The Committee on Government Oversight and Reform has published a damning report about the Bush Administration and its alleged efforts to both downplay and obscure the importance of global warming as an issue.
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 list of offenses will be familiar to any one who has followed this story over the years: Scientists have been kept at arm's length from the press, public testimony and reports have been heavily edited, and overall the message has been to emphasize uncertainties in science, even if they don't exist or aren't endorsed by the vast majority of experts around the world.
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 Bush Administration has acted as if the oil industrys 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.
Surely, this report is part political theater. The chairman of the committee, Henry Waxman, is a Democrat, as is the Congress. And its release coincides with the United Nations meeting in Bali, where the United States stands mostly alone against the world's efforts to ramp up action on global warming by cutting back on greenhouse gas pollution. Even if it has elements of political theater, it also demonstrates one very important thing: Congress is fulfilling its watchdog function for the first time in the Bush presidency, and that means that at the least the administration now knows the public is watching.
It should also be noted that some federal climate scientists, most notably NASA's James Hansen, have heroically refused to be muzzled. It is because of them that we know just how hard it is to speak plainly about the risks scientists have defined.
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