Environment

John Marburger Does it Again

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyOct 27, 2007 4:25 PM

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As usual, the president's science adviser has been trotted out to explain away the administration's latest misbehavior with respect to climate science. Marburger just put out a statement (PDF), defending White House changes to CDC director Julie Gerberding's testimony. Because I've been on the road, I have not yet been able to do an in depth analysis of the before and after versions of the testimony. But I don't even need to do that to challenge the following from Marburger:

2) Extreme Weather Events. The draft testimony says "Climate change is anticipated to alter the frequency, timing, intensity, and duration of extreme weather events, such as hurricanes and floods." The IPCC reports do not provide a basis for a link between hurricane frequency and climate change. Most of the text in the recent IPCC reports focuses on the link between hurricane intensity and climate change - an issue about which there is considerable debate within the scientific community. The testimony appeared to have modified a more general reference in the WGII report that "...some weather events and extremes will become more frequent, more widespread and/or more intense during the 21st century..." - a reference that may be accurately applied to certain weather events, but not, based on current science, to hurricanes."

Huh? The original statement from the CDC draft testimony, as cited above, hardly strikes me as very problematic. First, it merely lists hurricanes as one example of an extreme weather event. Moreover, even with respect to hurricanes the statement isn't so off base. Global warming is bound to change hurricanes in myriad ways, not all of which are understood at the moment. But it's probably inevitable that the storms will change, and it would be surprising if changes were merely felt in terms of intensity, rather than in other parameters. So despite Marburger's attempt to be pedantic about what the IPCC did and didn't say, I really have very little problem with the quoted CDC statement. Certainly I have a much bigger problem with the common White House practice of editing and changing testimony from expert agencies. I don't think the White House should be involved with such testimony--period. And moreover, if the CDC statement needed changes on this particular point then it should have been edited, not redacted...don't ya think?

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