“What was most noteworthy about the latter
report was that it made it to the light of day.”
The New York Times
June 4, 2008
The Science of Denial
The Bush administration has worked overtime to manipulate or
conceal scientific evidence-and muzzled at least one prominent
scientist-to justify its failure to address climate change.
Its motives were transparent: the less people understood about
the causes and consequences of global warming, the less they
were likely to demand action from their leaders. And its strategy
has been far too successful. Seven years later, Congress is only
beginning to confront the challenge of global warming.
The last week has brought further confirmation of the
administration’s cynicism. An internal investigation by NASA’s
inspector general concluded that political appointees in the
agency’s public affairs office had tried to restrict reporters’
access to its leading climate scientist, Dr. James Hansen. He
has warned about climate change for 20 years and has openly criticized
the administration’s refusal to tackle the issue head-on.
More broadly, the investigation said that politics played a heavy
role in the office and that it had presented information about
global warming “in a manner that reduced, marginalized or mischaracterized
climate-change science made available to the general public.”
Meanwhile, the administration finally agreed, under duress, to
release a Congressionally mandated report on the effects of climate
change on various regions of the United States. Some of the report’s
predictions, like the inevitable loss of coastal areas to rising
seas, were not new. Others were, including warnings of a potential
increase in various food- and water-borne viruses.
What was most noteworthy about the latter report was that it
made it to the light of day. A 1990 law requires the president
to give Congress every four years its best assessment of the
likely effects of climate change. The last such assessment was
undertaken by President Clinton and published in 2000. Mr. Bush
not only missed the 2004 deadline but allowed the entire information-gathering
process to wither. Only a court order handed down last August
in response to a lawsuit by public interest groups forced him
to deliver this month.
This administration long ago secured a special place in history
for bending science to its political ends. One costly result
is that this nation has lost seven years in a struggle in which
time is not on anyone’s side.
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company