Rolling Stone article on White House global warming denial links Cooney to V-P’s office and Rove


A very good article in the June 28 issue of Rolling Stone, on the Bush administration global warming disinformation campaign, shows direct connections between former White House CEQ chief of staff Phil Cooney and both Vice President Cheney’s office and Karl Rove. From Cheney’s continuing statements that deny and misrepresent the scientific intelligence on human-induced global warming, to Cooney’s manipulative policing of federal climate change science communications on topics deemed politically sensitive, a lack of integrity in dealing with climate science started at the highest level of the administration and fed down directly into the working level of the federal climate research program. Federal science program officials, in requiring clearances from Cooney to publish reports, had been drawn into Cheney’s sphere of influence. “They’ve got a political clientele that does not want to be regulated,” Rolling Stone quotes Climate Science Watch director Rick Piltz as saying. “Any honest discussion of the science would stimulate public pressure for a stronger policy. They’re not stupid.” Also from our conversation with reporter Tim Dickinson: “‘They decided they didn’t need to win the debate on climate,’ says Piltz, the former official who exposed Cooney’s tactics. ‘They just had to leave an atmosphere of uncertainty about it and dissipate the will for political action.’” This article—“Six Years of Deceit: Inside the Bush Administration’s Secret Campaign to Deny Global Warming and Let Polluters Shape America’s Climate Policy”—is a must-read for anyone concerned with this problem.

One excerpt from the much longer article:

Internal documents uncovered by Rolling Stone reveal that Cooney did far more than edit scientific reports to suit the administration’s point of view. Just as neoconservative hawk Douglas Feith funneled false intelligence on Iraq’s weapons programs to the vice president, Cooney steered industry-sponsored junk science on global warming to Cheney. “What disturbed me most,” [former EPA administrator Christie] Whitman says, “was the administration’s record of taking the most extreme of the science – what I call the ‘political science’ – and giving it the same weight as the real science.”

The most egregious example of cooked intelligence was a study underwritten in part by the API [American Petroleum Institute], Cooney’s former employer. The study, which purported to show that the twentieth century was not unusually warm, was authored by two astrophysicists [Sallie Baliunas and Willie Soon], both of whom were on the payroll of the George C. Marshall Institute, a climate-denial group funded by ExxonMobil and now headed by Bill O’Keefe, Cooney’s former boss. The paper’s publication in a minor German journal in January 2003 quickly created a scandal, with the editor in chief and three other editors resigning in shame after acknowledging that the paper was fundamentally flawed and should never have been published.

“It was sham science,” says [Prof. James] McCarthy, the Harvard scientist. “It’s almost laughable, except that this study was held up by the administration as a definitive refutation of the temperature record.”

But even as the paper was being discredited, it was causing great excitement in the White House. When Kathie Olsen of the Office of Science and Technology Policy forwarded the study to Cooney, he responded with an enthusiastic, “Thanks, Kathie!” Six minutes later, according to internal e-mails, the study was in the hands of Kevin O’Donovan, who served as Cheney’s point man on climate. The study also grabbed President Bush’s attention, as revealed in an e-mail sent two days later to a high-ranking White House official: “Bob – if you din’t [sic] already have, this is the study the President was talking about.”

The study gave Cheney’s office the quasi-plausible refutation of climate science it was waiting for. According to a memo reviewed by congressional investigators, but which the CEQ refused to make public, Cooney was eager to promote the sham science. The study, he e-mailed O’Donovan, “represents an opening to potentially reinvigorate debate on the actual climate history of the past 1,000 years.” The paper, he added, “contradicts the dogmatic view held by many in the climate science community that the past century was the warmest in the past millennium….We plan to begin to refer to this study in administration communications on the science of global climate change.”

One e-mail exchange about the study underscores just how many industry foxes were guarding the climate henhouse. When Matthew Koch (a White House energy adviser who today lobbies for API) saw the study, he wrote to Cooney (the former API lobbyist who is now “corporate issues manager” for ExxonMobil) and CC’d O’Donovan (who now works for Shell Oil).

“What??!!” Koch wrote in mock disbelief at the study’s claim that the planet isn’t really heating up. “I want to grow oranges in the Arctic!”

Copyright 2007 Rolling Stone

Rick Piltz clarification/disclaimer:
The article refers to me as a “former Bush climate official,” which is not how my position should be designated. I was not a political appointee, not an administration official. I had already been working in the coordination office of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (since 2002, the U.S. Climate Change Science Program) for about five years at the start of the Bush administration. That is a science program office, established and funded by the research program participating agencies, and staffed by professionals of varying backgrounds, including both scientists and non-scientists. It is not a White House office, nor is it part of any single federal agency. The office is a coordination entity for a multi-agency program. The institutional arrangement is complex enough that, in spite of my best efforts to keep the record straight, sometimes it gets boiled down in the media and doesn’t come out quite right. It’s accurate to refer to me as a former Senior Associate in the office of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program. The office, as with other executive branch entities, works UNDER the President—but I did not work FOR the President.

The article does quote me accurately, and what I said was accurate. From my experience and understanding of the available evidence, the article gets the story straight in all of its essential points.   


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