By request, we head over to Capitol Hill…
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held hearings on Tuesday to discuss the effects of climate change on public health. Among those called to testify was the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the government’s main agency for monitoring illness and public health threats. You can read the text of her testimony here.
Now, you may have noticed that this testimony is less than comprehensive. It talks at length about the CDC’s ability to prepare for threats, and its capacity to monitor potential problems, which is interesting, but since that’s sort of fundamental to the purpose of the CDC, not terribly enlightening. Given that the hearing was entitled “Examining the Human Health Impacts of Global Warming,” one might think that America’s top agency for monitoring human health might talk about those impacts. But they didn’t. Did they forget? Have they actually just not bothered to look into it?
Oh, no, wait, what’s this on CNN.com? “Sources: White House Cut Testimony.” Ah, I see. Testimony discussing the potential health problems caused by global warming would have to acknowledge that global warming exists. Thus, the White House needed to edit the hell out of it to make sure none of those pesky scientific warnings get in there. This isn’t the first time the Administration has pulled this little trick, they’ve apparently been censoring NASA reviews of climate change for years now.
Now, part of this is just the standard Bush Administration secrecy fetish. But it’s also about the fight to discredit science in general. Science, you see, has this pesky habit of pointing out awkward things like cigarettes causing cancer, pesticides harming wildlife and humans, and fossil fuels warming the earth. Also, things like this little guy:
And when the public becomes aware of these things, they tend to demand government action, which tends to be expensive for big business. So, what’s an enterprising corporation that wants to keep burning coal or dumping toxic waste to do?
They take advantage of the basic nature of scientific inquiry: namely, that nothing in science is ever proven, only not disproven. Doubt is central to the discipline; without it, there’d be no discovery. Thus, for just about any well-established theory, there’s some scientist who doesn’t fully agree with the consensus. So, all a company has to do is find that person and give him or her a big ol’ megaphone. Poof, you’ve got an instant scientific controversy where none existed before. And when you’ve got a business-friendly administration willing to suppress scientific facts which run counter to their ideology, it becomes all the easier.