Video: Playing politics with science?

msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 6/11/2005 5:08:56 PM ET 2005-06-11T21:08:56

A senior official at the White House Council on Environmental Quality has resigned, days after a newspaper reported he changed some government reports to downplay links between greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.

Philip Cooney, the council’s chief of staff and a former energy industry lobbyist, resigned on Friday, two days after The New York Times reported he edited some descriptions of climate research in a way that cast doubt on links between greenhouse gas emissions and rising temperatures.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino confirmed Cooney had resigned from the council but said it was unrelated to the Times story.

“Mr. Cooney has long been considering his options following four years of service in the administration,” she said. “He had accumulated four weeks of leave and decided to resign and take the summer off to spend time with his family.”

Cooney is a lawyer who previously worked for the American Petroleum Institute, which like the Bush administration opposes mandatory curbs on greenhouse gas emissions.

Warming language qualified, removed
The Times reported that Cooney made handwritten notes on drafts of several reports issued in 2002 and 2003, removing or adjusting language on climate research.

The paper said it obtained the reports from the Government Accountability Project, a nonprofit group that is representing an official who resigned in March from the Climate Change Science Program, which issued the documents edited by Cooney.

In one document, Cooney reportedly crossed out a paragraph describing the projected reduction of mountain glaciers and snowpack from warming. Those projections, he noted in the margins, are “straying from research strategy into speculative findings/musings.”

The Times also reported the words “significant and fundamental” were added before the word “uncertainties” when describing the state of climate science.

The White House denied that Cooney had watered down the impact of global warming.

“That's false,” spokesman Scott McClellan said. “The reports are based on the best scientific knowledge that we have at this time.”

Normal review, White House says
White House officials told the newspaper the changes were part of a normal interagency review of all documents related to global environmental change.

“All comments are reviewed, and some are accepted and some are rejected,” Robert Hopkins, a spokesman for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy told the newspaper.

In a memo sent last week to top officials dealing with climate change at a dozen agencies, Piltz charged that “politicization by the White House” was undermining the credibility and integrity of the science program.

A senior Environmental Protection Agency scientist, who spoke to the Times on condition of anonymity, said the editing “has somewhat of a chilling effect and has created a sense of frustration” among government scientists.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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