Friday, June 10, 2005

Kerry, Waxman Ask GAO To Investigate White House Editing of Global Warming Reports

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) have asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate allegations that a top White House official manipulated scientific reports to under-represent links between greenhouse emissions and global warming.

Their letter to Comptroller General David Walker, dated June 9, follows a June 7 story in the New York Times regarding Philip Cooney, a former oil industry lobbyist who became the chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality. That story said that Cooney "repeatedly edited government climate reports" to protect the administration's energy industry friends.

That editing process, Kerry and Waxman allege, meant that "political appointees dictated government climate research priorities."

Here is the letter (emphasis added by JABBS):

Dear Mr. Walker:

Yesterday, the New York Times reported that a top White House official, former oil industry lobbyist Phillip A. Cooney, has reviewed and altered government scientific reports on global warming. According to the Times, Mr. Cooney has "repeatedly edited government climate reports in ways that play down links between [greenhouse] emissions and global warming, according to internal documents."

In addition to altering documents, political appointees dictated government climate research priorities, according to a government whistle-blower, Rick Piltz, former Senior Associate with the U.S. Climate Change Science Policy Office and former Associate Director of the U.S. Global Change Research Program. Mr. Piltz resigned in protest in March 2005. He states, "The White House so successfully politicized the science program that it was impossible for me to carry out my duties with integrity."

We are writing to request that the Government Accountability Office investigate these serious allegations.

The Times article reported on numerous documents where Mr. Cooney's edits changed scientific conclusions made by government and academic researchers. For example, the U.S. Climate Change Science Program regularly compiles and transmits to Congress a report on the program's research activities entitled "Our Changing Planet." In an October 2002 draft of this report, Mr. Cooney deleted as "speculative" a summary of findings by government climate researchers that climate change had been projected to reduce mountain glaciers and snowpack. Similarly, Mr. Cooney systematically changed language to introduce uncertainty in affirmative statements (e.g., changing "is" to "may") and to amplify references to uncertainty made by scientists (e.g., adding "extremely" to a statement indicating that an attribution is difficult).

According to the New York Times, Mr. Cooney is a lawyer with a bachelor's degree in economics who has no scientific training.

Unfortunately, the incidents reported by the Times are simply the latest in a pattern of interference with climate science by the Bush Administration. This pattern is evident across government agencies. For example, early in the Administration, ExxonMobil successfully lobbied the White House to oppose the re-appointment of a leading U.S. climatologist to chair the preeminent international global warming study panel. The State Department complied, giving no scientific rationale for its opposition to Dr. Robert Watson. Lacking the support of his own country in an election to an international body, Dr. Watson was not re-appointed.

Dr. James E. Hansen, a world-renowned climatology expert at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, was told by NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe not to talk about "dangerous anthropogenic interference" with the climate. Dr. Hansen has publicly objected to what he views as the Administration's unprecedented screening of information flow from scientists to the public.

Other examples include changes made by the White House or agency political appointees that distorted scientific findings and summaries in reports, articles, and press releases from EPA, NASA, and NOAA addressing climate change.

We request that the Government Accountability Office investigate the extent to which White House officials and political appointees at federal agencies have interfered with federally funded science on global warming. Specifically, we request that GAO:

-- Review and evaluate the changes made or requested by White House officials to documents produced by federal agencies that relate to climate change;

-- Review and evaluate the changes made or requested by political appointees at federal agencies to documents produced by federal agencies that relate to climate change;

-- Review and evaluate any efforts by White House officials or political appointees at federal agencies to influence the direction of federally funded science related to climate change.

-- Review and evaluate other efforts, if any, made by White House officials or political appointees to interfere with federally funded science related to climate change.

We look forward to consulting with you about this important request.


John F. Kerry, U.S. Senator

Henry A. Waxman, U.S. House of Representatives, Ranking Minority Member Committee on Government Reform


Blogger Stegbeetle said...

I don't know a great deal about the structure of American government. How independent of the Whitehouse is the Government Accountability Office?

5:28 AM  
Blogger Stegbeetle said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The GAO is nonpartisan, and has actually been a great critic of the Bush Administration on a number of things, including video news releases and other propaganda.

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Kerry and Waxman held the hearings, they would likely receive some attention due to the New York Times reporting on the story. But I fear the hearing would go largely unnoticed.
I bring as evidence Exhibit A. Last week, Rep. James Sensenbrenner way prematurely shut down hearings on the U.S. Patriot Act, perhaps illegally, because he did not like to hear any more negative testimony from individuals indisputably wrongfully victimized by the act.
The only reasonable explanation is a Republican/Conservative stranglehold on the mainstream media. And this issue of the Patriot Act and Homeland Security impacts all of us.
Further, I can only guess that the John Conyers' hearing on the Downing Street memo on Thursday will also go largely ignored. It is my understanding that CSPAN has not yet even decided whether it will cover the hearing!

11:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it was on all the news channels, even fox the day after this occurred. however, it did not receive further press ad nauseum as many other stories do. last i heard nanci pelosi was following up on this fiasco.

5:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sure, maybe it was wrong for Sensenbrunner to walk out of the hearing. However, it was the 12th hearing on the topic, hearing from the same people over and over again, and the discussion was repetitive, at best.

1:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know where the above respondent gets their information. It is my understanding Sensennbrenner shut down the hearing to further testimony, not walked out, before half of the people lined up to speak had a chance to talk. How could he had known their statements would have been "repetitive" with those who have already spoken.
He is an asshole. He should be held up to the highest public scrutiny. This should have been a page one story how the Republicans slammed the door on a hearing merely because those giving testimony were off message.
This issue should have been front page news.
Oh yeah, I forgot, it's much more important to report ad naseum about Howard Dean's quips about Republicans.
Whenever the news disfavors Republicans or Republican policies, the strategy of the wrong Right is to shift focus on critizing the Democrats. I cannot wait until the 2006 mid-term elections when we can kiss many of them goodbye.

5:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shut down a hearing ... walked out, no real difference. Either way, nobody has been prevented from having their point of view heard. The testimony has/had been heard in the 11 hearings prior to this one, and everybody knows the arguments for each side of the debate at this point in time.

Regardless, these Congressional hearings are dog and pony shows so they can mug for CSPAN. They are scripted and a waste of time.

6:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The individuals who were not afforded a chance to speak DID NOT previously have their views expressed by anyone else.
They were innocent people who had been undeniably victimized under the Patriot Act. Simply put, Sennsenbrenner did not want to hear negative testimony from anyone other than Librarians who had concerns. Most of the previous testimony was political grandstanding for extending the Patriot Act.
You should review the facts on what really happened before expressing your views.
If you are somehow correct, then why were foreign correspondents reportedly shocked at what happened and were forced to rethink their views on an open American society for information.
To call these hearings a scripted waste of time is to call Democracy a waste of time. I suppose you think the Watergate hearings, the 9-11 Commission hearings and the pre-Iraq hearings were a waste of time as well.

10:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I meant pre-Iraq intelligence hearings above

10:52 AM  
Anonymous Eusebio Feola said...

Mmm... so what?

1:19 PM  

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