Published on Friday, June 20, 2003 by the Baltimore Sun
More Revisionist History
HOWEVER JUDICIOUSLY President Bush may be trying to handle Iran, when it comes to global warming it seems as though his administration is pushing the same sort of fudged reality that it pursued with Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. According to The New York Times, an Environmental Protection Agency report due next week was cleansed by the White House of references to the many studies blaming smokestack and tail-pipe emissions for climate change. In place of that material, the White House sought to insert a study underwritten by the oil industry that questions the role of fossil fuels in global warming. But EPA officials balked, preferring to leave the topic unaddressed.
Mr. Bush is not the first president to allow political motives to color the information his government releases. But it's hard to remember one who was bolder about seeking to deceive Americans in order to serve his political backers.
All the facts on Iraq are not yet in. But the Bush administration's calculated manipulation of years of climate change research that his friends in the energy industry consider hostile to their economic interests gravely undermines his credibility in other areas.
Does he only play fast and loose with the truth where oil is involved, or is every subject fair game? If this sounds harsh, consider the pre-revised history.
Global warming, of course, was Al Gore's issue. He wrote a book about climate change long before he ran against Mr. Bush for the White House. But many later studies supported Mr. Gore's conclusion that man-made greenhouse gases trapped in the Earth's atmosphere were a major contributor to the warming trend.
The EPA and the National Academy of Sciences both issued reports last year targeting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and vehicle exhausts as primary sources of these greenhouse gases.
But Mr. Bush, who as a presidential candidate called for limiting power plant emissions, now seems determined to forestall such costly consequences for the energy industry by raising doubts about whether it is truly at fault.
Last year, he simply dismissed the EPA report as a document "put out by the bureaucracy." This year, his political aides headed off EPA at the pass.
These tactics come straight out of a playbook put out by GOP pollster Frank Luntz to help Mr. Bush deal with environmental issues - his political Achilles' heel.
On global warming, Mr. Luntz urged opponents of regulatory controls to "make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate. ... Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly."
So the debate goes on, and the air gets dirtier and hotter and nothing is done - our own weapon of mass destruction.
But its first casualty is the value of Mr. Bush's word.
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