Forest-fire warning cut from testimony

Forest-fire warningcut from testimony

26 October 2007

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USA — As wildfires raged through Southern Californiaearly this week, the nation’s chief health official was prepared to tellCongress about one impact of climate change: “Forest fires are expected toincrease in frequency, severity, distribution and duration.”

But those words were never spoken. They were part of six pages of testimonydeleted by White House officials before Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of theCenters for Disease Control, spoke Tuesday to the Senate Environment and PublicWorks Committee on the health impacts of climate change.

A source in the CDC leaked to the committee the draft testimony that wasedited or deleted. Sen. Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat who chairs thecommittee, said Thursday, “It’s dangerous in the United States when theadministration stops the American people and Congress from getting the facts.”

A White House spokesman said Gerberding’s testimony was heavily edited tomake sure its findings matched the science from a U.N. climate report, andreferred reporters to the CDC. Gerberding said she was able to say what shewanted to the committee, and was not censored.

Boxer and Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., chairman of the House Science andTechnology Committee, demanded documents from the White House on the testimony,and said the episode fit a pattern of the Bush administration suppressingscientific findings on global warming.

Gerberding’s deleted testimony, first obtained by the Associated Press,contained specific findings on the health impacts of climate change, fromextreme weather to insect-borne diseases, and how different regions would beaffected.

The West Coast, she said in prepared testimony, “is expected toexperience significant strains on water supplies as regional precipitationdeclines and mountain snowpacks are depleted.” That finding was followed bythe warning on wildfires.

Boxer and other committee members ridiculed the notion that Gerberding’stestimony conflicted with the U.N. science findings. They showed parts of theInternational Panel on Climate Change report they said supported the CDCdirector’s original findings.

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