White House Slashed CDC Warming Report

A reveler from the Order of Incas tosses beads to the crowds gathered along Royal Street in downtown Mobile, Ala., Friday, Feb. 9, 2007. The pre-Lenten blowout continues along the Gulf Coast, culminating in Mardi Gras celebrations Feb 20. AP/Press-Register, G.M. Andrews

The White House significantly edited testimony prepared for a Senate hearing on the impact of climate change on health, deleting key portions citing diseases that could flourish in a warmer climate, documents obtained by The Associated Press showed Wednesday.

The White House on Wednesday denied that it had "watered down" the congressional testimony that Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had given the day before to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

But a draft of the testimony submitted for White House review shows that six pages of details about specific disease and other health problems that might flourish if the Earth warms were not delivered at the hearing.

The draft noted that "scientific evidence supports the view that the earth's climate is changing" and that many groups are working to address climate change. "Despite this extensive activity, the public health effects of climate change remain largely unaddressed. CDC considers climate change a serious public health concern," the draft declares.

That paragraph was not in Gerberding's text as approved by the White House.

The draft document was obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press from a source other than the CDC, the Atlanta-based agency considered the government's premier disease tracking and monitoring agency.

Two sources familiar with the documents told the AP on Tuesday, after the Senate hearing, that the White House Office of Management and Budget edited the CDC director's congressional testimony, removing specific scientific references to potential health risks.

Gerberding told a Senate hearing on Tuesday that climate change "is anticipated to have a broad range of impacts on the health of Americans."

But her prepared testimony was devoted almost entirely to the CDC's preparation, with few details on what effects climate change could have on the spread of disease. The prepared remarks covered six pages. The draft submitted for OMB was twice as long.

Referring to the draft, one CDC official familiar with both versions, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the review process, said that "it was eviscerated."

White House press secretary Dana Perino said the prepared testimony went through an interagency review process and the Office of Science and Technology Policy did not believe that the science in the testimony matched the science that was in a report by the International Panel on Climate Change.

"She testified yesterday. Her spokesperson said that she was able to say everything she wanted to say," Perino said. "It was not watered down in terms of its science. It wasn't watered down in terms of the concerns that climate change raises for public health."
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