October 24, 2007 in Nation/World

Warming’s health risks deleted from testimony

H. Josef Hebert Associated Press
 

WASHINGTON – The White House severely edited congressional testimony given Tuesday by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the impact of climate change on health, removing specific scientific references to potential health risks, according to two sources familiar with the documents.

Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Atlanta-based CDC, the government’s premier disease monitoring agency, told a Senate hearing that climate change “is anticipated to have a broad range of impacts on the health of Americans.”

But her prepared testimony was devoted almost entirely to the CDC’s preparation, with few details on what effects climate change could have on the spread of disease. Only during questioning did she describe some specific diseases that likely would be affected, again without elaboration.

Her testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee had much less information on health risks than a much longer draft version Gerberding submitted to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review in advance of her appearance.

“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 OMB had no comment on Gerberding’s testimony. Gerberding could not be reached late Tuesday for comment.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the committee chairman, in a statement Tuesday night said the Bush administration “should immediately release Dr. Gerberding’s full, uncut statement, because the public has a right to know all the facts about the serious threats posed by global warming.”

The Bush administration has been trying to defend itself for months from accusations that it has put political pressure on scientists to emphasize the uncertainties of global warming. Earlier this year a House committee heard testimony from climate scientists who complained the Bush administration had sought frequently to manage or influence their statements and public appearances.

The White House in the past has said it has only sought to provide a balanced view of the climate issue.

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