Bush Scandals List

23. Global warming (denial and stalling)

Global warming: denial of manmade origin, followed by minimization of the effects of the manmade contribution, continued reliance on fossil and carbon based fuels, little movement on CAFE standards and conservation, and political interference in scientific reports.

  • March 13, 2001, Bush rejects Kyoto Protocols (finished December 1997 but never ratified by the US Senate) and casts doubt on the causes of climate change.
  • June 11, 2001, in reference to a report by the National Academy of Sciences, Bush questions both the extent of global warming, its impact, and the manmade contribution to it.
  • February 14, 2002, Bush announces his Clear Skies Initiatives which lacks any limits on CO2.
  • April 2002, at the urging of ExxonMobil Bush blocks reelection of Robert Watson, chairman of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and advocate of reducing greenhouse gases.
  • June 3, 2002, an EPA report to the UN admits global warming largely due to human activities.
  • June 4, 2002, Bush dismisses the report as "put out by the bureaucracy" and reiterates his opposition to Kyoto.
  • August 19, 2002, White House Council of Environmental Quality (CEQ) chief of staff Philip Cooney a former lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute (API) and a non scientist questions why climate change is mentioned at all. In September 2002, for the first time in six years, the annual EPA report on air pollution "Latest Findings on National Air Quality: 2001 Status and Trends" omits the section on global warming.
  • November 2002, Our Changing Planet, an annual report to Congress on the Climate Change Science Program for oversight and budget purposes is heavily edited by Philip Cooney.
  • April-May 2003, CEQ Chairman Jim Connaughton edits the draft of what will be the August 2003 "Fabricant" opinion.
  • June 23, 2003, the EPA issues "Draft Report on the Environment 2003" in which the section on global warming was pulled after Philip Cooney sought to replace data showing sharp increases in global temperatures with references to a study funded by the API questioning the evidence for global warming.
  • July 2003, the Administration releases its Strategic Plan for the Climate Change Science Program. Philip Cooney along with other CEQ officials made at least 181 edits emphasizing the uncertainty of global warming and 113 de-emphasizing the human contribution to it. The CEQ also inserted language about the possible benefits of global warming and removed recommendations to do something about it.
  • August 28, 2003, in response to a petition by environmental groups to regulate greenhouse gas
  • June 1, 2005, Rick Peltz a scientist at the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (USCCSP) resigns and accuses Phillip Cooney, the then chief of staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) of editing scientific papers so that they would agree with Administration policies on climate change.
  • June 10, 2005, Cooney resigns
  • June 13, 2005, Cooney is hired by ExxonMobil
  • September 21, 2005, following Hurricane Katrina, Max Mayfield, the Director of the National Hurricane Center in testimony before the Commerce Committee denied a connection between Katrina and global warming, ascribing an increase in the number and intensity of hurricanes to natural fluctuations. Mayfield was a popular and respected media figure whose thinking on this was out of the mainstream. His testimony, however, was carefully worked out between committee staff and the Office of Legislative Affairs at NOAA to in the words of one staffer Tom Jones smack "the shit out of this issue."
  • December 2005, NASA climatologist James Hansen reported his work was being monitored and his access to the press limited by a 24 year old Bush political appointee in NASA’s PR department George C. Deutsch. Deutsch also tried to qualify references to the Big Bang as this conflicted with his fundamentalist beliefs.
  • February 7, 2006, Deutsch resigns after it becomes known that he lied on his resume about having a college degree.
  • April-November 2006, the Smithsonian (almost all of whose $1.1 billion budget comes from the government) self censors an exhibit on climate change in the Arctic which it had delayed six months while trying to tone it down.
  • July 20, 2006, Dr. Thomas Karl, Director of the National Climatic Data Center at NOAA had his Congressional testimony on global warming modified and weakened by political appointees at the White House Council of Environmental Quality, the OMB, the Commerce Department, and NOAA.
  • January 30, 2007, the Union of Concerned Scientists releases a report indicating that 150 climate scientists from 8 federal agencies had personally experienced at least one instance of interference in their work in the previous 5 years (for a total of 435 incidents).
  • April 2, 2007, the Supreme Court in Massachusetts v. EPA rejects the Fabricant opinion and requires the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases. The commonwealth of Massachusetts argued successfully that it and its citizens had suffered and would suffer ecological damage, including loss of coastal lands, due to global warming.
  • May 2007, Bush continues to use the mantra of short term, unsustainable "economic growth" to oppose meaningful international (G-8) approaches, such as carbon trading and emission caps.
  • May 31, 2007, in an NPR interview, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin admits that global warming exists but doubts that it is a problem "to be wrestled with".
  • September 28, 2007, Bush at a meeting held in competition with a UN conference on global warming called on those countries which emit the most greenhouse gases to set voluntary caps but did not say what those should be, even for the US.
  • October 23, 2007, the White House cut written testimony of Julie Geberding director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention from 14 pages to 6 removing references to specific diseases, health problems, and global warming as “a serious public health concern.” As Jason Burnett who resigned June 9, 2008 as associate deputy administrator of the EPA related, this was done at the direction of Vice President Cheney’s office by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to avoid a finding that climate change was a public threat which in turn would have forced action under the Clean Air Act.
  • December 3-15, 2007, at the UN’s Bali conference on moving beyond the Kyoto Accords, the Bush Administration continued to refuse binding commitments for reduction in carbon emissions. Instead there will be two more years of negotiations effectively punting any real decisions to the next Administration. Unfortunately, the effects of global warming are unlikely to wait on this further bout of procrastination.
  • December 2007, in conformance with the April 2007 Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, Jason Burnett (who had been brought on board the EPA in June 2007 by Stephen Johnson specifically to deal with the Court decision) notified the White House via an email that greenhouse gases were pollutants which should be controlled under the provisions of the Clean Air Act. The White House instructed Burnett to say his email had been sent in error. Burnett refused. To avoid it becoming part of the public record the White House refused to open it.
  • January 24, 2008, Vice President Cheney’s office again per Jason Burnett seeks to have the phrase “greenhouse gas emissions harm the environment” removed from Senate testimony prepared for EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson. Jason Burnett refuses and the language stays. Again Cheney’s goal was to avoid any admission that greenhouse gas emissions were harmful and so subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act.
  • April 16, 2008, in yet another attempt to pre-empt an international conference (this one in Paris opening the following day, Bush announced the goal of stopping the growth in greenhouse gases by 2025 long after he is gone and some 10 years after climatologists say this needs to happen to avoid catastrophic changes. Essentially, the Bush program is to let business be business, not raise taxes, and trust to new technologies without significantly funding them. Bush also criticized the Supreme Court decision that required the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Bush and the EPA continue to stall on this.
  • May 5, 2008, a draft US proposal to the G-8 would shift responsibility for carbon emissions decisions away from the G-8 and to the Major Emitters group. This group includes countries like China and India which along with the US have little interest in fixed targets for greenhouse gas emissions. The Bush proposal would remove a deadline of 2050 for long term goals and would defer any discussion of mid term goals (2020-2030) to a UN conference in December 2009. It also argued that biofuels were not responsible for increasing world food prices.
  • May 27, 2008, the US Climate Change Science Program (USCCP) with the USDA lead agency released a major report on the effects of climate change on agriculture and forestry. It noted that some crops may mature faster but be more subject to extremes that could lead to crop failure. Higher temperatures could result in higher mortality and lower productivity in livestock. The West will continue to experience drought and increased risk of forest fires. In the Arctic, polar bear habitat will continue to diminish. Weeds and exotic species will spread. The growing season has increased by 10 to 14 days in temperate zones over the last 19 years.
  • May 29, 2008, the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources of the National Science and Technology Council released its report on climate change in the US. It projected that the health of the young, elderly, poor, disabled, and uninsured would be disproportionally affected by global warming. Extreme weather would become more common and insect infestations and water borne diseases would spread. The report came in response to a court order in August 2007 of Judge Saudra Brown Armstrong of the Northern District of California in a lawsuit brought by environmental groups alleging that the Bush Administration had violated the 1990 Global Change Research Act. The act required that the government publish a report every 4 years assessing the impact of environmental change on the US. The last such study was released in 2000 at the end of the Clinton Adminstration. The Bush Administration argued that some 20 reports it had requested in 2003 fulfilled its obligation under the law. The judge did not think so. While the Administration did eventually have to write the report, it was able nonetheless to delay the process 3 years and avoid complying with the law for almost the whole of the Bush Presidency.
  • June 2, 2008, the NASA Inspector General released a report on the Hansen affair (see December 2005 entry above) in which it concluded:

