Climate Change: Spinning global science

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When it comes to global warming, scientific ignorance is bliss: No worries about devastating storms, droughts and dying species, just pleasant forecasts for warm summers. White House officials are happy to spread that joy.

The New York Times yesterday reported details of how a former oil industry lobbyist with no scientific training repeatedly edited documents on climate change to make the administration’s head-in-the-sand posture appear legitimate.

Documents given to The Times by the Government Accountability Project public interest group show that Philip Cooney, White House Council on Environmental Quality chief of staff, repeatedly softened scientific conclusions about climate change, overstated uncertainties and even removed important concerns.

In one censoring, Cooney simply crossed out sentences about the possible effects of global warming on polar regions’ mountain snowpacks, glaciers and spring runoff. Many scientists have similar concerns about the effects on the Pacific Northwest environment and hydroelectric power.

We like to take an optimistic view, so we’d like to be able to predict the administration will learn to stop spinning science. But the Bush team will always prefer “let’s pretend” to science about global warming and, probably, other vital subjects where the world’s gains in knowledge are outstripping U.S. progress.