Obstacles to Greener Living – the White House

The White House marches to the needs of Big Oil on global warming. Who is surprised?

Source: Decoder – January/February 2006 – Sierra Magazine – Sierra Club

Given the strong consensus among the world’s scientists and an ever-lengthening list of hurricanes, heat waves, melting ice caps, and other climatological disasters, how does the Bush administration still deny the seriousness of global warming? It’s easy—it just deletes the evidence.

Excerpted below are two 2002 draft reports by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP), which is responsible for coordinating research on global warming from 13 federal agencies. The reports passed review by government scientists and were released—but not before Philip A. Cooney, then chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, had a go at them with his pencil, making hundreds of substantive changes. Cooney is a former lobbyist and "climate team leader" for the American Petroleum Institute, big oil’s main lobbying arm in Washington, D.C.

Introduce uncertainty where there is none.
The proposition that human activity contributes to global warming has not been in serious scientific dispute for many years. Yet the longer the oil industry and its friends in the administration can manage to change "is" to "may be," the longer they can avoid tough restrictions on the burning of fossil fuel—by far the largest source of greenhouse gases.

Look on the bright side.
Cooney repeatedly demands "balance" for details about the negative effects of rapidly increasing Earth’s temperature. Global warming, he suggests, should it happen, might actually turn out to be an economic opportunity.

Portray global warming as the price of progress.

Keep it theoretical.
Cooney hates references to concrete consequences for landscapes and people. Global warming’s role in the melting of mountain glaciers is well established, and a 2002 study demonstrated a 7 percent increase in the runoff of Eurasian rivers into the Arctic Ocean between 1936 and 1999. One of the "extreme hydrologic events" scientists are studying is the slowing or shutting down of the Gulf Stream. Without it, northern Europe would be uninhabitable.

Bury inconvenient research.
The "highly controversial" study alluded to here is the National Climate Assessment, an authoritative report that has been almost totally suppressed by the Bush administration. The assessment is the work of 14 leading climate-change specialists and more than 300 scientists and technical experts. It details, for example, the effects of sea-level rise, the water conflicts that will result from increased droughts and floods, and the disappearance of natural ecosystems. Rick Piltz, a senior associate at the CCSP who resigned last March to protest the program’s politicization, says that Cooney "required the CCSP to systematically delete any substantive reference or use of the multiple volumes of this major work." The mention above is as close as government scientists could come to citing the suppressed work—and even that had to be qualified by Cooney.

After documents showing Cooney’s editorial zeal were released last summer by the Government Accountability Project and reported on by the New York Times, he abruptly resigned his White House post and went to work for ExxonMobil.