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Report by the E.P.A. Leaves Out Data on Climate Change

The Evil Genius

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Report by the E.P.A. Leaves Out Data on Climate Change


The Environmental Protection Agency (news - web sites) is preparing to publish a draft report next week on the state of the environment, but after editing by the White House, a long section describing risks from rising global temperatures has been whittled to a few noncommittal paragraphs.

The report, commissioned in 2001 by the agency's administrator, Christie Whitman, was intended to provide the first comprehensive review of what is known about various environmental problems, where gaps in understanding exist and how to fill them.

Agency officials said it was tentatively scheduled to be released early next week, before Mrs. Whitman steps down on June 27, ending a troubled time in office that often put her at odds with President Bush (news - web sites).

Drafts of the climate section, with changes sought by the White House, were given to The New York Times yesterday by a former E.P.A. official, along with earlier drafts and an internal memorandum in which some officials protested the changes. Two agency officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the documents were authentic.

The editing eliminated references to many studies concluding that warming is at least partly caused by rising concentrations of smokestack and tail-pipe emissions and could threaten health and ecosystems.

Among the deletions were conclusions about the likely human contribution to warming from a 2001 report on climate by the National Research Council (news - web sites) that the White House had commissioned and that President Bush had endorsed in speeches that year. White House officials also deleted a reference to a 1999 study showing that global temperatures had risen sharply in the previous decade compared with the last 1,000 years. In its place, administration officials added a reference to a new study, partly financed by the American Petroleum Institute, questioning that conclusion.

In the end, E.P.A. staff members, after discussions with administration officials, said they decided to delete the entire discussion to avoid criticism that they were selectively filtering science to suit policy.

Administration officials defended the report and said there was nothing untoward about the process that produced it. Mrs. Whitman said that she was "perfectly comfortable" with the edited version and that the differences over climate change should not hold up the broader assessment of the nation's air, land and water.

"The first draft, as with many first drafts, contained everything," she said in a brief telephone interview from the CBS studios in Manhattan, where she was waiting to tape "The Late Show With David Letterman (news - Y! TV)."

"As it went through the review, there was less consensus on the science and conclusions on climate change," Ms. Whitman said. "So rather than go out with something half-baked or not put out the whole report, we felt it was important for us to get this out because there is a lot of really good information that people can use to measure our successes."

James L. Connaughton, chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, a White House advisory group, said, "It would be utterly inaccurate to suggest that this administration has not provided quite an extensive discussion about the state of the climate. Ultimately, E.P.A. made the decision not to include the section on climate change because we had these ample discussions of the subject already."

But private environmental groups sharply criticized the changes when they heard of them.

"Political staff are becoming increasingly bold in forcing agency officials to endorse junk science," said Jeremy Symons, a climate policy expert at the National Wildlife Federation. "This is like the White House directing the secretary of labor to alter unemployment data to paint a rosy economic picture."

Drafts of the report have been circulating for months, but a heavy round of rewriting and cutting by White House officials in late April raised protest among E.P.A. officials working on the report.

An April 29 memorandum circulated among staff members said that after the changes by White House officials, the section on climate "no longer accurately represents scientific consensus on climate change."

Another memorandum circulated at the same time said that the easiest course would be to accept the White House revisions but that to do so would taint the agency, because "E.P.A. will take responsibility and severe criticism from the science and environmental communities for poorly representing the science."

The changes were mainly made by the Council on Environmental Quality, although the Office of Management and Budget was also involved, several E.P.A. officials said. It is the second time in a year that the White House has sought to play down global warming (news - web sites) in official documents.

Last September, an annual E.P.A. report on air pollution that for six years had contained a section on climate was released without one, and the decision to delete it was made by Bush administration appointees at the agency with White House approval.

Like the September report, the forthcoming report says the issues will be dealt with later by a climate research plan being prepared by the Bush administration.

Other sections of the coming E.P.A. report — on water quality, ecological conditions, ozone depletion in the atmosphere and other issues — all start with a summary statement about the potential impact of changes on human health and the environment, which are the two responsibilities of the agency.

But in the "Global Issues" section of the draft returned by the White House to E.P.A. in April, an introductory sentence reading, "Climate change has global consequences for human health and the environment" was cut and replaced with a paragraph that starts: "The complexity of the Earth system and the interconnections among its components make it a scientific challenge to document change, diagnose its causes, and develop useful projections of how natural variability and human actions may affect the global environment in the future."

Some E.P.A. staff members defended the document, saying that although pared down it would still help policy makers and the agency address the climate issue.

"This is a positive step by the agency," said an author of the report, who did not want to be named, adding that it would help someone determine "if a facility or pollutant is going to hurt my family or make it bad for the birds, bees and fish out there."

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Before we begin, whats the beef?

Are you accusing the White House of purposefully misleading the country for political gain?

Or are you concerned about global warming.

I hope not both, the thread will get very confusing.

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I was passing on info that I thought was both interesting and saddening.

