Another commentary about the Bush administration and the environment

  1. The following is a commentary from the 6/20/2003 New York Times Opinion Page.

    Censorship on Global Warming

    When it comes to global warming, the Bush administration seems determined to bury its head in the sand and hope the problem will go away. Worse yet, it wants to bury any research findings that global warming may be a threat to human health or the environment.

    The latest example of this ostrichlike behavior involves some heavy-handed censorship of a draft report that is due out next week from the Environmental Protection Agency. As described by Andrew Revkin and Katharine Seelye in yesterday's Times, the report was intended to provide the first comprehensive review of what is known about environmental problems and what gaps in understanding remain to be filled. But by the time the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of Management and Budget finished with it and hammered the E.P.A. into submission, a long section on the risks posed by rising global temperatures was reduced to a noncommittal paragraph.

    Gone is any mention that the 1990's are likely to have been the warmest decade in the last thousand years in the Northern Hemisphere. Gone, also, is a judgment by the National Research Council about the likely human contributions to global warming, though the evidence falls short of conclusive proof. Gone, too, is an introductory statement that "Climate change has global consequences for human health and the environment." All that is left in the report is some pablum about the complexities of the issue and the research that is needed to resolve the uncertainties.

    This is the second shameful case of censorship involving global warming in less than a year. Last September, a whole chapter on climate was deleted from the E.P.A.'s annual report on air-pollution trends. That deed was done by Bush appointees at the agency, with White House approval, possibly because the White House had been angered by a previous report from the State Department suggesting the dire harm that could come from climate change. President Bush had dismissed that report as "put out by the bureaucracy."

    The justifications offered for such censorship are feeble. One excuse is that global warming has been discussed in other reports and thus need not be dealt with again. But surely reports billed as comprehensive reviews should be comprehensive.

    Another excuse is that the administration's new climate research plan will grapple with the issue. But given what we know about this administration, it seems almost inevitable that the experts who are mobilized to study the question will wind up focusing on uncertainties and the need for further research rather than facing up to the policy implications of the existing data.

    Christie Whitman, the E.P.A. administrator, is putting on a brave face after her agency's capitulation. She says she feels "perfectly comfortable" issuing the broader assessment of land, air and water quality without waiting to resolve differences over climate change, where the evidence is less solid. But this sorry trampling of her agency's best judgment suggests that Congress, in confirming a successor after she steps down next week, will need to look hard at how free that person will be to offer the best scientific judgment on environmental issues.
  2. 44 Comments

  3. by   pickledpepperRN
    And from the Junteenth article
    June 19, 2003
    Report by the E.P.A. Leaves Out Data on Climate Change

