THE Bush Administration has run a systematic campaign to play down the dangers of climate change, demanding hundreds of politically motivated changes to scientific reports and muzzling a pre-eminent expert on global warming, the US Congress has been told.
The testimony on Monday to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform painted the Administration as determined to maintain its line on climate change even when it clashed with the findings of scientific experts.
James Hansen, who heads the Goddard Institute for Space Science in New York, said in testimony: "The effect of the filtering of climate change science during the current Administration has been to make the reality of climate change less certain than the facts indicate, and to reduce concern about the relation of climate change to human-made greenhouse gas emissions."
Since the Democratic takeover of Congress in January the committee's chairman, Henry Waxman, a Democrat from California, has led efforts to uncover the extent of White House interference with scientific debate.
The Administration has moved to exercise control over environmental agencies by installing political appointees including a former oil industry lobbyist, Philip Cooney, as chief of staff of the Council on Environmental Quality. Mr Cooney told the committee: "My sole loyalty was to the President and advancing the policies of his Administration."
...while taking no heed of the tax-paid science. Hmmm. Funny ideas on loyalty.
Documents released on Monday show that in 2003 Mr Cooney and other senior appointed officials made at least 181 changes to a strategic plan on climate change to play down the scientific consensus on global warming. They made a further 113 alterations to minimise the human role in climate change, and inserted possible benefits of climate change. "These changes must be made," a note in Mr Cooney's handwriting says. "The language is mandatory."
Some of the statements deleted on Mr Cooney's instruction were non-controversial, such as: "Climate change has global consequences for human health and the environment." He also deleted references to models indicating that temperatures have been rising for 1000 years. However, he chose to highlight a study funded by his former employer, the American Petroleum Institute.
Under heated questioning, Mr Cooney admitted the changes were all intended to cast doubt on the impact of global warming. He denied they were directly co-ordinated with the White House but said he had regular conversations with a senior White House aide. "We got notes from them."
Notes? Notes from them? How Orwellian. Shouldn't the notes be going in the other direction? Shouldn't science be informing the politicians, not the politicians informing the science? Hansen went on to accuse the government of propaganda.
Control from the White House became the norm, Dr Hansen told the committee. "Scientific press releases were going to the White House for editing," he said. "It's very unfortunate that we developed this politicisation of science. The public relations office should be staffed by expert appointees - otherwise they become offices of propaganda."
For Hansen's full transcript, go to Climate Change Action. It's compelling reading. Here is James E. Hansen's homepage.
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