A government agency blocked release of a report that suggests global warming is contributing to the frequency and strength of hurricanes, the journal Nature reported Tuesday.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration disputed the Nature article, saying there was not a report but a two-page fact sheet about the topic. The information was to be included in a press kit to be distributed in May as the annual hurricane season approached but wasn't ready.
"The document wasn't done in time for the rollout," NOAA spokesman Jordan St. John said in responding to the Nature article. "The White House never saw it, so they didn't block it."
The possibility that warming conditions may cause storms to become stronger has generated debate among climate and weather experts, particularly in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina disaster.
In the new case, Nature said weather experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - part of the Commerce Department - in February set up a seven-member panel to prepare a consensus report on the views of agency scientists about global warming and hurricanes.
In May, when the report was expected to be released, panel chair Ants Leetmaa received an e-mail from a Commerce official saying the report needed to be made less technical and was not to be released, Nature reported.
According to AP, "Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J.... charged that 'the administration has effectively declared war on science and truth to advance its anti-environment agenda ... the Bush administration continues to censor scientists who have documented the current impacts of global warming.'"
This isn't a new problem. Yesterday, Wisconsin's Rep. Tammy Baldwin wrote in an op-ed, "...as far back as December 2003, two independent, expert Food and Drug Administration advisory panels overwhelmingly recommended making the Plan B emergency contraceptive the morning-after pill available over the counter. Based on scientific and medical evidence, they determined that Plan B should be offered over the counter; it was safe, effective and easily self-administered. Yet this recommendation was ignored."
"In January 2005 I wrote the FDA commissioner and urged him to make Plan B available over the counter," Baldwin tells us. "And I continued to voice my concern until approval was finally granted, this summer, just months before an election. Coincidence? I think not."
On stem cell research, she says, "President Bush chose to issue his first veto, preventing the [the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005] from becoming law. Politics trumped science; and the restrictions on stem cell research remain."
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), the government's interference in scientific findings is rampant. A UCS survey of 5,918 FDA scientists found that "hundreds of scientists reported significant interference with the FDA’s scientific work, compromising the agency’s ability to fulfill its mission of protecting public health and safety."
In fact, UCS lists twenty-seven examples of government interference with scientific findings. Among them:
-- Mountaintop Removal Mining: Administration officials intentionally disregard extensive scientific study on mountaintop removal in Appalacia
-- Mercury Emissions: White House suppressed information about the impact of mercury on public health
-- Forest Management: A "review team" primarily composed of non-scientists overruled a science-based plan for managing old-growth forest habitat and reducing fire risk
-- Abstinence-only Education: The Administration has obscured scientific evaluation of abstinence-only education programs and pressured scientists to promote abstinence.
-- HIV/AIDS Education: The CDC was ordered to change its website to raise scientifically questionable doubt about the effectiveness of condoms in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS.
-- President's Council on Bioethics: Two leading scientists were dismissed from the panel because of dissenting opinions on the ethics of biomedical research.
-- Reproductive Health Advisory Committee: An underqualified nominee was suggested as chair of an FDA committee on reproductive health despite scant credentials and highly partisan political views.
Some of these manipulations and suppressions of scientific data have had disastrous consequences. UCS also lists the administration's touting of anodized aluminum tubes in Iraq as 'proof' that Saddam had a nuke program. While the administration told the world that the tubes could only be used in centrifuges enriching uranium, scientists were telling the administration that the tubes could not be used for this purpose. The anodized plating would have to be milled off and the tubes were the wrong size. What the tubes turned out to be were components in legal missiles systems.
Right now, global warming is bringing the planet to temperatures at a 12,000 year high. Yet the administration believes it can hide this from everyone -- as if they're the only people who have this information. And what is the thinking here -- if you ignore it, it'll go away? How responsible is this? We live in a democracy and we need informed voters.
Which, of course, is the point. It says one hell of a lot about these people that they know that they'd be in trouble if most people knew the truth on these subjects. If this is the case with science, then what about other subjects?
With the leak of a National Intelligence Estimate showing that the war in Iraq is actually hurting the fight against terrorism, the administration has reponded angrily. But if the report had been glowing, you can be damned sure that the republicans would make sure that it was front page news.
Someone needs to explain to these people that you don't get to choose which facts are true.
Technorati tags: politics; science; global warming; FDA; when the truth is an option, Bush and republicans opt for censorship and propaganda