“Science”, “Journalism”, “Scandal”, “Irony”…

Friday I saw this headline from CBS posted at Huffpo:  EPA May Have Surpressed Report Skeptical Of Global Warming.  Shocking, yes?  After all that talk about evidence and science and facts leading to decisions, Obama might have let us down.  I cried a little inside in case it was true- after 8 years of not being able to believe a word coming from the administration, trust doesn’t come easily- but skipped reading the article until later, as I had actual work to do.

Got around to it yesterday and it does indeed sound bad.  CBS makes it sound very, very bad.

Back story:  in March, the EPA  issued a report instructing the government to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, since they endanger the US.  Historic, etc., helped lead to the initial passage of Waxman-Markey last week.  Here is the EPA page detailing that recommendation, providing supporting documents and such.  From here on, I’ll call that the ‘endangerment finding’.

Last week, a conservative think tank, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, provided CBS with internal EPA emails that are the basis of this uproar.  An EPA employee, Alan Carlin- an economist, not a scientist- wrote a report critical of the scientific basis of the endangerment finding- which relied on the 2007 IPCC report on climate change- as being outdated.  He also contended that the cost of mitigating the impact of climate change would be less than the cost of regulating greenhouse gases.  The CEI’s emails from his supervisor seem to indicate that the report was not taken into account for the final EPA report on climate change sent to the White House a couple months ago.  The EPA says they did send his report around for peer review, however, and dealt with some of his objections in the final document.

The CBS article speculates that the EPA put out its report too quickly to be fully researched (you will find the same charge on the CEI website linked above), dwells on the irony of the new administration suppressing science (while hedging that it only ‘might’ have suppressed science, but wouldn’t it be ironic if they did!), and quotes several Republican congresspersons and a representative of CEI as decrying the EPA for ignoring the report.  Which again, the EPA says it didn’t.  CBS did not check the contents of the employee’s “suppressed” report against the published EPA report, to see if his concerns were indeed mentioned, as the EPA claimed.  CBS also did not double check to see if his “suppressed” report made any sense.

Shocking!  What depths will the EPA sink to next?  Bush and Co. suppressed real science, and now Obama’s suppressing…um, fake science.  Turns out that Carlin’s report was largely cut/pasted from a few anti-climate-science blogs and lobbyist groups, with pronouns changed.  Deepclimate has an article here and here detailing Carlin’s sources, and the good folks at RealClimate go more in depth here on the origins and veracity of the report  (if you just read one, read that one).  It’s ok for CBS to have missed that whole thing, since they don’t have access to the internet or basic accepted climate science or anything.  Bah.

And the charge the the EPA ignored Carlin’s report altogether?  Well, let’s head to the Federal Register the endangerment finding was reported in- Vol 74, no 78, from April 24th, 2009.  Middle column of page 18894 (or page 10 of this 26 page pdf excerpting that Federal Register that the EPA website above happily and transparently links you to) reads:

This addresses a number of concerns raised by commenters about the July 2008 version of the TSD, arguing that it relied too heavily on the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (published 2007), which some argued was either not current enough or not specific enough to U.S. conditions. We note that the IPCC North American chapter (of the Working Group II volume) on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability covers the U.S. and Canada (not Mexico) and that the general findings in that chapter (drawn from many individual studies for the U.S.) are indeed applicable to U.S. conditions. Even with more recent information available, the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report remains a standard reference, essentially serving as the benchmark against which new findings over the next few years will be compared. Therefore it also serves as a robust and valuable reference for purposes of this proposal. The TSD has also been edited or updated in a number of places to reflect specific comments received on the July 2008 version, and to reflect comments from an additional round of review by the federal scientists following the incorporation of the more recent scientific findings.

Sounds like they considered concerns that the 2007 IPCC report was not current enough to me.   And Carlin’s accusation that they hadn’t taken into account his cost analysis of mitigation vs. regulation?  From the same page 10 of that pdf, third column:

The Administrator also believes it is inappropriate, in considering whether greenhouse gases endanger public health or welfare, to consider potential private behavior aimed at alleviating some of the effects of climate change. Just as the Administrator would not consider, for example, the availability of asthma medication in determining whether criteria air pollutants endanger public health, so the Administrator will not consider private behavior in the endangerment determination at hand. On the contrary, ameliorative steps of that kind would attest to the fact of endangerment.

Brava- and oh snap, Administrator Jackson.

Ok, so Carlin’s report is lifted from lobbyists and science-challenged blogs, and doesn’t really address the EPA report question of whether greenhouse gases are a danger to human health in the US in the first place, and the EPA acknowledges his two main concerns in their report anyway.  Hasn’t stopped him or the CEI from making this a big deal, but now we know.

CBS: WHY would you report this story this way?  With your “well the EPA saiiiid, buuuuuuuut… all these other people said so who knows!?” It took me less than 10 minutes to find that EPA report, read the contents list, and double-check Carlin’s assertions.  AND I was drinking a beer doing it.  You people are supposed to be the reporters.  Report, don’t regurgitate.  Sheesh.  Makin’ me look stuff up when I could be watchin’ Star Trek.  Nuts to you guys.

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