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The White House: Backing Away from the Consensus on Global Warming

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyFebruary 26, 2007 11:30 PM


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On Friday I noted that Vice-President Cheney apparently still does not accept the scientific consensus on global warming. True, Cheney concedes that humans might be contributing to the problem. But that's not the mainstream scientific view at this point. Rather, the latest IPCC report expressed high confidence that humans are causing most of the current trend. It's a significant distinction. It's important to note that Cheney's latest remarks contradict a prior statement from the White House itself. Right after the IPCC Summary for Policymakers came out in early February, the White House put out a news release containing a very welcome quotation from Sharon Hays of the Office of Science and Technology Policy:

"This Summary for Policymakers captures and summarizes the current state of climate science research and will serve as a valuable source of information for policymakers," said Dr. Sharon Hays, the leader of the U.S. delegation at the meeting and Associate Director/Deputy Director for Science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. "It reflects the sizeable and robust body of knowledge regarding the physical science of climate change, including the finding that the Earth is warming and that human activities have very likely caused most of the warming of the last 50 years."

Is Cheney not aware that the White House has previously said this? Or does he simply not care? In any event, it appears that others in the White House are also trying to obfuscate about how much of the warming trend is human caused--in the process backing away from Hays' clear and accurate statement. Witness this exchange from the gaggle on Friday:

Q Also, the interview with the Vice President on climate change, he indicated that the verdict is still out, we still don't know the extent to which global warming is due to human activity and how much is due to the natural cycle. Was he speaking for the administration on this, given that the White House -- MR. FRATTO: Paula, our views on climate change I think are -- have been made very clear by the President and at this podium and other places. I didn't see the Vice President's comments, but it sounds to me that if you're asking, what exactly is the measured contribution, what we have said is the contribution of human activity is significant. That's what's important. It's significant, it is contributing to climate change, to global warming. That's the important thing, is to recognize that. We recognize it -- and then what policies follow, and I think our policies have been pretty robust in terms of addressing climate change and reducing greenhouse gasses.

Here it looks like Fratto, who is some kind of backup spokesman to Tony Snow, is undercutting Hays to defend Cheney. Hays didn't say the human contribution was "significant." She said it was dominant, and so did the IPCC. Based upon this latest business with Cheney and Fratto, I'm no longer sure whether to credit the White House with actually, finally accepting the science. I am less and less inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.

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