Fitting science to fit the Bush administration agenda

IBy Douglas Voigt In a recent report from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bush administration exhibited its desire to not only dismiss concerns about global climate change, but to repress them as well. In a recently published report, the EPA comprehensively surveys the state of our nation’s environment. The report – prior to Bush administration edits – contained a section noting that global average temperatures rose dramatically in the last century and rose at an even faster rate during the last decade. This increase in global average temperatures is widely attributed to human activities. However, this section will not be made public in the just-published EPA report, as administration officials have stricken it.

In 2002, the EPA released a similar report in which climate change information was not suppressed. The 2002 report elucidated distressing trends in the makeup of the global atmosphere. Greenhouse gases such as methane, and especially carbon dioxide, have spiked in the past 20 years “due mostly to human activities,” according to the 2002 report. Most scientists – including those cited in the 2002 report – acknowledge that growing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have led to higher global average temperatures. The scientists further argue that higher global temperatures will alter our environment in many ways, and that these alterations could cause significant global economic damage.

However, Bush dismissed the 2002 report, specifically the portion detailing with greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, as “a report put out by the bureaucracy” and passed his Clear Skies Initiative – an environmental sleight of hand that allows for the parallel increase of carbon dioxide output along with economic growth and calls for the reductions of carbon dioxide only on a voluntary basis. Thus, the future makeup and stability of our global climate – with the United States as the leading carbon dioxide polluter – is to be determined by the moral willingness of energy industry leaders to voluntarily curb their profits for the sake of everyone else. This is the same energy industry that promotes leaders such as Kenneth Lay, a man with a moral character that leaves much to be desired.

Now it appears that dissent in the EPA – whose administrator is appointed by the President pending congressional approval – will no longer be tolerated. First, the oil-friendly administration – oil consumption being a major source of greenhouse gases – finally decided to take things into their own hands and omit any ideas that do not advance their agenda. Predictably, a study financed by the American Petroleum Institute that disputes widely accepted climate change science is one of the few global climate change items included in the just-published report – replacing a contrary assertion authored by the National Research Council and other sources. Second, the head of the EPA, Christie Whitman, who commissioned the report on the state of our nation’s environment and appears not to have found the pre-edited version of the 2003 report “incorrect,” stepped down June 27. The nomination of her unknown replacement is not expected until after Congress returns to session. In waiting until next session, the EPA administrator candidate will avoid months of public scrutiny before he or she gains congressional approval. Essentially, the new appointee will quietly gain the position beneath the public radar. This leaves the position open to such appalling candidates as Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, a former senator who scarcely rated above a zero with the League of Conservation Voters, or more unbelievable yet, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers head Josephine Cooper.

While environmental issues remain irrelevant for a great many Americans, without proper address, environmental concerns will eventually require the attention of everyone. The least the administration of the wealthiest and most polluting country in the world can do is appoint an EPA head proficient in present environmental concerns rather than an auto industry affiliate. The new EPA administrator should also demand EPA reports remain as is, not to be edited to fit the agenda of the Bush administration.

Douglas Voigt is a member of the Minnesota Daily’s editorial board. He can be reached at [email protected]