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FYI Number 119: December 14, 2007

Democrats, Republicans Spar over Administration Climate Science Policy

Democrats and Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee have widely divergent views on the Bush Administration's policies regarding climate change science. Each side issued reports this week whose conclusions could not have been more different.

Said the Democrats: "The report presents the findings of the Committee's investigation. The evidence before the Committee leads to one inescapable conclusion: the Bush Administration has engaged in a systematic effort to manipulate climate change science and mislead policymakers and the public about the dangers of global warming."

Countered the Republicans: "The report contains no evidence that political officials in the Bush Administration interfered with any scientist's research on climate change science. In fact, the Bush Administration provided approximately $37 billion to advance climate change science since 2001. That hardly sounds like interference with science."

The committee's investigation into the White House's policies began 16-months ago when the committee was chaired by Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA), with Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) as the Ranking Minority Member. Davis and Waxman exchanged titles when control of the House changed after last year's elections. Both representatives repeatedly pressed the White House to release internal documents to the committee. Eventually, 30,000 pages of documents were reviewed. Two hearings were held earlier this year as part of the investigation (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2007/042.html.)

The committee approved - on a party line vote - the report, "Political Interference With Climate Change Science Under the Bush Administration" at a short business meeting on Wednesday. The report's findings focus on three areas: "The White House Censored Climate Scientists," "The White House Extensively Edited Climate Change Reports," and other findings pertaining to EPA legal opinions and an op-ed by an EPA administrator. The report does not charge that the Bush Administration attempted to control the conduct of climate change research. Rather, it criticizes White House efforts to control the content of various administration documents by highlighting uncertainties in climate change research, and underplaying the impacts of warming. Also described, at some length, were administration efforts to control media interactions with NASA and NOAA climate scientists. Numerous instances were cited of White House edits to documents and official testimony, and discussions by senior political officials about federal climate scientists speaking to reporters. Waxman said, "This report now discloses what the White House did not want the public to know: the Bush Administration has engaged in a systematic effort to manipulate climate change science and mislead policymakers and the public about the dangers of global warming." The report is available here.

Davis' remarks heavily criticized the report and the approach taken in its preparation, characterizing it as "a political press release with foot notes" that was "not ready for prime time." He said, "In truth, this report contains no real evidence science was stifled or suppressed. The majority succeeded only in catching some people doing what taxpayers pay them to do – make policy." The Republican report stated that "The Majority . . . ignores the nature of agency and interagency review processes and the legitimate role of policymakers, instead of scientists, in making administration policy and expressing that to the media and the general public." This minority report is available here.

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

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