

It was Rick S. Piltz who busted Philip A. Cooney, a lawyer and Bush appointee who was chief of staff of the Council on Environmental Quality, the White House office that oversees federal environmental initiatives. Cooney and others were altering the reports to downplay the certainty and significance of mankind’s role in climate change.

Piltz Fedexed a thick stack of the altered documents to the New York Times, documenting his claims of censored climate research. He later testified before Congress, appeared on many major news shows and founded an advocacy group called Climate Science Watch.

There was nothing about Rick Piltz’s prior career to suggest he would become a whistleblower and advocate for honest science and limits on CO2 emissions. When he resigned, Mr. Piltz was a senior associate in a White House group that coordinated climate research among a dozen agencies. In a 2006 appearance on PBS, he said he quit and leaked the documents because he no longer could stand being “complicit” in what he regarded as “a conspiracy of silence.”

For his heroism, Piltz and his family suffered nine months without a paycheck. Philip Cooney, the guy he busted, left the Bush administration to go to work as a lobbyist for Exxon Mobil. Life usually isn’t fair; I hope you aren’t surprised.

The misconduct Piltz called out still echoes through our nation. The Bush administration’s hacking of the climate science contributed to the public distrust and confusion, not just of climate science but of science in general. The fog of uncertainty in the mind of the public traces in significant part to the idea that science results can be altered. Piltz and his Climate Science Watch have struggled to restore credibility and accuracy to climate science reporting.

Rick Piltz died this week of metasatized liver cancer. There are some very nice tributes over at Climate Science Watch. A voice for integrity in government has been lost. WC’s sympathies to his family and friends.

R.I.P., Rick S. Piltz.