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Global Warming

Government reports

Project: Climate Change and Global Warming
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The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), joined by Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), files suit against the US government alleging that the 2000 National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change (USNA) is not a government product and therefore the government cannot legally distribute it. The USNA report was produced by the National Assessment Synthesis Team, an advisory committee chartered under the Federal Advisory Committee Act. The report provided a detailed overview of the consequences of climate change and mechanisms for adaptation. According to CEI, the report used flawed computer models and presented historical climate data without including the data’s error margins. The suit will ultimately be settled when the Bush administration takes office. The Bush White House will agree that the USNA should not be treated as a product of the US government or serve as the basis for any federal policies, positions, or rules. After the settlement, references to this report will repeatedly be removed by Bush officials from future government reports. (Maassarani 3/27/2007, pp. 52-53 pdf file)

Philip A. Cooney, chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, edits a draft of the annual Our Changing Planet report to make it less alarming. In one sentence, he adds the word “extremely” so it reads, “The attribution of the causes of biological and ecological changes to climate change or variability is extremely difficult.” Similarly, he changes the sentence, “Many scientific observations indicate that the Earth is undergoing a period of relatively rapid change,” so it instead says, “Many scientific observations point to the conclusion that the Earth may be undergoing a period of relatively rapid change.” In another section of the report, he crosses out an entire paragraph discussing the expected melting of mountain glaciers and snowpacks. In its margins, he asserts that the report’s authors were “straying from research strategy into speculative findings/musings.” (Revkin 6/8/2005; Reid and Lautenberg 6/29/2005) Cooney, a former oil industry lobbyist, has no background in climate science (see 2001).

In a memo to James R. Mahoney, head of the US Climate Change Science Program, Dr. Harlan L. Watson, the State Department’s chief climate negotiator, “strongly” recommends removing text referring to the conclusions of a National Academy of Sciences panel on climate and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He argues that the text does “not include an appropriate recognition of the underlying uncertainties and the tentative nature of a number of the assertions.” Though Watson has a doctorate in solid-state physics, he has no background in climate science. (Revkin 6/8/2005)

The Office of Management and Budget, which is reviewing the EPA’s forthcoming “Draft Report on the Environment” (see June 23, 2003) advises the EPA that the report “needs balance” and asserts that “global climate change has beneficial effects as well as adverse impacts.” The office also suggests removing the discussion on global warming completely from the report’s executive summary. “[D]elete climate change or use previously agreed upon material,” writes one staffer at the White House Council of Environmental Quality. Similarly, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy suggests removing a discussion of the potential impacts climate change might have on human health and ecology. The Department of Energy also gets involved, arguing through the White House that EPA should delete any discussion of atmospheric concentrations of carbon because it is not a “good indicator of climate change.” Another official warns, “Take care here and be sure to be consistent with existing administration policy. Let us try to avoid another CAR scenario.” This is a reference to the Climate Action Report (CAR) (see May 2002) that the US submitted to the UN in May 2002. That report concluded that human activities are “causing global mean surface air temperature and subsurface ocean temperature to rise.” White House officials also suggest making edits to particular sentences. For example, the OMB asks the EPA to delete the phrases, “alter regional patterns of climate,” and, “potentially affect the balance of radiation.” It also suggests replacing the passage, “changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly the result of human activities,” with, “a causal link between the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the observed climate changes during the 20th century cannot be unequivocally established.” Several of the edits are made by CEQ chief Philip Cooney, a former oil industry lobbyist. According to a congressional investigation, Cooney removes climate change “from a discussion of environmental issues that have global consequences, delete[s] a chart depicting historical temperature reconstruction, and insert[s] the word ‘potentially’ in several places to reduce the certainty of scientific statements regarding the impacts of climate change.” Cooney also advocates the removal of references to a 2001 National Research Council report (see June 2001) concluding that human activities contribute to global warming and information from a 1999 study indicating that global temperatures rose significantly over the previous decade compared with the last 1,000 years. Cooney also adds a claim to the draft report that satellite data does not support global warming, and removes a phrase that says “regional patterns may be altered” by climate change. In one memo, Cooney writes, “These changes must be made.” (Revkin and Seelye 6/19/2003; CBS News 6/19/2003; Hebert 6/20/2003; US Congress 1/30/2007 pdf file)

White House CEQ Chairman James Connaughton writes an email requesting that he be kept abreast of all changes made to the EPA’s forthcoming “Draft Report on the Environment.” The White House opposes much of the language in the section on climate change and its efforts to make changes to that section will eventually cause the EPA to remove the section entirely (see June 23, 2003). (US Congress 1/30/2007 pdf file)

EPA staffers write in a confidential memo that due to White House tinkering (see April 2003) with the agency’s forthcoming “Draft Report on the Environment” (see June 23, 2003) the report “no longer accurately represents scientific consensus on climate change.” (Revkin and Seelye 6/19/2003)