    The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to publish a draft report next week on the state of the environment, but after editing by the White House, a long section describing risks from rising global temperatures has been whittled to a few noncommittal paragraphs.
    The report, commissioned in 2001 by the agency's administrator, Christie Whitman, was intended to provide the first comprehensive review of what is known about various environmental problems, where gaps in understanding exist and how to fill them.
    Agency officials said it was tentatively scheduled to be released early next week, before Mrs. Whitman steps down on June 27, ending a troubled time in office that often put her at odds with President Bush.
    Drafts of the climate section, with changes sought by the White House, were given to The New York Times yesterday by a former E.P.A. official, along with earlier drafts and an internal memorandum in which some officials protested the changes. Two agency officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the documents were authentic.
    The editing eliminated references to many studies concluding that warming is at least partly caused by rising concentrations of smokestack and tail-pipe emissions and could threaten health and ecosystems.
    Among the deletions were conclusions about the likely human contribution to warming from a 2001 report on climate by the National Research Council that the White House had commissioned and that President Bush had endorsed in speeches that year. White House officials also deleted a reference to a 1999 study showing that global temperatures had risen sharply in the previous decade compared with the last 1,000 years. In its place, administration officials added a reference to a new study, partly financed by the American Petroleum Institute, questioning that conclusion.
    In the end, E.P.A. staff members, after discussions with administration officials, said they decided to delete the entire discussion to avoid criticism that they were selectively filtering science to suit policy.
    Administration officials defended the report and said there was nothing untoward about the process that produced it. Mrs. Whitman said that she was "perfectly comfortable" with the edited version and that the differences over climate change should not hold up the broader assessment of the nation's air, land and water.
    "The first draft, as with many first drafts, contained everything," she said in a brief telephone interview from the CBS studios in Manhattan, where she was waiting to tape "The Late Show With David Letterman."
    "As it went through the review, there was less consensus on the science and conclusions on climate change," Ms. Whitman said. "So rather than go out with something half-baked or not put out the whole report, we felt it was important for us to get this out because there is a lot of really good information that people can use to measure our successes."
    James L. Connaughton, chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, a White House advisory group, said, "It would be utterly inaccurate to suggest that this administration has not provided quite an extensive discussion about the state of the climate. Ultimately, E.P.A. made the decision not to include the section on climate change because we had these ample discussions of the subject already."
    But private environmental groups sharply criticized the changes when they heard of them.
    "Political staff are becoming increasingly bold in forcing agency officials to endorse junk science," said Jeremy Symons, a climate policy expert at the National Wildlife Federation. "This is like the White House directing the secretary of labor to alter unemployment data to paint a rosy economic picture."
    Drafts of the report have been circulating for months, but a heavy round of rewriting and cutting by White House officials in late April raised protest among E.P.A. officials working on the report.
    An April 29 memorandum circulated among staff members said that after the changes by White House officials, the section on climate "no longer accurately represents scientific consensus on climate change."
    Another memorandum circulated at the same time said that the easiest course would be to accept the White House revisions but that to do so would taint the agency, because "E.P.A. will take responsibility and severe criticism from the science and environmental communities for poorly representing the science."
    The changes were mainly made by the Council on Environmental Quality, although the Office of Management and Budget was also involved, several E.P.A. officials said. It is the second time in a year that the White House has sought to play down global warming in official documents.
  4. by   jnette
    Yeh... heard all that on TV last night, too. Sad. I can undersatnd not being EXTREME and all, but common sense will tell us that we really need to come out of denial and do better than we have been. Geeesh, what will we leave our grandkids?
  5. by   sbic56
    Yes, I saw this, too. Hopefuly the next guy in there will be a little more caring of the environment. Very sad.
  6. by   Spidey's mom
    I've mentioned this book before but it is worth mentioning again because it is written by an environmentalist who doesn't like it when people distort the facts.

    The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World
    Bjorn Lomborg, Bjrn Lomborg

    People who bought this book also bought:
    The Satanic Gases: Clearing the Air about Global Warming Patrick J. Michaels, Robert C. Balling
    How to Lie with Statistics Darrell Huff, Irving Geis (Illustrator)
    Useful Idiots: How Liberals Got It Wrong in the Cold War and Still Blame America First Mona Charen
    The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq Kenneth M. Pollack, Kenetth Pollack
    The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror Bernard Lewis


    From the Publisher
    Bjrn Lomborg, a former member of Greenpeace, challenges widely held beliefs that the world environmental situation is getting worse and worse in his new book, The Skeptical Environmentalist. Using statistical information from internationally recognized research institutes, Lomborg systematically examines a range of major environmental issues that feature prominently in headline news around the world, including pollution, biodiversity, fear of chemicals, and the greenhouse effect, and documents that the world has actually improved. He supports his arguments with over 2500 footnotes, allowing readers to check his sources.

    Everyday, various opinions are expressed in the media regarding doubts over the Kyoto agreement and the international community's ethical responsibility to the future of the environment. In his controversial new book, The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World, Bjorn Lomborg, offers a fresh perspective to the debate and challenges the view that we are destroying our planet irrevocably by exploding the widely propagated myth tat the state of the environment continues to spiral downwards beyond our control.

    Lomborg investigates a variety of issues, including:

    Global Climate Change - Are we dealing with the problem in the right way?
    Resources - Are we living on borrowed time?
    GM Foods - Diaster or blessing?
    Waste - Are we running out of space?
    Forests - Are we losing them?
    Lomborg answers such questions and stresses the need for clear-headed prioritization of resources to tackle real, not imagined, problems. The Skeptical Environmentalist is the result of extensive analysis of a wide range of statistical data and serves as a useful juxtaposition to the headline-grabbing examples used by advocacy groups and the media.

    From The Critics
    Matt Ridley - The Daily Telegraph (London)
    ...he has put his conclusions in a remarkable book, probably the most important book on the environment ever written. Its importance lies partly in its relentless statistics. With 173 charts, nine tables and a staggering 2,930 footnotes, The Skeptical Environmentalist will be a source of reference for years to come. But it is also a readable, accessible and simple account of the state of the world, told as much in the illuminating charts as in the text itself. And it is a fascinating polemic, too.