I guess I fall into the catagory that thinks that global warming is occurring...that manmade emissions are causing a monumental difference...and that more study needs to be done on it...and then when those studies are completed - the info needs to be released, and not whited out by the White House - no matter who is in power.

Don't you think we deserve to know the true findings (substantiated or not)?

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TEG, They arent hiding anything. They are condensing a report.

Look back at the EPA reports from the past 20 years (been around that long?) and I will bet it's been done like this.

While I dont share your thought that global warming is occuring, I do think we should look for alternative ways to get energy. I dont like the Hydrogen car idea, but at least that's a start.

Wind power is a great idea, but guess who is leading the campaign against it?

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As I read the article ,the problem is the beginning of a pattern in this administration. They start with the conclussion they want, then they try to find evidence that supports it.

I see it when they take condoms off of the ways to prevent STD spread from government web pages. We'll just ignore the 100 studies that don't say what they want because they found one that says what they want (and we'll ignore who funds these studies).

I see it in the reports on how intel was handled before the Iraq war.

I see it in this report where they changed the science portion to the extent where the EPA yanked the enitre section rather than put forth conclussions not shared by the scientific comunity (or even a large section of it).

It becomes a case of forcing the country to act on bad information because that information will get the country to go along with the policies the administration has already determined. That's not a good way to run a country. Anyway, that's my beef as I read the article. I have a problem when politicians start telling the scientists what they see. Or atleast I start to believe in an emerging credibility gap.

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Please stop acting like this administration invented this process.

That is, at it's crux, the beast of politics.

As for this report, is it your contention that every report that comes out from now include every stat, every line, and every conclusion that the hundreds of bureaucrats came up with to justify their jobs? How long would these things be? VOLUMES.

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What's interesting is how people on both sides of the debate accuse the other of "using junk science." Also, what is commonly omitted from both sides is research showing how much modern (over)farming is actually contributing to ozone depletion.

I also recall reading an article from a month or so ago about a scientific/geological study that showed the 1400s (it might have been the 14th century, I'm not sure) were probably much hotter than today.

Quite honestly, I believe water pollution and the devastation of marine species are probably bigger concerns than global warming, but global warming has become the fanatical buzzword. What's funny is being almost 40, I can remember back in Elementary and Junior High being indoctrinated into the belief that all our pollution was going to bring about a return to the Ice Age. I think we were even required in one class to read some apocalyptic kind of novel about humans fighting for survival in the future Ice Age. My, how "sound science" changes....

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Originally posted by The Evil Genius

Here's something else that I think is odd - why do people (usually critics of global warming) always use global warming and ozone depletion as if they are interchangable?

I thought the major hypothesis behind global warming was supposed to be based on the "discovery" of the ozone hole over Antarctica. I've never claimed to be an expert on any such matters; I don't consider myself a critic so much as a skeptic. TEG, if you'd like to enlighten me/us with further depth/data/research/analysis on the subject, please do (no, I am not being sarcastic).

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Not an expert either riggo - I just thinks it funny to see them used interchangably...mostly by people who are critics (and who most likely are doing it on purpose).

This is a short description....taken from NASA's (of all places)website...

Global Warming vs. Ozone Depletion

“Compared to ozone depletion, the level of understanding of global warming is completely different,” says NAS computational chemist Timothy Lee. With ozone depletion, there’s no question that human activities are having a direct impact. With global warming, there are only certain things you can deduce --if you release compounds with significant global warming potentials in the atmosphere that are going to hang around for a 1,000 years, even in small amounts, it’s going to build up and cause problems.”

The physical processes of global warming and ozone depletion are very different, Lee explains. Global warming involves the release of compounds into the atmosphere that absorb and trap radiation in the form of heat. Ozone depletion involves chemical reactions that destroy ozone molecules in the stratosphere, exposing Earth to high levels of the Sun’s high-energy radiation.

Ozone depletion occurs in the stratosphere -- where the ozone that protects Earth from the Sun is located. Global warming occurs throughout the atmosphere, although mainly in the troposphere layer (see image on page 2). According to Lee, most of the compounds that cause ozone depletion also have global warming potentials. These compounds are non-toxic to humans, but quite detrimental to the ozone layer.

Here is some more...


Climate Class

The Greenhouse Effect vs. the Ozone Hole?

A lot of people think global warming and the ozone hole are the same thing. They aren’t.

At least, that’s the simple answer. Most people have only the most rudimentary understanding of how climate systems and atmospheric chemistry work – and many of them lump ozone depletion and climate change together simply out of confusion. They know that gases our industrial society pumps into the atmosphere are fouling up the entire planet – but the details are hazy.

The global warming which many scientists expect (and think they are observing) comes from release of certain gases which enhance the natural “greenhouse effect.” These “greenhouse gases,” carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and the halocarbons, are produced by human activity and are building up in the atmosphere. They trap solar heat much as a greenhouse or blanket would, causing the temperature of the lower atmosphere to rise.

