The New York Times reports on an EPA document watered down by the Bush administration:
The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to publish a draft report next week on the state of the environment, but after editing by the White House, a long section describing risks from rising global temperatures has been whittled to a few noncommittal paragraphs...
The editing eliminated references to many studies concluding that warming is at least partly caused by rising concentrations of smokestack and tail-pipe emissions and could threaten health and ecosystems.
Among the deletions were conclusions about the likely human contribution to warming from a 2001 report on climate by the National Research Council that the White House had commissioned and that President Bush had endorsed in speeches that year. White House officials also deleted a reference to a 1999 study showing that global temperatures had risen sharply in the previous decade compared with the last 1,000 years. In its place, administration officials added a reference to a new study, partly financed by the American Petroleum Institute, questioning that conclusion...
[P]rivate environmental groups sharply criticized the changes when they heard of them.
"Political staff are becoming increasingly bold in forcing agency officials to endorse junk science," said Jeremy Symons, a climate policy expert at the National Wildlife Federation. "This is like the White House directing the secretary of labor to alter unemployment data to paint a rosy economic picture."
Symons has nailed it on the head. The White House is altering scientific reports to suit its political purposes. This isn't just like
altering unemployment data, it's exactly like
altering unemployment data.
Here's how I think about global warming: While we have a scientific consensus on its causes and probable effects, it's true that this consensus is not unanimous. Consider, though, the four possible scenarios:
- If we take steps to limit global warming, and the consensus is correct, then we will have averted disaster.
- If we don't take steps to limit global warming, and the consensus is correct, then we face disaster.
- If we take steps to limit global warming, and the consensus is incorrect, then future generations will say of us, "They did their best to fight a problem they thought would exist in our time. Along the way, their efforts benefited the environment."
- If we don't take steps to limit global warming, and the consensus is incorrect, then we dodge another crisis and get to continue flooding our environment with carbons.
Think about this using game theory. If we take steps to limit global warming (scenarios 1 and 3), the best possible outcome is that we save most island nations and half the state of Florida from sinking beneath the ocean, while the worst possible outcome is that future generations look kindly on us. If, though, we, we don't
take steps to limit global warming (scenarios 2 and 4), then the best possible outcome is that we scrape by yet again and get to keep polluting, while the worst possible outcome is that Papeete and Miami are gone.