Wednesday, March 21, 2007

White House oil hack admits tampering global warming reports

It seems like not a day can go by but what we get even more evidence of the Worst Administration in History™ doing yet another scandalous thing to cover up evidence, falsify data, and generally endanger humanity.

Todays outrage du jour comes courtesy of The Australian, which reports that Phillip Cooney, a current lobbyist for Exxon Mobil and former Chief of Staff of the "White House Council on Environmental Quality" (how's that for Orwellian!), rewrote scientific reports about climate change to water down the degree to which global warming was likely anthropogenic.

Now, before I even get started on this, I'd like for everyone to ask themselves exactly what all the right-wingers would have said if the Clinton Administration had been caught rewriting and falsifying scientific data to achieve a political end. I hesitate to think about such an egregious possibility--the scandal would never die down! It just shows how hopelessly evil and corrupt this administration is that something that would be considered notorious in any preceding administration will likely barely get a "yeah. so?" out of the audience assembled here.

"My sole loyalty was to the President and advancing the policies of his administration," Mr Cooney told the house government reform committee. He defended aligning supposedly independent scientific reports with the White House political view on the environment by saying the changes reflected a comprehensive 2001 National Research Council report on the issue.

That report, while firmly stating the case that the earth was being endangered by greenhouse gases, was unable to answer all questions on the causes of climate change completely, leaving room for those who believe environmentalists are overstating the case - the predominant view within the Bush administration and its friends in the business sector.

Now, I don't know how many times I need to go over this--because I've gone over it before in a number of other areas as well: policy is, and ought to be, a response to facts on the ground. Facts should not be altered to suit a pre-existing ideology. Or, wait...what was that phrase that Downing Street used? "Facts were being fixed around the policy"? Yeah...I was wondering where we'd seen something like that before.

But let's talk about loyalty for a minute. It would have been one thing if this reprehensible hack of an oil lobbyist had come out and told Waxman's committee that he did what he did simply on political grounds to try to get policies enacted that were favorable to his favorite industry...but he didn't do that. Instead, he said he did what he did out of loyalty to Bush! What type of soulless lackey to you have to be--how devoid of any values or moral rectitude--to knowingly lie and re-write scientific data out of a sense of personal loyalty? If you actually do something like that professionally over the long term, how do you manage to sleep at night? That's really something I'd like to ask these guys--how exactly it is that they manage to sleep at night without the albatross of their multitudinous and egregious sins against truth and justice oppressing their consciences.

And again--I've written on this before, but I'll say it one more time. Why exactly is it that scientists have to be able to answer 100% of all questions concerning global warming in exact detail before it becomes legitimate, in the eyes of some, to take the threat seriously? We don't do that with foreign policy threats. We don't do that with economic policy. Insurance companies sure as hell don't write actuarial tables that way. Why is it that anything less than 100% certainty about this issue obviates the need for action?

Yeah, I already know the answer to that question: they're a bunch of Milton-Friedman-worshipping hacks. Moving on.

Now, even scarier than previous reports of political pressure on scientists is the shocking number of alterations and revisions that were made:

Documents released by Democrats yesterday revealed that in 2003 Bush administration officials made at least 181 changes to a plan to deal with climate change that were aimed at playing down the scientific consensus on global warming.

There were another 113 changes that made less of the human causes of climate change, and even changes made to herald potential benefits to higher temperatures.

"These changes must be made," according to a note in Mr Cooney's handwriting. "The language is mandatory."

The Environmental Protection Agency was so against Mr Cooney's alterations - saying they were "poorly representing the science" - that it chose to leave the entire section on climate control out of its 2003 State of the Environment report.

Yes, that's right--this hack, who used to work for the American Petroleum Institute and now works for Exxon-Mobil, rewrote so much of the EPA's scientific findings that the EPA was forced to omit the entire section from its report, rather than put its name on scientifically inaccurate (that is to say, false and politicized) data.

But of course, it gets worse. The White House didn't just seek to edit this one EPA report--it sought to control any communication between scientists working at NASA's climate institute about global warming. James Hansen is a top expert in climate change who works for the aforementioned institute:

"In my more than three decades in the government I've never witnessed such restrictions on the ability of scientists to communicate with the public," says Hansen.

Restrictions like an e-mail Hansen's institute received from NASA in 2004. "... there is a new review process ... ," the e-mail read. "The White House (is) now reviewing all climate related press releases," it continued.

The CBS/60 minutes article cited above is worth reading in its entirety--and there's also a video player there where you can watch the 60 minutes interview with James Hansen--who said that he was also invited to go on NPR, but that NASA wouldn't allow it because it was "too liberal."

I'm not sure about the finer points of law--but somewhere, somehow, some of this has got to be a crime. And I'm really hoping that Henry Waxman's committee can lay bare even more of this unconscionable coverup of a scientific data that concerns the very future of our species' existence on this planet.

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