A State Department intelligence official who was blocked by the White House from submitting written congressional testimony on climate change last month is resigning from his post.
Rod Schoonover — who worked in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research’s Office of the Geographer and Global Issues — spoke before the House Intelligence Committee on June 5 about the security risks the United States faces because of climate change. But White House officials would not let him submit the bureau’s written statement that climate impacts could be “possibly catastrophic,” after the State Department refused to cut references to federal scientific findings on climate change.
Individuals familiar with the matter, who asked for anonymity to speak frankly, said Schoonover is leaving voluntarily. But the incident that led to his departure underscores the extent to which climate science has become contested terrain under the current administration.
Andrew Rosenberg, who directs the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a phone interview Wednesday that federal experts should be free to provide their expertise with policymakers, even if it is at odds with the views of whoever occupies the Oval Office.
“This isn’t carrying forward your political opinions,” Rosenberg said. “This is bringing the work you’re hired to do in a policy setting.”
President Trump has repeatedly questioned the scientific consensus that human activity is driving recent climate change and that the planet’s warming poses a major security risk to the United States.
Asked about the matter Wednesday, a State Department official confirmed that Schoonover would step down Friday.
Schoonover, who has served in the federal government for roughly a decade, could not be reached for comment. Before working at the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, he had served as director of environment and natural resources at the National Intelligence Council and as a full professor of chemistry and biochemistry at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo.
Three divisions of the White House, the Office of Legislative Affairs, the Office of Management and Budget and the National Security Council, all raised objections to parts of the State Department intelligence bureau’s testimony, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post. Ultimately, the Office of Legislative Affairs made the decision not to submit the document to the House Intelligence Committee.
One of the statements White House officials objected to was this observation: “Absent extensive mitigating factors or events, we see few plausible future scenarios where significant — possibly catastrophic — harm does not arise from the compounded effects of climate change.”