These are the last few years of decision, but they can be the first years of a bright and hopeful future if we do what we must. . . .We have everything we need to get started, save perhaps political will, but political will is a renewable resource.’

Norway Nobel Peace PrizeOn the very same day that Al Gore was awarded his (shared) Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway (Dec. 10), the also honorable Henry A. Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, released a report concluding that “the Bush Administration has engaged in a systematic effort to manipulate climate change science and mislead policymakers and the public about the dangers of global warming.”

The stark contrast between Waxman’s report and Gore’s speech shows two very different paths that can be taken: one of an administration’s childlike, even mentally ill refusal to face reality, and another of a courageous grown-up’s acknowledgement of a life-endangering predicament. Because of the threat that rising surface temperatures and melting ice caps pose to low-lying, hurricane-prone areas such as New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, we prefer the adultlike approach. Yes, we’ll go with Mr. Gore’s call to move from business-as-usual in order to live in a more sustainable relationship with the planet that gave birth to our sometimes admirable species. We believe that the name Homo sapiens need not always be as ironic as it’s been feeling lately.

Gore’s address and Waxman’s report are both worth reading in full. Here are some highlights:

GORE: “We, the human species, are confronting a planetary emergency—a threat to the survival of our civilization that is gathering ominous and destructive potential even as we gather here. But there is hopeful news as well: we have the ability to solve this crisis and avoid the worst—though not all—of its consequences, if we act boldly, decisively and quickly.”

WAXMAN: “The White House exerted unusual control over the public statements of federal scientists on climate change issues. . . . the White House suppressed dissemination of scientific views that could conflict with Administration policies. The White House also edited congressional testimony regarding the science of climate change.”

GORE: “One study estimated that [the North Polar ice cap] could be completely gone during summer in less than 22 years. Another new study, to be presented by U.S. Navy researchers later this week, warns it could happen in as little as 7 years.”


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WAXMAN: “In 1998, the American Petroleum Institute developed an internal ‘Communications Action Plan’ that stated: ‘Victory will be achieved when . . . average citizens ‘understand’ uncertainties in climate science . . . [and] recognition of uncertainties becomes part of the “conventional wisdom.” ’ The Bush Administration has acted as if the oil industry’s communications plan were its mission statement.”

GORE: “[W]ithout realizing it, we have begun to wage war on the earth itself. Now, we and the earth’s climate are locked in a relationship familiar to war planners: ‘Mutually assured destruction.’ ”

WAXMAN: “White House officials and political appointees in the agencies censored congressional testimony on the causes and impacts of global warming, controlled media access to government climate scientists, and edited federal scientific reports to inject unwarranted uncertainty into discussions of climate change and to minimize the threat to the environment and the economy.”

GORE: “For now we still have the power to choose our fate, and the remaining question is only this: Have we the will to act vigorously and in time, or will we remain imprisoned by a dangerous illusion?”

WAXMAN: “The White House insisted on edits to EPA’s draft Report on the Environment that were so extreme that the EPA Administrator opted to eliminate the climate change section of the report.”

GORE: “We must begin by making the common rescue of the global environment the central organizing principle of the world community.”

WAXMAN: “The White House played a major role in crafting the August 2003 EPA legal opinion disavowing authority to regulate greenhouse gases.”


Congressman Henry A. Waxman of California, Chairman, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

GORE: “Heads of state should meet early next year to review what was accomplished in Bali and take personal responsibility for addressing this crisis. It is not unreasonable to ask, given the gravity of our circumstances, that these heads of state meet every three months until the treaty is completed.”

WAXMAN: “There was a systematic White House effort to minimize the significance of climate change by editing climate change reports. [White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ)] Chief of Staff Phil Cooney and other CEQ officials made at least 294 edits to the Administration’s Strategic Plan of the Climate Change Science Program to exaggerate or emphasize scientific uncertainties or to deemphasize or diminish the importance of the human role in global warming.”

GORE: “[T]he outcome will be decisively influenced by two nations that are now failing to do enough: the United States and China. . . . Both countries should stop using the other’s behavior as an excuse for stalemate and instead develop an agenda for mutual survival in a shared global environment.”

WAXMAN: “The White House also edited a 2002 op-ed by EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman to ensure that it followed the White House line on climate change. Despite objections from EPA, CEQ insisted on repeating an unsupported assertion that millions of American jobs would be lost if the Kyoto Protocol were ratified.”

Political Interference with Climate Change Science Under the Bush Administration, United States House of Representatives, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, December 2007