Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bush Administration Cuts Science Testimony on Global Warming

Read "Sen. Boxer Seeks Answers On Redacted Testimony: White House Cut Climate Warnings" by Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post, October 25, 2007.

Bush administration officials acknowledged yesterday that they heavily edited testimony on global warming, delivered to Congress on Tuesday by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, after the president's top science adviser and other officials questioned its scientific basis.....

White House officials eliminated several successive pages of Gerberding's testimony, beginning with a section in which she planned to say that many organizations are working to address climate change but that, "despite this extensive activity, the public health effects of climate change remain largely unaddressed," and that the "CDC considers climate change a serious public concern.".....

several experts on the public health impact of climate change, having reviewed Gerberding's testimony, said there were no inconsistencies between the original testimony and the IPCC's recent reports.

"That's nonsense," said University of Wisconsin at Madison public health professor Jonathan Patz, who served as an IPCC lead author for its 2007, 2001 and 1995 reports. "Dr. Gerberding's testimony was scientifically accurate and absolutely in line with the findings of the IPCC."....

Michael McCally, executive director of the advocacy group Physicians for Social Responsibility, said the editing means that the "White House has denied a congressional committee's access to scientific information about health and global warming," adding: "This misuse of science and abuse of the legislative process is deplorable."
Comment: I have long been concerned that the health effects of climate change on a global basis have been seriously underestimated.

A billion people live on US! per day or less. These folk have no ability to deal with new problems. Another couple of billion live on $1 to $2 per day, and have very, very limited ability to deal with unforeseen problems. If subsistence agriculture fails, people go hungry, and hungry people die not only of malnutrition but of the diseases of hunger and poverty. All the indications I have seen suggest that global climate change is likely to increase agricultural risks, and I expect it will cause more failures in subsistence agriculture.

Climate change will also be expected to change vector densities. Vectors will reach levels that will support disease endemicity, disease epidemics, and hyper endemicity in new areas, in all probability. Public health officials will be hard pressed to deal with such novel problems, and in the poorest countries will probably often fail. Remember, millions of people die each year from malaria, and there are other vector born diseases.

Other communicable diseases may also change their temporal and geographic patterns due to climate change, and again, poor people and poor countries have real problems in meeting unexpected health problems.

Dr. Geberding is no doubt doing her job in trying to alert our lawmakers to the need to deal with the public health impacts we can foresee in the United States as a result of climate change. However, this is a rich country, and if we are willing to apply our selves I suspect we can accommodate the changes without damage to public health.

The situation is not that good in developing nations, where literally billions of people are at risk. If there are not only direct impacts due to food shortages and changing disease patterns, but climate change induced migrations and conflict, the viscous cycle will get still worse for these people.

We are already using a very large part of the earth's bioproductivity, and indeed, the rich countries are drawing on that of poor countries. Climate change is not going to be easy for the global population to accomodate.

The Bush administration should stop denying the problem exists, and begin to help us to plan for its amelioration!

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