Tony Snow Gives Up the Game

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyFeb 9, 2007 10:42 PM


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Is someone in the White House Press Corps reading this blog, and in particular, did someone in the press corps read this entry? If you read the following exchange from the gaggle yesterday, you have to wonder...

Q And also, the White House yesterday issued an open letter on climate change -- MR. SNOW: Yes. Q -- and in it there is cited a National Academy of Science study, but it doesn't include in it part of the National Academy of Science conclusion that the verdict is still out to the extent that natural greenhouse cycle contributes to climate change, versus the human generation -- MR. SNOW: Are you talking about the 2001 report? Q Right. I'm talking about the reference in the open letter to the President's speech, which doesn't include -- in fact, it doesn't even include one sentence in the paragraph it is cited. MR. SNOW: So you're saying that we didn't heavily footnote the President's speech. I think if you go back and take a look at the status of science in 2001 -- I'm sorry, that was a cheap shot, and I apologize. You go back and look at the state of science in 2001, both with the National Academy of Sciences and the IPCC, you find that there was considerably more uncertainty about the nature and causes. In fact, go back and look at the 2001 IPCC report, and you will find that human activity is seen as likely, as opposed to very likely in the more recent report, and the percentage of likelihood was considerably lower than it is today. What the President was calling for in 2001 is good science. And over the first six-plus years of this administration we've committed, as I pointed out yesterday, $9 billion to climate change science, which is more than any other country on Earth. And it is largely as a result of that research that the IPCC issued its findings. Q But my question is also in reference to what you said yesterday, which is that you said in 2001, the President said, human activity is a significant factor, when in fact, as you just said, the verdict was still out on that. MR. SNOW: Yes, but what he did, it still said -- here's what it says: "The National Academy of Sciences indicate that the increase is due in large part to human activity." You're right. He didn't use the term significant. He used the term "in large part." Q Yes, but you also in that paragraph did not include what was in the President's speech which, prior to the sentence he read -- and this is what they're referring to -- an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, particularly CO2. MR. SNOW: Right. Q Yes, but this gives the impression that what you're referring to is that it's the actual increase of surface temperatures of the Earth that is in large part due to human activity, when in fact, in his own speech, that reference to increase -- MR. SNOW: No, Paula, you're trying too hard. You're trying too hard. If you look at the quote that we -- here's the President's full quote: "There is a natural greenhouse effect that contributes to warming. Greenhouse gases trap heat and thus warm the Earth because they prevent a significant portion of infrared radiation from escaping into space. Concentration of greenhouse gases, especially CO2, have increased substantially since the beginning of the industrial revolution. And the National Academy of Sciences indicate that the increase is due in large part to human activity." It then goes on to say that the science is unsettled and it is less settled today in large part because we've ponied up the money and we've funded the scientific research to try to get at it. What the President was talking about back then and continues to talk about is putting money behind good science. Q Thank you for putting that full paragraph into the record. MR. SNOW: Yes, happy to do so.

They should have put the next paragraph into the record too, because that's the one in which Bush proceeds to obfuscate on the role of natural versus human factors in causing warming. Still, this exchange is significant, and clearly shows that the White House misrepresented the president's own words when it claimed that "Beginning in June 2001, President Bush has consistently acknowledged climate change is occurring and humans are contributing to the problem." All Bush actually acknowledged is that we're causing greenhouse gas concentrations to rise. Then, artfully avoiding the causal attribution of ongoing warming to rising greenhouse gas concentrations, the President went on to say, "Yet, the Academy's report tells us that we do not know how much effect natural fluctuations in climate may have had on warming...."

NOTE: The reporter asking questions doesn't seem to understand the state of the science as of 2001, but does understand that the White House was misleading us.

WATCH: You can actually watch this exchange here, starting at minute 24:40.

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