The Heat Is Online

AGs: White House, Right Wing Group Conspired to Stifle Science (Aug. 2003)


Aug. 11, 2003


Email suggests conspiracy between White House and conservative think tank.

In a letter sent today, Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal called on United States Attorney General John Ashcroft to investigate whether officials at the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) solicited a conservative Washington think tank to sue the federal government in order to invalidate a government document warning of the impacts of global warming.

The two state attorneys general obtained an email document through a Freedom of Information Act request that revealed a great intimacy between CEQ and the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) on strategizing about ways to undermine the United States' official reports and the authority of its officials.

(The Competitive Enterprise Institute is funded in part by ExxonMobil. Editor's note).

Rowe and Blumenthal called for the investigation after discovering an email sent in June 2002 by an executive at CEI, Myron Ebell, to Phil Cooney, the Chief of Staff at CEQ, thanking Cooney for "calling and asking for our help." The email goes on to suggest strategies for minimizing the problem of global warming, including finding a "fall guy (or gal) high up as possible" in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to blame for the report, and indicating that CEI might call for then-EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman to be fired.

The lawsuit was filed by CEI against the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Science and Technology Council. In the suit, CEI argues that the National Assessment of Climate Variability and Change (National Assessment) and EPA's Climate Action Report 2002 should be invalidated. The National Assessment is a peer-reviewed study documenting global warming and identifying its dangers. Its findings were relied upon in the EPA's Climate Action Report 2002, which was produced by the United States pursuant to its obligations under the 1992 Rio Treaty on climate change. CEI alleges that the federal report failed to meet scientific standards for objectivity and utility.

Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe stated, "It appears that certain White House officials conspired with an anti-environmental special interest group to cause the lawsuit to be filed against the federal government."

"The idea that the Bush Administration may have invited a lawsuit from a special interest group in order to undermine the federal government's own work under an international treaty is very troubling," he said. Rowe added: "We believe an investigation is necessary to determine whether the idea of this lawsuit came from the White House itself, and if so, whether it represents improper conduct by public officials."


Suit Challenges Climate Change Report by U.S.

The New York Times, Aug. 7 2003

An antiregulatory group sued the Bush administration yesterday in an effort to force the government to stop distributing a report on climate change that the group contends is inaccurate and biased.

It was filed in Federal Court in Washington by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a group with industry backing that contends global warming poses no significant risks.

The suit says the continued use of the report, which was published in 2000, violates the Federal Data Quality Act, a law enacted that year that requires information disseminated by the government to pass standards for objectivity, quality, and utility - meaning the data are reliable enough to be used by the public.

Officials at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, which was named along with President Bush, declined to comment yesterday, saying the White House had not yet received a copy of the lawsuit.

The challenged report is the National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change, a region-by-region analysis of likely impacts of rising temperatures that was commissioned by Congress in 1990. The aim was to generate scenarios showing possible impacts of global warming from building levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

It is available on the Web at

The suit says the report's results were generated by flawed computer models and portrayed some historical climate data without including ``error bars'' showing the potential range of error in temperature readings for past centuries.

The report in question was the product of nearly a decade of work by dozens of government and private scientists - mostly during the Clinton administration - who had a slim budget and tight deadlines that forced them to compromise sometimes on their choice of computer models and other tools, several study authors said.

Because of the inherent weaknesses, the study quickly became a prime target of industry lobbyists, conservatives, and a small group of scientists who deny that greenhouse emissions pose a significant threat.

Yesterday, Christopher C. Horner, a senior fellow and lawyer at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said that the suit would finally put ``alarmism'' on trial.

''They don't have to try to unring a bell,'' he said, noting that the report has already been broadly distributed and reprinted and posted on dozens of Web site. ``They just have to cease in disseminating it until they correct it.''