Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington (February 3, 2023) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today sent a letter to American Geophysical Union (AGU) President Dr. Lisa Graumlich to voice his concerns over the reprimanding of Dr. Rose Abramoff and Dr. Peter Kalmus, two climate scientists who were expelled from AGU’s 2022 annual fall meeting in Chicago after engaging in a peaceful act of civil disobedience urging their colleagues to join them as organizers for climate action. Drs. Abramoff and Kalmus also reportedly had their research withdrawn from the conference.

In his letter, Senator Markey noted that, at the meeting, AGU had itself brought climate action front-and-center through the Presidential Keynote Lecture delivered by Costa Rica’s former president Carlos Alvarado Quesada, which stressed the importance of placing climate scientists at the “center of political action.” In spite of AGU’s focus on climate science, the Union reportedly submitted formal complaints to the employers of both Drs. Abramoff and Kalmus following their demonstration at the conference. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Abramoff was fired from her position at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

“Members of the [AGU] are some of the world’s preeminent climate scientists, and have a keen understanding of the crisis facing our planet if we fail to act on climate change,” Senator Markey wrote in a letter to AGU President Dr. Graumlich. “Yet, according to reports, at AGU’s 2022 Fall Meeting in Chicago, after climate scientists Dr. Rose Abramoff and Dr. Peter Kalmus engaged in a brief, civil protest urging their fellow scientists to participate in climate activism, AGU expelled them from the conference, threatened them with arrest if they returned, and complained directly to their employers, apparently precipitating Dr. Abramoff’s firing.”

“I fear that this gross overreaction to a peaceful protest will have a chilling effect on scientifically informed activism by climate scientists and urge AGU not to respond so unnecessarily and disproportionately to future climate-inspired civil disobedience,” Markey continued. “Protest may not be convenient or popular. It may disrupt and get in the way. But such disruption is nothing compared to the planet-wide disruptions that climate change is already wreaking.”

Senator Markey asked AGU to provide answers to the following questions by February 20, 2023:

  1. After Drs. Abramoff and Kalmus’s demonstration at AGU’s 2022 Fall Meeting, did AGU or anyone acting on its behalf threaten either of them with arrest? If so, please explain why.
  2. Did AGU complain either to Dr. Abramoff’s or Dr. Kalmus’s employer about their actions at the Fall Meeting? If so, how did AGU communicate the complaint(s)? If any complaint was in writing, please provide a copy.
  3. Did AGU withdraw the research presented by Dr. Abramoff and Dr. Kalmus? If so, please explain why; identify the policies that were followed in making this decision; explain how this decision is consistent with AGU’s Scientific Integrity and Professional Ethics standards; and provide a copy of the research abstracts that were withdrawn.
  4. Does AGU believe that firing is an appropriate response to a brief, non-violent protest related to and informed by scientific topics under discussion at the Fall Meeting? If not, does AGU believe that neither Dr. Abramoff nor Dr. Kalmus should lose their jobs because of their actions at the Fall Meeting?
  5. AGU acknowledged funding from Chevron as recently as 2020, and previously voted to continue receiving money from Exxon. Does AGU currently accept sponsorship or any other form of funding from fossil fuel companies for the annual Fall Meeting or any other activities? If not, when did AGU stop taking such funding? If yes, what safeguards are in place to ensure that AGU is not influenced by such funding in how it responds to climate protest?
  6. How does AGU intend to respond to peaceful climate activism in the future?