Last October, Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on the “Human Impacts of Global Warming.” Gerberding told the committee that global warming “is anticipated to have a broad range of impacts on the health of Americans,” but gave few specifics, instead focusing on CDC’s current preparation plans.
CDC officials revealed that the reason for the weak testimony was that the White House had heavily edited Gerberding’s testimony, which originally was longer and had more “information on health risks“:
“It was eviscerated,” said a CDC official, familiar with both versions, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the review process.
The official said that while it is customary for testimony to be changed in a White House review, these changes were particularly “heavy-handed,” with the document cut from its original 14 pages to four. It was six pages as presented to the Senate committee.
The White House tried denying that it had “watered down” Gerberding’s testimony, but Press Secretary Dana Perino later admitted that the Office of Management and Budget had redacted testimony that contained “broad characterizations about climate change science that didn’t align with the IPCC.”
A new letter from former EPA administration official Jason Burnett, however, reveals that the White House was lying. In fact, Vice President Cheney called for the deletions because he feared tough testimony by Gerberding might make it harder for the Bush administration to avoid regulating greenhouse gas emissions:
The White House, at the urging of Cheney’s office, “requested that I work with CDC to remove from the testimony any discussion of the human health consequences of climate change,” wrote Burnett.
“CEQ [Council on Environmental Quality] contacted me to argue that I could best keep options open for the (EPA) administrator (on regulating carbon dioxide) if I would convince CDC to delete particular sections of their testimony,” Burnett said in the letter to Boxer.
The White House’s deletions — which were “overwhelmingly denounced” by scientists and environmental health experts — included “details on how many people might be adversely affected because of increased warming and the scientific basis for some of the CDC’s analysis on what kinds of diseases might be spread in a warmer climate and rising sea levels.” (See the unredacted testimony here.)
The Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson has obtained a copy of Burnett’s letter here.