At least since 2003, and especially after hurricane Katrina hit,
the White House has broadly attempted to control which climate
scientists could speak with reporters, as well as editing
scientists' congressional testimony on climate science and key legal
opinions, according to a new report by a House committee.
"The Bush Administration has engaged in a systematic effort to
manipulate climate change science and mislead policy makers and the
public about the dangers of global warming," said the report, which
is the result of a 16-month probe by the Committee on Oversight and
Government Reform. "The White House exerted unusual control over the
public statements of federal scientists on climate change issues."
To some observers, the House investigation, which drew on 27,000
documents gathered from the White House Council on Environmental
Quality (CEQ) and the US Department of Commerce, is notable as the
most comprehensive assessment so far of alleged manipulation of
climate science by this White House. It includes previously unknown
elements - such as a 2003 incident in which it says top presidential
environment adviser James Connaughton personally helped edit the
Environmental Protection Agency's draft legal opinion that denied
the agency had authority to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions. (That
EPA position was reversed by the US Supreme Court in a ruling this
Yet much of the material in the House committee report, which was
released Monday, corroborates press accounts and congressional
testimony that has dribbled out over the past few years. The White
House and House Republicans strongly dispute the report, which is
expected to be adopted as the House report. A White House spokesman
describes it as "rehashed and recycled rhetoric."
But not Rick Piltz, director of the climate-science watch program
at the Government Accountability Project, a watchdog organization.
He and others say that while many presidents have shaped policy, the
White House's efforts this time were about more than organizing a
coherent policy message.
"What this report does is really show the extent to which
communications - press releases and contacts with the media - all
had to be routed through the CEQ," he says.
The report also concluded that the White House:
* Was "particularly active in stifling [scientists'] discussions
of the link between increased hurricane intensity and global
* Sought "to minimize the significance and certainty of climate
change by extensively editing government climate change reports."
* Edited "EPA legal opinions as well as newspaper opinion
articles on climate change. …