    This is one of the most valuable books on public policy not merely on environmental policy to have been written for the intelligent general reader in the past ten years.

    What People Are Saying
    Bjorn Lomborg is an outstanding representative of the new breed of political scientists-mathematically-skilled and computer-adept. In this book he shows himself also to be a hard-headed, empirically-oriented analyst. Surveying a vast amount of data and taking account of a wide range of more and less informed opinion about environmental threats facing the planet, he comes to a balanced assessment of which ones are real and which over-hyped.
    -Professor Jack Hirshleifer, Department of Economics, University of California, Los Angeles

    Mark Ridley
    The Skeptical Environmentalist should be read by every environmentalist so that the appaling errors of fact the environmental movement as made in the past are not repeated. A brilliant and powerful book.
    -Matt Ridley, author of Genome

    At last a book that gives the environment the scientific analysis it deserves, and provides understanding of the problem, the risks and the solutions. Essential reading.
    -Professor Lewis Wolpert, Department of Anatomy and Biology, University College London

    When Lomborg concludes that'...the loss of the world's rainforests, of fertile agricultural land, the ozone layer and of the climate balance are terrible..'I agree. But we also need debate, and this book provides us with that in generous amounts, including 2,428 footnotes. If you, like I do, belong to the people who dare to think the world is making some progress, but always with mistakes to be corrected, this book makes important reading.
    -Professor Lars Kristoferson, Secretary Genral, WWF Sweden

  7. by   Spidey's mom

    'Alarmist' Global Warming Claims Unfounded Says Climatolgist
    By Marc Morano Senior Staff Writer
    July 14, 2003

    Capitol Hill ( - Climatologist Patrick J. Michaels told a Capitol Hill luncheon Friday that the fears of catastrophic global warming are scientifically unfounded and 'alarmist.' Michaels also declared that any climate change that does occur would not impact the Earth or its inhabitants in any significant way.

    "The science is settled in a very non-alarmist way," Michaels told Michaels predicted that his message would not be well received by many in the climate debate.

    "A non-alarmist way is politically very unpopular in Washington, D.C.," he said.

    Michaels, author of the book Satanic Gasses: Clearing the Air about Global Warming and an environmental sciences professor at the University of Virginia, was the featured speaker at a luncheon sponsored by the Cato Institute on Friday.

    "Scientific data really tells us how much it is going to warm over the next 100 years, and it's going to be at the low end of the projections, and people will adapt as long as their economies are free. We have been adapting for a long time," Michaels explained.

    Michaels said he expects a negligible warm-up and pointed to the past 100 years as proof that any effects of potential increased global temperatures are going to be negligible.

    "As the planet warmed up about one degree Fahrenheit in the last 100 years, the life span in the industrialized democracies went from 40 to 80 [years], and crop yields doubled. Global warming did not cause that, but it didn't stop it either," Michaels said.

    Instead of being concerned about potential climate change, people should "worry about something that is really a serious problem," he added.

    The whole climate change debate is over, according to Michaels.

    "You would think I would tire of shooting fish in barrels, but it's still fun and that is what's going on here [with the climate debate]," Michaels said.

    'Heads in the sand'

    Debbie Boger, an energy expert with the Sierra Club, dismissed Michaels' claims that the global warming debate is over.

    "We need to remember both the National Academy of Sciences and the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have both come out with reports saying global warming is a real phenomenon, caused by human-made emissions and will have real consequences," Boger told

    "To say there will be not be consequences is putting our heads in the sand," she added.

    Michaels called the persistent belief in catastrophic global warming "a religion" and said that is why he has faced so much opposition to his scientific work.

    "If you say something against a religion, people yell out at you. People wonder why I drive a [low emission] hybrid car -- they would never blow up a hybrid car," he said to laughter.

    'A couple billion dollars'

    Michaels outlined three periods of atmospheric change in the last 100 years of U.S. history, noting a warming in the first part of the 20th century, a cooling in the middle part of the century and a warming in the latter part of the century.

    "There is the cooling of the mid-20th century that gave rise to congressional hearings in the mid-1970s about the coming ice age, and [scientists were asked], 'Could you use a couple billion dollars to study this?'" Michaels said.

    The money politicized the scientific process and "consume[d] billions of dollars of your money," he said.

    "The more money you throw at [climate science], the less certainty you get. If you shut off all the money, the scientists would probably all agree," he added.

    The real scientific proof that man could not impact our environment with greenhouse gas emissions in any catastrophic way already exits, Michaels believes.

