2006 / Rick Piltz
The Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling is awarded to a citizen, corporate or government whistleblower, investigative journalist or organization for bringing a specific issue of social importance to the public’s attention.
Rick Piltz is a science policy expert who served for a decade in a senior position in the U.S. Climate Change Science Program Office. There he witnessed Bush administration efforts to manipulate and censor the communication of scientific findings on global climate change.
In March 2005, after years of internal opposition, Piltz resigned in protest. He went public with his story in the New York Times, offering proof of how the chief of staff for the Council on Environmental Quality in the White House – a former oil industry lobbyist – had been editing scientific reports to Congress to downplay the implications of global warming. Two days later, the former lobbyist returned to a job at ExxonMobil.
Piltz was the first insider to expose how politics worked to undermine the integrity of the federal science program. Since then, others have come forward, citing further instances of political censorship. The problem has taken on sharp focus as the threat of global climate change has moved to the forefront of national debate.
Last summer, Piltz founded Climate Science Watch, a nonprofit public interest education and advocacy project dedicated to promoting accountability in the way public officials use scientific research. The project’s goal is to ensure a more effective response to the rising level of greenhouse gases.
Piltz received an M.A. and was a Ph.D. candidate in political science at the University of Michigan. He taught American politics at the University of Texas at Austin and later worked in the Texas state government. In the early 1990s, he served on the staff of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology, where he worked on climate-change issues and energy technology development.