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Western News (MT): White House Lied About Global Warming

August 12, 2005
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By Louis Clark, GAP President. This editorial also appeared in the Topeka Capital-Journal, Star-Democrat (MD), and Brinkley Argus (AR).

Earlier this year, it was revealed that Philip Cooney, chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, repeatedly edited scientific reports to downplay human impact on climate change. In his role, Cooney edited hundreds of pages in multiple reports to advance Bush administration views, effectively making the science fit the policy. In one example, Cooney deleted an entire paragraph discussing the projected reduction of mountain glaciers, noting in the margins that the language was "straying from research strategy into speculative findings/musings."

Why would an educated man in an enlightened society edit a scientific report in such a policy-driven way? One reason may be that Cooney is a lawyer with no scientific background. Even more egregious, Cooney was employed previously as a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute, the preeminent oil industry interest group in Washington, D.C. After the scandal was uncovered, Cooney resigned his post, only to be hired by ExxonMobil three days later.

Cooney and the administration display a unique arrogance in this matter. As a free society, we cannot allow attempts to skew, censor or falsify scientific evidence for personal or political agendas. This constitutes scientific fraud. If the executive branch has such a strong aversion to the concept that SUV emissions and burning fossil fuels cause global warming, then they should fund scientific studies to investigate further. Crossing out paragraphs and rewording phrases in secrecy for corporate gain is wrong and appalling. An oil lobbyist who serves his former master should never be given the power to exercise prior restraint when dealing with science.

Fortunately, the administration was outed in this incident. But the scandal suggests a deeper sickness in certain quarters of this government in the approach to science. A disagreement over economic or ethical implications of scientific results certainly has its place, but scientific findings must be shielded, impervious to opinion, political persuasion or ideology.

Cooney’s arrogance has infuriated numerous government officials, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.). Both have written to ExxonMobil, shaming it for hiring a man who so brashly betrayed the public trust. Some lawmakers have gone a step further, introducing a bill that would make the politicization of scientific research illegal. This law would effectively grant whistleblower protection for federal scientists who refuse to rewrite their studies for improper reasons, along with making it illegal for agency officials to force scientists to rewrite findings.

Galileo proclaimed to the world that the earth revolved around the sun, and the ethical objections and criticisms he faced made it no less true. In suppressing Galileo’s views, his government deterred the progress of all humanity. Let us keep the lessons of the past in mind as we encounter those who lie about, mold and craft scientific findings. We can be assured that history will not look kindly upon Cooney. His actions were wildly undemocratic and against society’s better interests. We need science to tell us the truth about our world as it finds it. We need those answers unfiltered and uncensored.

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