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Trump Has Broad Power to Block Federal Climate Change Report

Influential advisers press the Trump administration to subject a draft climate change report to a “red team” review that many scientists decry as misplaced.

Earlier this month, someone involved in the government’s latest report on climate change provided The New York Times with a copy of the version submitted to the Trump administration for final approval. The main intent of the leak, according to several people tracking the report, was to complicate any attempt to suppress the study or water down its findings.

Publication of the document inflamed an already-fraught debate about climate change. Administration officials and Republican lawmakers accused the leaker and journalists of manufacturing a dispute. They said the report, which was required by law, was moving through a normal process of White House review.

The report was submitted in late June and the Trump administration has broad authority to review its findings. Any one of a number of government agencies can block its release, which is ultimately subject to presidential review.

Some of the scientists involved in preparing the document expressed concern that it might never see the light of day. Katharine Hayhoe, a lead author of the report and director of Texas Tech University’s Climate Science Center, said the motivation of its 50-plus authors — a mix of government and academic researchers — was to convey to the public and government officials the scope of a building crisis.

“As a climate scientist, I feel communicating this science is a moral responsibility,” she said, noting that the contributors from academia were working without pay and taking away time from their teaching and scholarships. “We are the physicians of the planet,” she added. “Climate change poses risks to people and our economy.”

Several people involved with the study said the heat drawn by the early disclosure of the document might well have the opposite of its intended effect. They said there are signs that the Trump administration would subject the draft climate report to a “red team” vetting process in which a group of scientists would be invited to vigorously question its premises.