NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman on Phil Cooney


In his column in the March 28 New York Times, Tom Friedman talks about the Bush administration and the role of its former climate change communications operative Phil Cooney, and draws a contrast with the bipartisan and science-accepting approach being taken by the governor of California.


New York Times
March 28, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist

How Many Scientists?

Sometimes you read something about this administration that is just so shameful it takes your breath away. For me, that was the March 20 article in this paper detailing how a House committee had just released documents showing “hundreds of instances in which a White House official who was previously an oil industry lobbyist edited government climate reports to play up uncertainty of a human role in global warming or play down evidence of such a role.”

The official, Philip A. Cooney, left government in 2005, after his shenanigans were exposed in The Times, and was immediately hired by, of course, Exxon Mobil. Before joining the White House, he was the “climate team leader” for the American Petroleum Institute, the main oil industry lobby arm.

The Times article, by Andrew Revkin and Matthew Wald, noted that Mr. Cooney said his past work opposing restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions on behalf of the oil industry had “no bearing” on his actions at the White House. “When I came to the White House,” he testified, “my sole loyalties were to the president and his administration.” (How about loyalty to scientific method?) Mr. Cooney, who has no scientific background, said he had based his editing on what he had seen in good faith as the “most authoritative and current views of the state of scientific knowledge.”

Let’s see, of all the gin joints. Of all the people the Bush team would let edit its climate reports, we have a guy who first worked for the oil lobby denying climate change, with no science background, then went back to work for Exxon. Does it get any more intellectually corrupt than that? Is there something lower that I’m missing?

I wonder how Mr. Cooney would have edited the recent draft report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, written and reviewed by 1,000 scientists convened by the World Meteorological Society and the U.N. It concluded that global warming is “unequivocal,” that human activity is the main driver, and that “changes in climate are now affecting physical and biological systems on every continent.”

I am not out to promote any party, but reading articles like the Cooney one makes me say: Thank goodness the Democrats are back running the House and Senate ­ because, given its track record, this administration needs to be watched at all times.

But I also say thank goodness for the way Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has built a Republican-Democratic coalition in California to blunt climate change. The governor is not only saving the Republican Party from being totally dominated by climate cranks, like Senator James Inhofe, and hacks-for-hire, like Cooney, but he also is creating a bipartisan template for dealing with climate change that will be embraced by Washington as soon as the Bush team is gone…….

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

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