CSW director ABC News Now interview on CDC climate testimony censorship


Climate Science Watch director Rick Piltz was interviewed October 25 on ABC News Now, as part of ABC News coverage of White House censorship of CDC director Julie Gerberding’s Senate testimony on the human health impacts of climate change. See Details for text of the interview.

On October 24, ABC World News with Charles Gibson did a good story drawing on the censored draft testimony by CDC director Julie Gerberding that Climate Science Watch posted earlier that day. A video of the story—“Climate Change Report Censored: The Bush administration waters down an official’s testimony on global warming”—is posted on the ABC News web site.

On October 25, CSW director Rick Piltz was interviewed (along with ABC correspondent Bill Blakemore) on ABC News Now, ABC’s 24-hour broadband and digital cable network, in a segment titled “Censoring Science”. A slightly edited transcript of the Q&A between interviewer Dr. Tim Johnson and Piltz:

Dr. Johnson: As many of you have read or heard, this week CDC Director Julie Gerberding appeared before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, giving testimony about climate change and health effects. The indicators are that her prepared speech—her written speech—was heavily edited. She claims that her oral presentation allowed her to say everything that she wanted to say. Trying to get to the bottom of this matter this morning, we’re joined by Rick Piltz from Climate Science Watch, he joins us in Washington. Rick, I assume you’ve had a chance to see the original written testimony, the 12-page testimony, and hear what she had to say yesterday. What’s the difference between the two, in your judgment?

RP: I’ve studied the original testimony—we’ve posted it on our web site. There’s a huge difference between what Dr. Gerberding was going to present and what she was allowed to present. The White House took out of her written testimony pages and pages, all of the material that discussed the actual likely significant impacts of climate change on human health, especially in the United States.

Dr. Johnson: Now, in press reports this morning, both she and her press spokesman are claiming that her oral testimony is often different, she gives it without actually reading it, that she was able to get across what she wanted to in the presentation and the questions afterward. Are they just being good troupers in saying that?

RP: Dr. Gerberding is being a good soldier. She knows better. If you go to the committee’s web site you’ll see the written testimony, you won’t see a transcript of the question and answer. It’ll be published someday. But I think it’s really sort of Orwellian to say that the written word—testimony—doesn’t matter, when the chairman of the Senate Environment Committee asks the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to submit in writing a discussion of climate change impacts on health and she’s not allowed to present that. Yes, the senators asked some good questions and she was able to give straight answers. But they took her words off the page, for the written record. And that’s not right.

Dr. Johnson: Quite amazing….So Rick, is this just another case of White House politics trumping accepted science, in your view?

RP: Yes it is. And one thing that’s really interesting, you should notice—it’s no longer possible for those who are denying the climate change problem to say that humans aren’t changing the climate. That argument is pretty well settled. But now this orchestrated disinformation campaign has shifted over to playing down the likely harmful impacts of climate change. And the White House, including the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, are playing right into this disinformation campaign by steering public attention away from an honest discussion of the likely impacts of climate change on society and the environment. This is an example of how the problem of misrepresenting the science has shifted to the discussion of impacts. 

We’ll have more to say about OSTP director John Marburger on the question of how to assess climate change impacts—but it appears at this point that OSTP was not the real offender in the censorship of Dr. Gerberding’s testimony, nor in the misrepresentations of its significance after the fact by the White House and Dr. Gerberding. We’ll analyze that problem further in a follow-up posting.     

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