    “Our investigation found that during the fall of 2004 through early 2006, the NASA Headquarters Office of Public Affairs managed the topic of climate change in a manner that reduced, marginalized, or mischaracterized climate change science made available to the general public through those particular media over which the Office of Public Affairs had control (i.e., news releases and media access). We also concluded that the climate change editorial decisions were localized within the NASA Headquarters Office of Public Affairs; we found no credible evidence suggesting that senior NASA or Administration officials directed the NASA Headquarters Office of Public Affairs to minimize information relating to climate change.”

    For all that it seems to be saying, what it is actually laying out is a variation of the “few bad apples” defense: wrongdoing occurred, it was localized, those in charge were not involved. This is unsurprising. Many IG offices pull their punches because they overly identify with the agencies and departments they are tasked with overseeing. The NASA IG, in particular, has a history of doing this (see 149). Indeed it softens its stance yet further, asserting that the apples were probably not so much bad as misguided. The report says that the December 2005 decision to cancel Hansen’s interview with NPR “was unilaterally made by a junior Schedule C political appointee in the NASA Headquarters Office of Public Affairs.,” i.e. the 24 year old George Deutsch, but goes on to add that “The evidence, however, reflects that this appointee acted in accord with the overall management of climate change information at that time within the NASA Headquarters Office of Public Affairs.”

  • June 9, 2008, Jason Burnett associate deputy administrator at EPA resigns over obstruction of action to address the April 2007 Supreme Court decision mandating government regulation of greenhouse gases.
  • July 9, 2008, as Bush left his last G-8 summit at which he again failed to make any hard commitments on reducing greenhouse gases, he bid other members “Goodbye from the world’s biggest polluter.” Another of his toxic legacies.
  • June 16, 2008, an unprecedented internal EPA memo directs members of its enforcement division not to cooperate with investigations of the agency’s Inspector General or Congress’ Government Accounting Office (GAO) but to refer any contacts to the EPA’s political staff “to ensure consistency and coordination”, i.e. to control and spin what information is released and generally stymie any real investigation into political interference in the agency’s work.
  • July 11, 2008, the White House declares the Clean Air Act is “ill-suited” to deal with greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

(see also item 42)

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