Why Must Anthony Watts Peddle Such Distortions?

By Keith Kloor | July 14, 2011 10:21 am

Over the years, I think I’ve written more articles on the research produced by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) than any other agency. I’ve been in the field with many USGS scientists, whose work has taken me deep into the Florida Everglades and across the windswept prairies of North Dakota, among other places. (See, for example, here and here.)

USGS scientists have spent countless hours on the phone with me, patiently explaining complex aspects of their research. (See, for example, here and here.) To me, they are part of an under-appreciated federal agency that often produces groundbreaking science of immense use to the public.

So it irks me to see Anthony Watts blatantly mischaracterize their mission. Watts doesn’t like this particular USGS study because it has a climate change angle. He tells USGS, “Read your mission statement when you applied to Congress for funding,” referring to this testimony:

The USGS plays a crucial role in protecting the public from natural hazards such as floods and earthquakes, assessing water quality, providing emergency responders with geospatial data to improve homeland security, analyzing the strategic and economic implications of mineral supply and demand, and providing the science needed to manage our natural resources and combat invasive species that can threaten agriculture and public health.

I bolded “such as” because it obviously indicates that the aforementioned is not a comprehensive list. Nonetheless, Watts asserts:

Not one thing about agricultural research and climate. Mission FAIL

Of course, Watts conveniently ignores this passage from the same testimony (my emphasis):

USGS research that spans the biological, geological, geographical, and hydrological sciences are essential for understanding potential impacts that could result from global climate change or from land management practices.  These studies provide critical information for resource managers as they develop adaptive management strategies for restoration and long-term use of the nation’s natural resources.

Watts also doesn’t seem to have checked the USGS website to see how it describes itself:

The USGS is a science organization that provides impartial information on the health of our ecosystems and environment, the natural hazards that threaten us, the natural resources we rely on, the impacts of climate and land-use change, and the core science systems that help us provide timely, relevant, and useable information.

When it comes to reading comprehension and accurate representation, Watts FAILS.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


Collide-a-Scape is an archived Discover blog. Keep up with Keith's current work at http://www.keithkloor.com/

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets.From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine.In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest.He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.


See More

Collapse bottom bar