2006-06-09 / Columnists

It's My Turn

Bush and Global Warming
By Stephen Yaeger


In 1974, President Nixon said that by 1980 we "would not be dependent on any other country for the energy we need." Every president since has made similar promises linking the energy crisis to global warming; however, the Bush administration, in particular, goes to extremes where global warming is concerned. Scientists are sure human activity in the last 120 years has had and is having an impact on the environment, but how it affects the climate system is uncertain. Scientists, too, are not quite sure what will happen in the future. Bush and the fossil fuel industry's take on the uncertainties of global warming and environmental change is simple: alter scientific facts to the point of deception. Bush has used many tactics to override legitimate science that is in contradiction to his agenda concerning the environment.

In June of 2003 the EPA released a document titled "Draft Report on the Environment." The then head of the EPA, Christie Whitman, proudly said that the document was "based on the most sophisticated science ever." But this highly praised document's section on global warming contained only two sentences basically stating that global warming "involves changes in the radiative balance of the Earth" and the report doesn't "attempt the complexities" of global warming. The report originally had a very good section on global warming indicating the many problems inherent in the phenomenon. It referred to the extensive research showing the harm to ecosystems and human health due to increasing temperatures and evidences that vehicle and industrial plant emissions partly contribute to the problem.

One of the original sentences in the EPA's document read, "Climate change has global consequences for human health and the environment." The White House deleted this statement saying that the complexity (of global warming) makes it hard to diagnose its causes and to develop a useful projection concerning the natural variables and human effects on the environment of the future. What the White House "experts" are saying is simply that the problem of global warming is too hot to handle.

The EPA protested the deletions and editing, refusing to publish it, saying that the document "no longer accurately represents scientific consensus on climate change" and that the EPA would be criticized for "poorly representing environmental science." The White House altered the global warming section by deleting scientific evidence and inserting unproven nonsense. It used "scientific data" that was not published . When scientific research is done it must be published so that other scientists may read and evaluate the research. This is common procedure in the scientific world. Anti-global warming commentators, writers, and scientists also use unpublished research to dismiss the problem.

President Bush's voluntary approach to control carbon emissions is to allow industries using fossil fuels to monitor their emissions supposedly to reduce greenhouse gases. When Bush rejected the Kyoto treaty in 2002 he said, in a speech to NASA, that we and the world must protect our environment and "encourage growth that will provide a better life for citizens, while protecting land, water, and air." But the target date lets total carbon pollution keep increasing each year. Even if the target is met, the emissions will increase by 14% between 2002 and 2012, albeit at a lower rate. In fact power companies claimed to have made nearly 140 million tons of reductions in one Department of Energy program. At the time of their report, their total emissions actually increased by 420 million tons! How that protects land, water and air is debatable. "This Administration has been very supportive of science," said noted physicist and questionable White House science advisor, John Marburger. President Bush "wants us to do it right" and he "doesn't want us to do things that contradict the laws of nature." So why have over 8,000 scientists, including 49 Nobel laureates, 63 Medal of Science recipients and 171 members of the National Academies, signed a paper authored by the Union of Concerned Scientists stating that "the scope and scale of the manipulation, suppression and misrepresentation of science by the Bush administration is unprecedented"?

Philip Cooney, chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, outright deleted the following statement from a preliminary report on global warming: "Warming will also cause reductions in mountain glaciers and advance the timing of the melt of mountain snow peaks in Polar Regions." He said it was "straying from research strategy into speculative findings." This from a former oil industry lobbyist who resigned from the CEQ in 2005 and took a job with the greatest opponent of carbon-emissions regulations: Exxon-Mobil.

Recently President Bush said that in his judgment, "we need to set aside whether or not greenhouse gases have been caused by mankind or because of natural effects..." and focus on new technologies. Incredible, Bush says we must "set aside" the causes of global warming. Paul Ehrlich (Bacteriologist, 1908 Nobel Prize Laureate in Physiology and Medicine) said, "Laypeople frequently assume that in a political dispute the truth must lie somewhere in the middle, and they are often right. In a scientific dispute, though, such an assumption is usually wrong (italics mine)." I don't know about you, the reader, but as for me, when it comes to global warming and the scientific facts, I'd rather take the word of sincere scientists than a layperson who knows only what he wants to believe.

Global warming (among other man-made disruptions of the natural world) is a topic that can neither be assumed nor set aside. It is real and perverting scientific fact will not make it go away. Unless we accept it and alter our way of using energy, our planet will become somewhat uncomfortable to live on.

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