    Paleo records indicate that the concentration of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was up to 14 times higher than it is today when the Earth was but 8 degrees Celsius warmer than it is today," Michaels said, referring to the climate of millions of years ago.

    There is no way we can get the Earth that hot again, he said -- even "if we burn everything as fast as we could," he added.

    And the Earth was not unpleasant during the period of high CO2 concentrations and higher temperatures, according to Michaels.

    "The planet was greener than a [casino] crap table. That is where all that coal came from that we are burning now," he explained.

    Michaels does not expect the media to portray climate change as anything but catastrophic. "The media are either very untrained in the field or really are looking the other way," Michaels said.

    "Unfortunately, they have pumped this [alarmist] mindset up so much that it is very clear that people are beginning to get...apocalyptic fatigue," he added.

    'Plutonian global warming'

    Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the free-market environmental think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute, attended the luncheon and pointed to the recent scientific indications that the planet Pluto is warming up despite moving away from the sun.

    "Pluto's warm-up is a reminder that no matter where you are climate happens. It always has, it always will -- with or without SUVs. And it should remind us to continue taking with an ever-increasing grain of salt these claims that your car acts as a weather machine," Horner said.

    Horner also predicted that it would not be long before environmentalists came up with a theory on why Pluto was warming.

    "There will be inevitably and likely imminent claims that mankind is also causing Plutonian global warming," he said
  8. by   Q.
    Good articles, Stevielynn. I know you mentioned that book before although I don't think many read it.

    I often wondered of those people who "care" about the environment are those same people who I see tossing cigarette butts out their car window.
  9. by   Ted
    I often wondered of those people who "care" about the environment are those same people who I see tossing cigarette butts out their car window. [/B]

    I'm leaving this one alone. . . .

  10. by   Ted
    We need clean air to breath.

    We need clean water to drink.

    We need trees to provide oxygen. . . again back to that breathing thing.

    We need nutriant-rich soil to produce food for all to eat.

    Any laws and/or policies that weaken the standards that protect our environment, in my mind, put the our country's citizens and the citizens of this great planet we call "Earth" at risk.

  11. by   Q.
    Originally posted by efiebke

    I'm leaving this one alone. . . .

    Why? I thought it was a legit question. I mean, if you care about the environment, you also shouldn't litter it and pollute it with carcinogenic toxins such as cigarette smoke, right?

    I don't care what people do, but I just think people should walk the talk, otherwise I don't take their concerns seriously. How could I if I have someone complaining about the environment yet at the same time lighting up a cig and then tossing the butt on the highway? That's all. Have concerns but live your life accordingly.

    Edited to add: has anyone read Stevielynn's book recommendation? Any comments about it? Or is the op/ed piece from a newspaper the final say?
    Last edit by Susy K on Jul 15, '03
  12. by   Spidey's mom
    Hello Susy . . . . I like your point about cigarettes . . .although I will admit to an extreme prejudice against cigarettes having grown up being forced to breath the foul stuff that comes from them.

    I guess by posting those book reviews and the last article is that I wanted to point out the educated people disagree on the science of this issue. And the ones who disagree about global warming being a catastrophe do not want dirty air or dirty water, etc. We just want decisions based on sound science and not emotion. And there is sound science on our side and that our tax money is being misspent on something that isn't really necessary.

  13. by   maureeno
    changing the topic to complaints about those
    who toss out cig butts
    is a great example of changing the topic.......

    BushII has a horrible environmental record
    so bad that a couple months back I was momentarily fooled
    by an internet headline
    "Bush vows to save forest by cutting down the trees"
    yep, it was an April 1 dateline....
  14. by   Ted
    Originally posted by maureeno
    changing the topic to complaints about those
    who toss out cig butts
    is a great example of changing the topic.......


    Why? I thought it was a legit question. I mean, if you care about the environment, you also shouldn't litter it and pollute it with carcinogenic toxins such as cigarette smoke, right?
    Apples and oranges.

    P. S. I don't smoke.

    When all is said and done, though:

    We need clean air to breath.

    We need clean water to drink.

    We need trees to provide oxygen. . . again back to that breathing thing.

    We need nutriant-rich soil to produce food for all to eat.

    Any laws and/or policies that weaken the standards that protect our environment, in my mind, put the our country's citizens and the citizens of this great planet we call "Earth" at risk.

    Last edit by Ted on Jul 15, '03