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Bush administration downplays global warming threat
Protecting corporate polluters

By Nicole Colson | June 17, 2005 | Page 2

EVEN SCIENCE isn't safe if it gets in the way of the Bush administration's pro-corporate agenda.

According to a New York Times report, Philip Cooney--who, until last week, was chief of staff to the White House Council on Environmental Quality--repeatedly edited government studies on climate change to downplay links between global warming and air pollution.

Before landing his job in the Bush administration, Cooney worked as a lobbyist at the American Petroleum Institute (API), an industry group that has tried to prevent restrictions on the emission of so-called greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide that scientists believe are contributing to rising global temperatures.

Although he has no scientific training, Cooney made dozens of changes to drafts of reports to cast doubt about greenhouse gas emissions leading to climate change--and help delay pollution restrictions.

In a 2002 draft of a summary of government climate research, for example, Cooney inserted the word "extremely" into the sentence: "The attribution of the causes of biological and ecological changes to climate change or variability is extremely difficult." In another section, he crossed out a paragraph describing the projected reduction of mountain glaciers and snowpack--because, as his notes explained, this was "straying from research strategy into speculative findings/musings."

Changes like these that may not seem like much, but they helped allow the Bush administration to delay implementing environmental restrictions on corporate polluters--under the guise of claiming that the scientific verdict on global warming is "still out."

As Kert Davies, research director for Greenpeace, told Democracy Now! last week "[W]e're all in the party boat, and the boat is sinking, and they're telling us: 'Hey, the water you're feeling on your feet might be a natural phenomenon. Don't worry about it. We're putting some research into developing a bailer.' Meanwhile, there's plenty of good ways to bail the water out now, and they're avoiding those."

The revelations about the White House's misrepresentation of climate science were an embarrassment for the Bush administration--coming a day after Bush had publicly assured British Prime Minister Tony Blair that his administration was viewing global warming as a "serious long-term" problem that it was determined to solve.

While the White House initially defended Cooney's changes to the reports as "scientifically sound," Cooney abruptly resigned two days later. But while Cooney may be gone, don't expect any real action from the Bush administration on climate change--unless it's more help for their friends in the oil industry.

On the same day that the New York Times exposed Cooney's actions, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported that Greenpeace had obtained documents showing that the Bush administration's climate policy--including the decision to withdraw from the Kyoto climate treaty in 2001--has been heavily influenced by ExxonMobil and other oil giants.

According to the newspaper, in briefing papers given to Undersecretary of State Paula Dobriansky between 2001 and 2004, "the administration is found thanking Exxon executives for the company's 'active involvement' in helping to determine climate change policy, and also seeking its advice on what climate change policies the company might find acceptable."

Doing the bidding of corporate polluters is nothing new for the Washington. In April, a House committee approved an energy bill which contained a little-noticed provision that would essentially gut the Clean Air Act by allowing communities whose air pollution comes from hundreds of miles away to delay meeting national air quality standards until their offending cities clean up their own air. The change is supported by the National Association of Manufacturers, Electric Reliability Coordinating Council and other trade groups.

And just last month, the Pentagon--one of the nation's largest polluters--asked Congress to exempt the more than 400 military bases and 10,000 training ranges across the U.S. from having to comply with the Clean Air Act; the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, dealing with solid waste; and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, dealing with toxic wastes.

Meanwhile, scientific evidence about the scope of global warming and the damage it is doing to the environment continues to mount. Earlier this month, for example, the journal Science reported that more than a thousand large lakes--11 percent of the total--in a 200,000-square-mile of Siberia in Russia have dried up since the 1970s as a result of Arctic warming causing permafrost to thaw.

But as long as Corporate America gets to write the laws in Washington, science will take a back seat to profits.

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