Climate of Meddling

From Exxon-lobbyist memos to White House-deleted notes on the health impact of global warming, seven key dates in the Bush administration’s eight-year scuffle with a green planet.

Feb 6, 2001: ExxonMobil lobbyist Randy Randol faxes the just-arrived administration a memo calling for a number of top climate scientists to be “removed from their positions of influence”—especially the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change chair Robert Watson (described as having been “hand picked by Al Gore”). A year later, the administration campaigns against Watson’s reelection to the international post.

June 5, 2002: President Bush disses a study from his own government that emphasizes that climate change is human caused and will have serious impacts on the United States. Bush calls it a “report put out by the bureaucracy.”

Sept 15, 2002: An annual epa report on air pollution omits its section on global warming “for the first time in six years,” reports the New York Times.

June 19, 2003: The Times reveals that the White House has heavily edited the climate change section of another epa report—even removing references to a study by the National Academy of Sciences that the president himself had requested. epa scientists object, saying the report “no longer accurately represents scientific consensus on climate change.” The agency ultimately opts to leave climate change out of the report entirely.

June 8, 2005: More examples emerge of the White House editing climate science documents. This time the culprit is Philip Cooney, a former lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute who now works at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Cooney departs amid the scandal and takes a job with ExxonMobil.

Jan 29, 2006: nasa climate expert James Hansen goes public with charges that the administration sought to prevent him from openly discussing severe global warming risks. His chief oppressor? A twentysomething political appointee named George Deutsch, who describes his role as “to make the president look good.”

Oct 25, 2007: The White House edits congressional testimony on the public health impacts of climate change to be delivered by cdc director Julie Gerberding. Among the cuts: that climate change represents “a serious public health concern.”


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  • Chris Mooney is the author of four books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science. He was a science journalist and podcaster for Mother Jones and host of Climate Desk Live from 2012 to 2014. He is now a staff writer at The Washington Post.