Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testified before a Senate panel yesterday on the impact of climate change on public health, but the White House altered her testimony before it was delivered. References to potential health risks were removed; one CDC official said Gerberding’s draft “was eviscerated”; and details on how many people might be adversely affected because of increased warming were deleted.
This afternoon, reporters asked White House Press Secretary Dana Perino to explain what happened.
Q: On the CDC testimony, you said this morning on Dr. G’s testimony was not “watered down.” Can you tell us why it was altered to leave out any discussion of serious health effects related to global warming, and to leave out her original comment, that “CDC considers climate change a serious public health concern”?
PERINO: I haven’t seen the specific edits…. As I understand it, in the draft there was broad characterizations about climate-change science that didn’t align with the IPCC. And we have experts and scientists across this administration that can take a look at that testimony and say, “This is an error,” or, “This doesn’t make sense.” And so the decision was made on behalf of CDC to focus that testimony on public health benefits.
Well, there are public health benefits to climate change, as well, both benefits and concerns, that someone line Dr. Gerberding, who is the expert in the field, could address. And so that’s the testimony she provided yesterday….
“Public health benefits.” Seriously. The White House touched up the director of the CDC’s Senate testimony, coincidentally taking out the information the Bush gang finds politically inconvenient, and the president’s press secretary is left talking about the silver lining of global warming.
Too bad she didn’t get into specifics; I’d love to know what these “public health benefits” might be. Less hypothermia? Fewer instances of frostbite? A steep decline in the number of snowball-fight-related injuries?
Lest anyone think it was a slip of the tongue, Perino referenced these benefits three times in today’s briefing.
Q: So, why wasn’t the Senate committee able to hear Dr. Gerberding’s full opinion? Why were 10 pages of 14 taken out.
PERINO: I disagree, Peter…. We believe climate change is real; we believe that humans are largely responsible; we are working on a way to solve the problem. And in the meantime, we are working with experts, like Julie Gerberding, to figure out what are going to be the health benefits and the health concerns of climate change, of which there are many.
Note that last detail: 10 of 14 pages were removed from the report about health risks. Instead, we only get vague words about the "benefits". Some days, I think we've gone so far beyond Orwell that only Lewis Carroll could make sense of it.