Quiet exit for White House science-cooker
Jonathan Bennett of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) sends the following observations on follow-up coverage of revleations the Bush White House altered science on global climate change:
Go figure. Two days after the Times reports that federal climate change documents have been censored by an oil patch lawyer who knows nothing about climate, John Kerry and Henry Waxman demand an official investigation, and the lawyer resigns, claiming that he had been planning his departure for ages.
A big story for the Times, no? No.
They publish one 87-word paragraph on the subject, not mentioning the calls for an investigation. Odder still, the reporter filed 431 words on the resignation, but the editor just couldn't find a way to get them in the paper. The longer report is up on the Times website, but it isn't easy to find.
I pray that if the media ever discovers who in the White House has been censoring official information on Lower Manhattan pollution and health effects, they will not let him off the hook with an 87-word farwell.
First this, from Bloomberg, on the call for an investigation:
Investigation Sought into Edited Warming Reports
WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. John Kerry and Representative Henry Waxman are seeking a government investigation of allegations in a news report that White House officials edited scientific papers and directed research to downplay links between greenhouse gasses and global warming.
"In addition to altering documents, political appointees dictated government climate research priorities," the Democratic lawmakers said in a letter to U.S. Comptroller David Walker, head of the General Accountability Office.
They asked Walker to "investigate the extent to which White House officials and political appointees at federal agencies have interfered with federally funded science on global warming."
Philip A. Cooney, chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, changed "is" to "may" in a 2002 report describing the cause of global warming, according to a story this week in the New York Times.
He also removed a paragraph that linked higher temperatures to declining water supplies, calling it "speculative" and added or removed words to amplify uncertainties in the science, the paper reported.
"The White House so successfully politicized the science program that it was impossible for me to carry out my duties with integrity," Rick Piltz, who resigned in March from the government office that releases reports edited by Cooney, said in the letter.
The U.S. doesn't limit emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gasses and President George W. Bush has questioned the science behind global warming. In 2001, Bush rejected the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to reduce emissions, saying it would result in the loss of 5 million jobs.
Now this, from the NY Times website:
Editor of Climate Reports Resigns
By ANDREW C. REVKIN
June 10, 2005
Philip A. Cooney, the chief of staff to President Bush s Council on Environmental Quality, resigned yesterday, White House officials said.
Mr. Cooney's resignation came two days after documents revealed that he had repeatedly edited government climate reports in ways that cast doubt on the link between building greenhouse-gas emissions and rising temperatures.
Mr. Cooney has no scientific training. Dana Perino, a deputy White House press secretary, said Mr. Cooney "had long been considering his options following four years of service in the administration." Ms. Perino said the decision was unrelated to revelations about the documents. Mr. Cooney did not return e-mails messages or phone messages left at his home.
Ms. Perino noted that the documents in question dated from 2003.
"He had accumulated many weeks of leave and had decided to resign and take the summer off to spend the time with his family," Ms. Perino said.
Before moving to the White House in 2001, Mr. Cooney, 45, was a lawyer for the American Petroleum Institute, the main lobby for the oil industry, and held the position of "climate team leader," in which he fought restrictions on greenhouse gases.
The documents, first described on Wednesday in The New York Times, stirred reactions ranging from defenses of Mr. Cooney by oil lobbyists to strident criticism by environmental groups and satire from Jon Stewart on his comedy-news program "The Daily Show."
Most scientists and scientific groups, including the National Academy of Sciences in a letter released this week, have said the relationship between greenhouse-gas emissions and warming is clear enough to justify prompt actions by countries to curb emissions.
Philip Clapp, the president of the National Environmental Trust, an environmental group in Washington, said the problem with White House treatment of the climate issue was broader than just one person.
"His resignation is less surprising than the fact that the lead oil industry lobbyist on global warming should have been given this kind of power over climate science and scientists," Mr. Clapp said.
Myron Ebell, who for years has fought restrictions on greenhouse gases on behalf of groups with industry ties, said Mr. Cooney's actions were part of the normal adjustments to language in government documents to mesh them with policy goals.
"The idea that only scientists are able to deal with that is ridiculous," said Mr. Ebell, who currently directs climate policy for the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute. "Citizens have to be able to deal with these things and decipher them, too."
He added, "This is a news story because the White House is so secretive, not because he did anything wrong."
And, finally, the little blurb that actually appeared in yesterday's Times:
EDITOR OF CLIMATE REPORTS RESIGNS
Philip A. Cooney, chief of staff to President Bush's Council on Environmental Quality, has resigned, White House officials said. Mr. Cooney's resignation came two days after documents revealed that he had edited government climate reports in ways that cast doubt on the link between greenhouse-gas emissions and rising temperatures. Mr. Cooney has no scientific training. Dana Perino, a deputy White House press secretary, said the decision was unrelated to revelations about the documents. Mr. Cooney did not respond to e-mail or phone messages left at his home. Andrew C. Revkin (NYT)