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FYI Number 108: October 26, 2007

Controversy Surrounding Climate Change Testimony

There has been considerable controversy this week surrounding testimony given on October 23 before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on climate change and public health. The draft testimony by Julie L. Gerberding, M.D., M.P.H. was reduced in length from twelve to six pages by the Office of Management and Budget following a review by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. A White House spokeswoman explained to the Washington Post that characterizations in the draft testimony did not align with the latest report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The following is a chronology of events this week beginning with the October 23 hearing, with links to applicable documents (cut and paste links):

OCTOBER 23, 2007: Gerberding's six-page testimony included the statement that "Climate change is anticipated to have a broad range of impacts on the health of Americans and the nation's public health infrastructure," but did not include seven pages of the draft testimony describing nine significant impacts on health. Her final testimony, and those of the other witnesses, and the opening statements of Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Ranking Minority Member James Inhofe (R-OK) can be read at
http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Hearings.Hearing&Hearing_ID=ab4f7563-802a-23ad-468e-b225c43aef22
See below for a link to the original draft testimony.

OCTOBER 25: Chairman Boxer held a press conference that was highly critical of OMB's editing, stating "The Administration has time and again changed scientific reports when the science did not align with the Administration's policy positions." She released a letter to President Bush stating, "I write to ask you to ensure that the public receives a full accounting of what occurred during that review process and who was involved." The committee website has copies of Boxer's remarks, the letter to President Bush, and a "redline" version that shows the edits of Gerberding's draft testimony at:
http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=PressRoom.PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=d94efc4a-802a-23ad-41a9-4262f79555cd

OCTOBER 25: House Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) and Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Brad Miller (D-NC) issue a press statement and release a copy of their letter to OSTP Director John Marburger. Their letter states, "we were very disappointed after all these commitments you have made publically to scientific integrity, to read today that your office has played a role in removing sections of the testimony prepared for Dr. Julie Gerberding . . . concerning the impact of climate change on public health and potential health risks." Gordon and Miller, as did Boxer, requested a copy of all records relating to the testimony. The press release and letter can be read at:
http://science.house.gov/press/PRArticle.aspx?NewsID=2019

OCTOBER 25: Rep. James Sensenbrenner, the Ranking Minority Member of the Science Committee's Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee, releases a statement explaining, "Congress' approval rating has plummeted for a reason. The American people are tired of political grandstanding. During my ten years as a Committee Chairman, I always made sure I had the facts before announcing the results of my investigations. But the current Majority is more interested in political gains than it is in the truth." His statement will be availableat http://gop.science.house.gov/

OCTOBER 26: OSTP Director Marburger issues a two-page statement that begins, "I am taking the unusual step of commenting on OSTP’s participation in the review of testimony given by another Executive branch agency in order to respond to reports and press statements that have alleged or insinuated that OSTP acted inappropriately." His statement later explains, "The OSTP comments did not seek to redact sections of the report, but instead made a number of substantive and constructive comments and suggestions to ensure the testimony accurately represented the state of climate science and asked a number of questions intended to solicit clarity in the statements being made. My office takes our role in evaluating the scientific accuracy of Administration documents very seriously, and the comments of the OSTP reviewers in this instance were made based on their scientific knowledge of climate change science and upheld the high standards for scientific accuracy that I expect from my staff." The entire statement can be read at:
http://www.ostp.gov/html/Dr.%20John%20Marburger%20-%20Statement%20-%20October%2026,%202007.pdf

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
fyi@aip.org
301-209-3095

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