Copy Editing as Politics and As Propaganda

Erik Stostad in ScienceNOW:

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform today released documents edited by political appointees in the Bush Administration that “appear to portray a systematic White House effort to minimize the significance of climate change,” according to committee staff. Current and former appointees who made the changes appeared today before the panel and testified that they were trying to introduce scientific uncertainty in the reports.

The hearing followed one in January by the committee on whether the White House had politicized climate science (ScienceNOW, 30 January). Last year, Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), who chairs the committee, had requested that the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) turn over documents related to reports on climate science and policy. At the first hearing, Waxman complained that his staff had received only a handful of documents. Last month, CEQ agreed to release more documents and has provided eight boxes’ worth to the committee.

In today’s nearly 5-hour questioning of witnesses, Waxman and other representatives focused on changes made to drafts of three documents. Beginning in 2001, CEQ officials suggested 113 edits to the Administration’s draft Strategic Plan of the Climate Change Science Program that Waxman says played down the role of human activities in global warming. Another 181 changes either exaggerated or emphasized scientific uncertainties, such as changing “will” to “may” in the draft sentence “Warming temperatures will also affect Arctic land areas.”