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Thursday, June 05, 2008 12:09:19 PM

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The Science of Denial

Published: June 4, 2008



http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/04/opinion/04wed2.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

The Bush administration has worked overtime to manipulate or conceal scientific evidence — and muzzled at least one prominent scientist — to justify its failure to address climate change.

Its motives were transparent: the less people understood about the causes and consequences of global warming, the less they were likely to demand action from their leaders. And its strategy has been far too successful. Seven years later, Congress is only beginning to confront the challenge of global warming.

The last week has brought further confirmation of the administration’s cynicism. An internal investigation by NASA’s inspector general concluded that political appointees in the agency’s public affairs office had tried to restrict reporters’ access to its leading climate scientist, Dr. James Hansen. He has warned about climate change for 20 years and has openly criticized the administration’s refusal to tackle the issue head-on.
More broadly, the investigation said that politics played a heavy role in the office and that it had presented information about global warming “in a manner that reduced, marginalized or mischaracterized climate-change science made available to the general public.”

Meanwhile, the administration finally agreed, under duress, to release a Congressionally mandated report on the effects of climate change on various regions of the United States. Some of the report’s predictions, like the inevitable loss of coastal areas to rising seas, were not new. Others were, including warnings of a potential increase in various food- and water-borne viruses.

What was most noteworthy about the latter report was that it made it to the light of day. A 1990 law requires the president to give Congress every four years its best assessment of the likely effects of climate change. The last such assessment was undertaken by President Clinton and published in 2000. Mr. Bush not only missed the 2004 deadline but allowed the entire information-gathering process to wither. Only a court order handed down last August in response to a lawsuit by public interest groups forced him to deliver this month.

This administration long ago secured a special place in history for bending science to its political ends. One costly result is that this nation has lost seven years in a struggle in which time is not on anyone’s side.

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