Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Political Interference With Government Climate Change Science

Dec 10: For the past 16 months, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Chaired by Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), has been investigating allegations of political interference with government climate change science under the Bush Administration. During the course of this investigation, the Committee obtained over 27,000 pages of documents from the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the Commerce Department, held two investigative hearings, and deposed or interviewed key officials. Much of the information made available to the Committee has never been publicly disclosed.

A proposed report, released on December 10, presents the findings of the Committee’s investigation. According to an announcement released by the Committee, "The evidence before the Committee leads to one inescapable conclusion: the Bush Administration has engaged in a systematic effort to manipulate climate change science and mislead policymakers and the public about the dangers of global warming."

According to the announcement, in 1998, the American Petroleum Institute developed an internal “Communications Action Plan” that stated: “Victory will be achieved when … average citizens ‘understand’ uncertainties in climate science … [and] recognition of uncertainties becomes part of the ‘conventional wisdom.’” The announcement says, "The Bush Administration has acted as if the oil industry’s communications plan were its mission statement. White House officials and political appointees in the agencies censored congressional testimony on the causes and impacts of global warming, controlled media access to government climate scientists, and edited federal scientific reports to inject unwarranted uncertainty into discussions of climate change and to minimize the threat to the environment and the economy.

"The White House exerted unusual control over the public statements of federal scientists on climate change issues. It was standard practice for media requests to speak with federal scientists on climate change matters to be sent to CEQ for White House approval. By controlling which government scientists could respond to media inquiries, the White House suppressed dissemination of scientific views that could conflict with Administration policies. The White House also edited congressional testimony regarding the science of climate change."

The announcement highlights the recent climate change testimony of Dr. Julie Gerberding, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Dr. Thomas Karl, the Director of National Climatic Data Center, who appeared before the House Oversight Committee a year earlier and says that their testimony was heavily edited by both White House officials and political appointees at the Commerce Department. It says there was a systematic White House effort to minimize the significance of climate change by editing climate change reports. It indicates the White House insisted on edits to EPA’s draft Report on the Environment that were so extreme that the EPA Administrator opted to eliminate the climate change section of the report. In the case of EPA’s Air Trends Report, CEQ went beyond editing and simply vetoed the entire climate change section of the report. And, despite objections from EPA, CEQ insisted on repeating an unsupported assertion that millions of American jobs would be lost if the Kyoto Protocol were ratified.

The White House Press Secretary, Dana Perino, who said she had not seen the report but heard reports of it, responded saying, "I think that it's inescapable that they issued this report on a day when they knew that the United States would be represented at the Bali conference, where we are currently talking about the next step for a framework after 2012, which is when Kyoto would end... I would submit to you, having worked on these issues for a long time, that it's rehashed rhetoric that has come out of the Democrats beforehand, and we just reject it as being untrue." In response to a question stating, Did the White House ever asked employees at agencies like NOAA to suppress climate change information and science?; Perino said, "Not that I'm aware and I do not believe that is true. "

Access the announcement (click here). Access the 37-page proposed report (click here). Access the White House press briefing that contains the Press Secretary's comments (click here). [*Climate]