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January, 2008



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New Report Describes Systematic White House Effort to Manipulate Climate Change Science
By Steve Benen, The Carpetbagger Report

This post, written by Steve Benen, originally appeared on The Carpetbagger Report

The evidence has been overwhelming for quite a while that, when it comes to climate-change science, the Bush administration prefers restrictions to revelations.
Just two months ago, for example, Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was set to testify on the impact of climate change on public health, but the White House intervened, "eviscerated" her testimony, and directed Gerberding to discuss the public health "benefits" of global warming. It seemed to be part of a trend -- the Bush gang has asked an oil lobbyist to re-write government reports on global warming, and muzzled NASA and NOAA officials when their reports were politically inconvenient.

Of course, it looked like part of a trend because it was part of a trend.

For the past 16 months, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee 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.

This report presents the findings of the Committee's investigation. 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.

The 37-page report is depressing but illuminating. Bush administration officials have not only stifled dissent, they've manipulated scientific reports and censored scientists on a grand scale.

There are so many striking examples, it's hard to know where to start, but a couple of gems stand out.

This certainly made the White House agenda clear:

Former [White House Council on Environmental Quality] Chief of Staff Philip Cooney told the Committee: "Our communications people would render a view as to whether someone should give an interview or not and who it should be." According to Kent Laborde, a career public affairs officer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, media requests related to climate change issues were handled differently from other requests because "I would have to route media inquires through CEQ." This practice was particularly evident after Hurricane Katrina. Mr. Laborde was asked, "Did the White House and the Department of Commerce not want scientists who believed that climate change was increasing hurricane activity talking with the press?" He responded: "There was a consistent approach that might have indicated that."

This drove the point home nicely as well:

The White House played a major role in crafting the August 2003 EPA legal opinion disavowing authority to regulate greenhouse gases. [Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality] James Connaughton personally edited the draft legal opinion. When an EPA draft quoted the National Academy of Science conclusion that "the changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities," CEQ objected because "the above quotes are unnecessary and extremely harmful to the legal case being made." The first line of another internal CEQ document transmitting comments on the draft EPA legal opinion reads: "Vulnerability: science." The final opinion incorporating the White House edits was rejected by the Supreme Court in April 2007 in Massachusetts v. EPA.

A reporter raised the subject yesterday with White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, who dismissed the report out of hand.

"...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."

First, the report from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is thorough and well-documented. Having Perino "just reject it," as if the force of her denial is evidence enough, is pretty ridiculous.

Second, does Perino really want to emphasize that she's "worked on these issues for a long time"? After all, Perino is surprisingly clueless about climate change, and has embarrassed herself on the subject on more than one occasion.

Perino's nonsense notwithstanding, the committee's report is an important one. There's never been a more important time for the public to have complete and accurate information about a pressing environmental catastrophe, and there's never been a White House this aggressive in waging a war on science.

Steve Benen is a freelance writer/researcher and creator of The Carpetbagger Report. In addition, he is the lead editor of's Blog Report, and has been a contributor to Talking Points Memo, Washington Monthly, Crooks & Liars, The American Prospect, and the Guardian.

(c) 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

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