Confirmed: Bush suppressing CDC science

Contributed by
Oct 29, 2007
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I do sometimes comment on political activity, especially when it intersects -- and tramples -- science. The Bush Administration has been appallingly heavy-handed about crushing any science that goes against its political and religious leanings.

Last week, I posted about the White House redacting large portions of a speech given by the head of the Centers of Disease Control when she spoke about how the CDC is preparing to deal with the effects of global warming.

In a recent post I made about global warming, a reader, clearly unsatisfied with my posts, asked if I would take back what I said since the head of the CDC herself said it wasn't a big deal.

I read that link, and was immediately suspicious: it's from the Wall Street Journal editorial page, and those guys are neocon lackeys of the worst sort. So I said I would wait and see what the changes to the speech actually were, and comment then.

Good thing I did. As usual, the WSJ is full of it. The changes made by the White House were extensive, and clearly along the same line as their usual antiscience attacks on reality.

So, to answer the commenter: no, I won't take it back. In fact, what I wrote was correct, and, if anything, the situation is worse than I originally thought.

You can find the actual edits to the speech here and here. It's appalling: the White House removed a solid 1/3 of the speech. Some of it is harmless enough, but other parts make their agenda clear. Here's one part taken out:

Scientific evidence supports the view that the earth's climate is changing. A broad array of organizations (federal, state, local, multilateral, faith-based, private and nongovernmental) is working to address climate change. Despite this extensive activity, the public health effects of climate change remain largely unaddressed. CDC considers climate change a serious public health concern.

Maybe the White House doesn't consider global warming "a serious public health concern". I sure do. Any reality-based person would. So why was this part taken out?

Or how about this:

In the United States, climate change is likely to have a significant impact on health, through links with the following outcomes:

* Direct effects of heat, * Health effects related to extreme weather events, * Air pollution-related health effects, * Allergic diseases, * Water- and food-borne infectious diseases, * Vector-borne and zoonotic diseases, * Food and water scarcity, at least for some populations, * Mental health problems, and * Long-term impacts of chronic diseases and other health effects

If she had given the original speech, she would have gone on to give a very detailed discussion of these problems. Unfortunately, the White House chose to edit all that out, leaving instead a fairly bland and obviously spun speech about how the CDC needs to be prepared. All the details taken out also take the teeth out of her speech. Instead of driving home what will happen in the US and the world when -- not if, mind you, but when -- temperatures increase and weather patterns change, what is left is just another empty set of statements from an agency head.

Too bad. It would have been fun to Senator Inhofe's (R-fantasyland) head explode as she read that list of problems.

John Marburger, the scientist who sold his soul to the devil and is now the White House "Science Advisor", put out a statement on the changes as well. It's actually laughable, in a highly schadenfreude sort of way. The money quote:

However, [the Office of Science and Technology Policy] also found that there was an overall lack of precision in aspects of the draft testimony describing important details regarding the level of certainty for specific findings, the spatial scale for which certain impacts have been assessed, and the specific nature of some climate change impacts on human health.

Yes, hello! That's the whole point. We don't know all the details, and so we need to be prepared. That was the point of her speech, but it was totally eviscerated by political hacks. Marburger's comments are also precisely aligned with what the far right has been doing to science for years: saying "we don't know enough, so we can't draw any conclusions. More research is needed." That is simply and obviously a way to stall real science, real understanding. They get to pick and choose what we don't understand well enough to base policy on, and therefore anything contrary to their preconceived notions gets swept under the rug (while extremely solid scientific findings are ignored when a policy they want to implement is contradicted by reality).

Chris Mooney has something to say about the part of speech dealing with the effect of global warming on hurricanes, as you can imagine. I also imagine we'll be hearing more from actual scientists about this as time goes on.

I have said it before, and I'll say it again: global warming is real. Humans are partly if not mostly to blame for it. The evidence is in, real scientists agree, and the effects are being seen now. Sticking your head in the sand will only make things worse down the line. You can listen to the boneheads like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and others who openly and actively lie about these and other issues, but you are committing an act of personal and global suicide by doing so.

And the Bush White House is only too happy to keep doing so. But there are those of us who have had enough, and we will be vocal about it. Please feel free to comment on this topic, but if you do, make sure you have your ducks in a row. I'm only too happy to inject a dose of reality into sandy heads.