Scientists also know that a layer of ozone in the lower stratosphere protects Earth by shielding it from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. Without that shield, life on land would be almost impossible. The problem is that halocarbons (such as the chlorofluorocarbons that were used as industrial solvents and spray-can propellants) were destroying the stratospheric ozone layer. The chlorine, fluorine, and bromine which these chemicals contain act as catalysts to kick off a chain reaction that destroys ozone. It is this process that has worsened the dramatic ozone hole that occurs over Antarctica at the end of every winter there. The worry is that a thinning ozone layer will mean more of the ultraviolet radiation which can harm living things (for example, by causing skin cancer in humans).

So at a basic level, global warming and ozone depletion are two different problems.

But the planet Earth is rarely as simple as it seems, and there are important cross-connections between the two problems which are worth understanding.

For example, the halocarbons which destroy the ozone layer also happen to be potent greenhouse gases. So there seem to be twice as many reasons to stop pumping them into the atmosphere. Their use is already being phased down under the 1987 Montreal treaty, and eventually (after decades) this phase down will help alleviate the human-caused enhanced greenhouse effect.

But the plot thickens. Another important greenhouse gas is ozone itself – at least, the ozone that is in the lower atmosphere (called the troposphere). So there is a paradox. The halocarbons increase global warming because they are greenhouse gases – but they also destroy another greenhouse gas, ozone, thereby reducing global warming.

Ultraviolet concerns alone may be enough to justify phasing out ozone-depleting chemicals. But from a climate perspective, what really matters is the net result of their direct warming and indirect “cooling” effects. We can say with some confidence that the overall net effect of the halocarbons is to warm the climate at Earth’s surface. But in actuality, whether the net effect is warming or cooling, strong or weak, depends on many things: the specific halocarbon, the location on the globe, etc.

One “bad news” implication is that the climate-protection “windfall” scientists once thought would be reaped from the Montreal treaty will actually be smaller than expected. We will have to work harder than once expected to mitigate global warming.

Another “bad news” implication: the phase-out of the worst ozone-depleters (like CFC-11 and CFC-12) is being accomplished partly by substituting halocarbons whose ozone-depleting effects are much weaker (such as the hydrofluorocarbons). But these replacement chemicals are also greenhouse gases. And while their global-warming effect may be much less than that of the chemicals they replace, it is still many times that of carbon dioxide.

One further complexity: An important trace ingredient in the atmosphere is the hydroxyl radical – which consists of one oxygen and one hydrogen atom. The unstable hydroxyl radical tends to react quickly with other molecules in the atmosphere. In fact, hydroxyls and ultraviolet radiation seem to be responsible for much of the eventual destruction of methane, some halocarbons, and a number of other atmospheric pollutants.

Here’s the rub: the ultraviolet that reaches the troposphere plays a big role in creating hydroxyl radicals down there. So more ultraviolet reaching the troposphere could actually accelerate removal of greenhouse gases like methane. But this is hardly a reason to be complacent about stratospheric ozone depletion.

The above discussion actually gives only a hint of how complex atmospheric chemistry is – and how complex the climate-chemistry links and feedbacks are. It is a reminder than changing a system so complex could be fraught with perils.


J.T. Houghton et al., eds., Climate Change 1995: The Science of Climate Change, published for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change by Cambridge Univ. Press, New York, 1996.

Executive Summary, WMO/UNEP Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion: 1998, World Meteorological Organization Global Ozone Research and Monitoring Project - Report No. 44 (http://www.al.noaa.gov/WWWHD/pubdocs/Assessment98/executive-summary.html#B8)

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Kilmer, the article says the EPA had a report. The NYtimes had the advance copy. Then it went to the White house where the scientific part was changed so much the EPA dropped the whole section because the new version advocated by the White house "no longer accurately represents scientific consensus on climate change." .

The White house was not the original author.

There is a difference between the parts of government that collect data and the political part. If you can't see that, I would ask if you have ever worked for either. They work best when separate.

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I have actually worked for both (albeit partly as an intern).

gbear, Im still trying to figure out why this is an issue. The EPA is a Govt entity, it's head is appointed by the President.

This is what happens with ALL govt reports. Every one of them. That's the way it works. Im suprised that you and others have just now discovered that politics exist in DC.

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I seem to recall a time when reducing the rate of increase was called a "tax cut", and when government spending was called "investment." George Orwell lives!

I find the following statement highly ironic:

"Political staff are becoming increasingly bold in forcing agency officials to endorse junk science," said Jeremy Symons, a climate policy expert at the National Wildlife Federation. "This is like the White House directing the secretary of labor to alter unemployment data to paint a rosy economic picture."
Frankly, I thought the whole theory about global warming was considered junk science given it's unproven status.
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I seriously doubt that there is a single environmental group out there that has applauded anything that the Bush administration has done.

Even if he personally ended every environmental problem there is, they would still not applaud him. Remember he is an evil Republican:rolleyes:

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