From the Associated Press:
Two chairmen of key committees in the House and Senate on Wednesday criticized the White House for editing testimony from a government expert about the health impacts of global warming and demanded documents involving the testimony he provided to Congress.
“I am deeply concerned that important scientific and health information was removed from the … testimony at the last minute,” Sen. Barbara Boxer, chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, wrote President Bush.
Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee, demanded an explanation from the White House’s chief science adviser, John Marburger, about the handing of the testimony earlier this week by Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She appeared Tuesday before Boxer’s committee, which is crafting global warming legislation.
“We expect our government researchers and scientists to provide both Congress and the public the full results of their taxpayer-supported work without the filter that those of opposing views might like to impose,” Gordon wrote Marburger.
When a draft of Gerberding’s testimony went to the White House for review, two sections — “Climate Change is a Public Health Concern” and “Climate Change Vulnerability” — and a number of other phrases were removed, cutting the 12-page document in half.
Earlier, a CDC official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the review process, told the AP that the original draft “was eviscerated” by “heavy-handed” changes in Washington.
White House press secretary Dana Perino said Gerberding’s testimony went through an interagency review “and a number of agencies had some concerns.”
Gerberding played down the changes to her prepared text and said she was comfortable with her presentation Tuesday to the Senate committee.
“I was absolutely happy with my testimony in Congress. We finally had a chance to go and say what we thought was important,” she said at a luncheon appearance in Atlanta.
“I don’t let people put words in my mouth, and I stand for science,” said Gerberding.
But the original draft, reviewed by the AP, contained much greater detail on the potential disease and other health effects of climate change than was in either Gerberding’s prepared remarks or in her other comments during the hearing.
“The public health effects of climate change remain largely unaddressed. CDC considers climate change a serious public health concern,” the draft says. The phrase was not in the testimony given the committee or in her other remarks at the hearing.
Claims by the White House that some sections were removed because they did not — as Perino said — “comport with the science” in the U.N. panel’s report were challenged by Boxer’s staff. They said an analysis showed some of the deleted references were similar to concerns raised in the U.N. panel’s report.
Gordon in his letter also said that the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report “appears to support the deleted sections of Dr. Gerberding’s testimony.”
The CDC is the premier public health and disease tracking and response agency in the federal government. It is part of the Health and Human Services Department.
The Bush administration has tried to defend itself for months from accusations it has put political pressure on scientists to emphasize the uncertainties of global warming.
A House committee heard testimony this year from climate scientists who complained that the administration often had sought to manage or influence their statements and public appearances.
From The New York Times:
…cuts made to [Dr. Gerberding’s] written testimony included the only statements casting the health risks from climate change as a problem, describing it variously as posing “difficult challenges” and as “a serious public health concern.”
The testimony that remained said: “Climate change is anticipated to have a broad range of impacts on the health of Americans and the nation’s public health infrastructure.” But a line saying “the public health effects of climate change remain largely unaddressed” was gone and the testimony focused on many ways that health agencies were already prepared to tackle any problems.
The changes were first reported on Tuesday by the Associated Press and the draft testimony, the authenticity of which was not challenged by Bush administration, was disseminated to reporters and posted online Wednesday by several private groups, including climatesciencewatch.org.
The cuts, done by the Office of Management and Budget last week, halved the 12-page draft testimony submitted by Dr. Gerberding prior to her testimony before the committee.
Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the committee, sided with the administration, said Matthew Dempsey, a spokesman. “All administrations edit testimony through the O.M.B. process,” Mr. Dempsey said.
Michael McCally, the executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility, who testified at the same hearing, called the cuts in the written testimony “a misuse of science and abuse of the legislative process.”