Breaking News: White House Spokeswoman, Dana Perino, Not a Climate Change or Health Expert
In one of the more embarrassing ‘they must be kidding’ moments from this administration, White House Spokeswoman Dana Perino responded to a question last week about the administration’s removal of 10 pages from a 14 page report to a Senate panel by the CDC on the public health effects of climate change by touting the health benefits of climate change (emphasis is mine):
Q Back on the CDC testimony. You said this morning that Dr. Gerberding's testimony was not watered down. Can you tell us why it was altered to leave out any discussion of serious health effects relating to global warming, and to leave out her original comment that, "CDC considers climate change a serious public health concern"?Again, Perino mentions health benefits:
MS. PERINO: Look, I haven't seen the specific edits…The CDC, they are the experts when it comes to disease vectors. There are experts that deal specifically with climate science. For example, at USDA, people who work on crop rotation issues and the health of crops know how climate change is going to affect -- they can study how climate change might affect crops. At EPA they consider how climate change will relate to public health and air benefits -- I'm sorry, air quality. And somebody like NOAA would look at the weather-related events.
CDC's specific responsibility is on public health, and she testified about that yesterday...But when you take a very complicated issue, like climate change science, and you have the International Panel on Climate Change, which reported last spring -- this is a study that the United States largely funded, and that we embraced in its conclusions -- 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 on behalf of CDC was to focus that testimony on public health benefits -- there are public health benefits to climate change, as well, but both benefits and concerns that somebody like a Dr. Gerberding, who is the expert in the field, could address… - The Whitehouse
Q There's another CDC in that article -- another CDC official was saying that the testimony was "eviscerated," which is pretty -- I guess accusing the White House of playing very heavy hands.And then later, another question on the CDC report and more on these great benefits:
MS. PERINO: I understand what they're accusing us of, but I can -- I just reject it. I will tell you that, again, 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. And she testified fully on it yesterday. - The Whitehouse
Q …You mentioned that there are health benefits to climate change. Could you describe some of those?Really, Dana? You’re not an expert in that? Shocking! I think Bill Maher said it best when Bjorn Lomborg mentioned the supposed health benefits of climate change on his show a few weeks ago – Are you f*****g kidding me?
MS. PERINO: Sure. In some cases, there are -- look, this is an issue where I'm sure lots of people would love to ridicule me when I say this, but it is true that many people die from cold-related deaths every winter. And there are studies that say that climate change in certain areas of the world would help those individuals. There are also concerns that it would increase tropical diseases and that's -- again, I'm not an expert in that, I'm going to let Julie Gerberding testify in regards to that, but there are many studies about this that you can look into. - The Whitehouse
Someone who has taken it upon herself to become an expert in this and all things environment related is my own California Senator, Barbara Boxer. As opposed to our other California Democratic Senator who was busy sucking up to Bush on Airforce One this week, Boxer came out swinging today, sending out a blast asking her supporters to “Tell the Bush Administration to come clean on all of the facts surrounding global warming: Forward an email to the President and demand the full truth about the CDC Director's testimony today!”. Thankfully, since the ’06 election, Senator Boxer has replaced climate science denier James Inhofe as the Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. It was this same committee that Dr Gerberding, the Director of the CDC, testified before with her deeply watered down version of the report. According to Boxer, among the redacted passages - "Scientific evidence supports the view that the earth's climate is changing...CDC considers climate change a serious public health concern."
Boxer correctly describes this as a continuation of the White House attempts to “muzzle scientists”. This administration has a long history of trying to make science fit policy rather than basing policy on science. I will give Ms. Perino credit for having made one true statement, though; lots of people will certainly love to ridicule her for making these comments. And while it doesn’t mean that they are wrong for doing so, Senator Boxer’s outrage is the far more appropriate response. Later this week I will be posting on the Geo-4 report. The sad truth of it is, it’s a crisis on every level, and it just isn’t funny anymore.