By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
The New York Times
March 28, 2007
Sometimes you read something about this administration that is just so shameful it takes your breath away. For me, that was the March 20 article in this paper detailing how a House committee had just released documents showing “hundreds of instances in which a White House official who was previously an oil industry lobbyist edited government climate reports to play up uncertainty of a human role in global warming or play down evidence of such a role.”
The official, Philip A. Cooney, left government in 2005, after his shenanigans were exposed in The Times, and was immediately hired by, of course, Exxon Mobil. Before joining the White House, he was the “climate team leader” for the American Petroleum Institute, the main oil industry lobby arm.
The Times article, by Andrew Revkin and Matthew Wald, noted that Mr. Cooney said his past work opposing restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions on behalf of the oil industry had “no bearing” on his actions at the White House. “When I came to the White House,” he testified, “my sole loyalties were to the president and his administration.” (How about loyalty to scientific method?) Mr. Cooney, who has no scientific background, said he had based his editing on what he had seen in good faith as the “most authoritative and current views of the state of scientific knowledge.”
Let’s see, of all the gin joints. Of all the people the Bush team would let edit its climate reports, we have a guy who first worked for the oil lobby denying climate change, with no science background, then went back to work for Exxon. Does it get any more intellectually corrupt than that? Is there something lower that I’m missing?
I wonder how Mr. Cooney would have edited the recent draft report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, written and reviewed by 1,000 scientists convened by the World Meteorological Society and the U.N. It concluded that global warming is “unequivocal,” that human activity is the main driver, and that “changes in climate are now affecting physical and biological systems on every continent.”
I am not out to promote any party, but reading articles like the Cooney one makes me say: Thank goodness the Democrats are back running the House and Senate — because, given its track record, this administration needs to be watched at all times.
But I also say thank goodness for the way Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has built a Republican-Democratic coalition in California to blunt climate change. The governor is not only saving the Republican Party from being totally dominated by climate cranks, like Senator James Inhofe, and hacks-for-hire, like Cooney, but he also is creating a bipartisan template for dealing with climate change that will be embraced by Washington as soon as the Bush team is gone. I went out to Sacramento to interview the “Governator” a few weeks ago.
“The debate is over,” he said to me. “I mean, how many more thousands and thousands of scientists do we need to say, ‘We have done a study that there is global warming?’ ”
What is “amazing for someone that does not come from a political background like myself,” said Governor Schwarzenegger, is that “this line is being drawn” between Democrats and Republicans on climate change. “You say to yourself: ‘How can it be drawn on the environment?’ But it is. But the great thing is more and more Republicans are coming on board for this. Seeing how important this is. And more and more Democrats and Republicans are working together. … I said in my inaugural address: ‘There isn’t such a thing as Republican clean air or Democratic clean air. We all breathe the same air.’ Let’s get our act together, fix this problem and fight global warming.”
Last September, Governor Schwarzenegger signed the Global Warming Solutions Act, requiring California to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020.
“Everybody recognized that it was so important that we should not argue over philosophy — that we Republicans believe in this and we Democrats believe in this and get nothing done,” he said. “We did it carefully. … We gave it enough ramp-up time to start in the year 2012 and by the year 2020 we want to hit that level. I am a business-friendly guy. I’m all about economic growth. I am not here to harm businesses. I am here to make businesses boom, but let’s also protect our environment. Let’s make our air clean. Let’s make our water clean. And let’s fight global warming because we know now that this is a major danger, that this is not a debate anymore.”