In an internal EPA memo, agency staff describe three different courses of action the EPA administrator can take in dealing with the changes that the White House has made to the forthcoming “Draft Report on the Environment” (see June 23, 2003). Over the last several weeks, White House officials have made so many changes (see April 2003) to the climate change section of the report that scientists no longer believe the section accurately depicts the scientific consensus on the issue (see April 29, 2003). The first option suggested in the memo is that the EPA administrator could accept the edits made by the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of Management and Budget. The memo notes that this would be the “easiest” road to take, but warns that the “EPA will take responsibility and severe criticism from the science and environmental community for poorly representing the science.” The altered report “provides specific text to attack,” the memo adds. According to the memo, the White House edits “undercut” the conclusions of the National Research Council (see June 2001) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (see October 1, 2001). Alternatively, the memo suggests, the EPA administrator could opt to cut the entire climate change section from the report. The last option discussed in the memo is that the EPA administrator could stand firm against the White House’s “no further changes” edict and attempt to reach a compromise. While EPA staff seem to prefer this approach, believing that this is the “only approach that could produce a credible climate change section,” they caution that confronting the White House could “antagonize” officials and that “it is likely not feasible to negotiate agreeable text.” The EPA will ultimately choose to remove the climate section completely from the report. (US Congress 1/30/2007 pdf file)

The Bush administration releases its “Draft Report on the Environment,” which concludes that by many measures US air is cleaner, drinking water purer, and public lands better protected than they had been thirty years ago. The document, commissioned in 2001 by the agency’s administrator, Christie Whitman, is comprised of five sections: “Cleaner Air,” “Purer Water,” “Better Protected Land,” “Human Health,” and “Ecological conditions.” But it is later learned that many of its conclusions rest on questionable data. Moreover, the report leaves out essential information on global climate change and pollution sources. (Environmental Protection Agency 2003; Revkin and Seelye 6/19/2003) In its “Purer Water” section, the report claims that “94 percent of the [US] population served by community water systems [was] served by systems that met all health-based standards.” But on August 6, the Washington Post will reveal that on June 18 (see June 18, 2003), an internal inquiry had been launched over concerns that the source data was flawed. “Internal agency documents… show that EPA audits for at least five years have suggested that the percentage of the population with safe drinking water is much lower—79 percent to 84 percent in 2002—putting an additional 30 million Americans at potential risk,” the newspaper will report. (Gugliotta 8/6/2003) Another troubling feature of the report is that a section on global climate change was removed (see June 2003) from the report prior to publication because EPA officials were unhappy with changes that had been demanded by the White House (see April 2003). (Revkin and Seelye 6/19/2003; CBS News 6/19/2003; Hebert 6/20/2003) In place of a thorough discussion of the issue, the report only says: “The complexity of the Earth system and the interconnections among its components make it a scientific challenge to document change, diagnose its causes, and develop useful projections of how natural variability and human actions may affect the global environment in the future. Because of these complexities and the potentially profound consequences of climate change and variability, climate change has become a capstone scientific and societal issue for this generation and the next, and perhaps even beyond.” (Jackson 6/20/2003; Campbell 6/20/2003) The EPA’s report also leaves out information on the potentially adverse effects that pesticides and industrial chemicals have on humans and wildlife. (Revkin and Seelye 6/19/2003)

Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who are working with Australian researchers on a report about coral bleaching run into resistance from NOAA officials. A early version of the report contains several reference to global warming. One passage notes, “Mass bleaching… affects reefs at regional to global scales, and has incontrovertibly linked to increases in sea temperature associated with global change.” The references are dropped from a July 2005 draft of the report. In April 2006, the Washington Post reports that James R. Mahoney, assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, has delayed the report on grounds that “its scientific basis was so inadequate.” But he insists, “It was not just about climate change—there were a lot of things.” (Eilperin 4/6/2006) The report is finally published in October 2006. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 10/11/2006)

A panel consisting of seven climate scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have completed a consensus report on the views of agency scientists concluding that global warming may have an impact on the intensity of hurricanes. The report is due to be released this month. But in an email sent to the panel’s chair, Ants Leetmaa, a Department of Commerce official says the report will not be released and needs to be modified so it is less technical. When this is reported in the journal Nature in September, the NOAA will deny that the report was blocked, insisting that the publication in question was just a two-page fact sheet about the issue. The agency says there were two reasons it wasn’t released: one, it wasn’t completed before the beginning of the annual hurricane season, and two, the agency cannot take an official position on a field of science that is changing so quickly. However Leetmaa notes that the draft did not take an official position of any kind; rather it just referred to the “current state of the science” (Schmid 9/27/2006; Giles 9/28/2006)

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