The Climate Change Censor

Published on
by
The Boston Globe

The Climate Change Censor

by
Derrick Z. Jackson

It is a race against the eraser. By the end of the Bush administration, we could all be rubbed out.

Utterly unashamed, the White House heavily deleted yet another major document on global warming. It blanched out the Senate testimony of Julie Gerberding, director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the report that she delivered last week, she said climate change "is anticipated to have a broad range of impacts on the health of Americans and the nation's public health infrastructure."

Gerberding said that the CDC "can serve as a credible source of information on health risks and actions that individuals can take to reduce their risk."

What was missing, according to a draft testimony made available to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's website by the Physicians for Social Responsibility, were these far more direct conclusions:

"The public health effects of climate change remain largely unaddressed. CDC considers climate change a serious public health concern."

(Obviously, that had to go because that raised the question of why the White House left such a serious concern unaddressed.)

"The United States is expected to see an increase in the severity, duration, and frequency of extreme heat waves. This, coupled with an aging population, increases the likelihood of higher mortality as the elderly are more vulnerable to dying from exposure to excessive heat."

(Obviously, that had to go because the Republicans sure do not want the fear of global warming replacing the fear of terrorism with older voters who tend to vote more Republican.)

"Climate change is anticipated to alter the frequency, timing, intensity, and duration of extreme weather events, such as hurricanes and floods. The health effects of these extreme weather effects range from loss of life and acute trauma to . . . post-traumatic stress and related problems, as was seen after Hurricane Katrina."

(Obviously, that had to go because the Bush administration wants no reminders of either Katrina or how it has failed miserably in addressing the physical traumas and post-traumatic stress of our soldiers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan.)

"As with other environmental hazards, members of certain ethnic and racial minority groups will likely be disproportionately affected. . . . Given the differential burden of climate change's health effects on certain populations, public health preparedness for climate change must include vulnerability assessments that identify the most vulnerable populations with the most significant health disparities."

(Obviously, that had to go because a priority of the Bush White House has been to delete disproportionate effects of anything to African-Americans. In the first term, it blacked out half of a report on racism against black attorneys within the Justice Department and deleted the words "disparities" and "inequality" from a draft of a Health and Human Services national report on healthcare gaps.)

If deletion equals personal insult, then every American was spit on by the White House. With the most serious parts of her presentation gutted and defanged of the ability to say that global warming is a "serious public health concern," all Gerberding could do was talk in government garble. Her final statement, "While we still need more focus and emphasis on public health preparedness for climate change, many of our existing programs and scientific expertise provide a solid foundation to move forward."

Sure. This is the same administration that has run backward from scientific expertise, deleting reports from the Environmental Protection Agency and running administrator Christine Todd Whitman out of her job and allegedly harassing outspoken specialists such as NASA's James Hansen.

The whole purpose of the White House is to have no focus and no emphasis on climate change so that there is no need to fund any programs.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino defended the deletions, saying, "when you take a very complicated issue like climate change science . . . there were broad characterizations about climate change science that didn't align with the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) . . . There are public health benefits to climate change, as well."

The Washington Post quoted a lead author of several IPCC reports as saying that such a claim was "nonsense."

Gerberding herself is falling on her shield. She said, "I was perfectly happy with the testimony I gave to the committee and was very pleased for the opportunity to have a frank and candid discussion." She has chosen to suffocate in a White House where candor always results in a visit from the censor.

© Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company

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