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Bush team takes heat over global warming science

Accusations of meddling

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The Bush administration has been meddling in climate research in a bid to downplay the importance of global warming, according to a memo released by the US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

The committee held its second hearing on federal interference in climate change science on Monday this week.

In his opening statement, representative Henry Waxman said although it is too early to draw firm conclusions about the White House's conduct, "some of the information the committee has already obtained is disturbing. It suggests there may have been a concerted effort directed by the White House to mislead the public about the dangers of global climate change".

He said that science should inform policy, and that if the Bush administration had turned this policy upside down "through raw political pressure, then it set our country on a dangerous course".

A memo later released by the committee says that the documents provided by the Council on Environmental Qualify (CEQ) suggest the White House was systematically trying to minimise the significance of climate change.

It says there is evidence that Phillip Cooney, former chief of staff of the CEQ, and his staff made almost 300 edits to a 10 year strategy document either to emphasise scientific uncertainty (181), or to diminish the human role in global warming (113).

It also cites evidence that the White House "played an active role in deciding when federal climate change scientists could answer media questions about their work".

James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, said he had seen a gradual politicising of science over the past quarter of a century, but that in 30 years in government he has "never seen anything approaching the degree to which information flow from scientists to the public has been screened and controlled as it has now".

He has previously accused political appointees within NASA of trying to censor him.

In his own testimony, Cooney describes his editing as part of "the normal review process" of documents moving between different agencies.

He writes: "I had the authority and responsibility to review the documents in question...and did so using my best judgement, based on the administration's stated research priorities...I understand that my judgement and the administration's priorities are properly open to review."

You can read the memo and all the written testimony here. ®

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