The White House made deep cuts in written testimony given to a Senate committee this week by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on health risks posed by global warming, but the director agreed yesterday with administration officials who said the cuts were part of a normal review process and not aimed at minimizing the issue.
Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, the agency’s director, said in a telephone interview that news reports and comments about the changes had made “a mountain out of a molehill.”
“I said everything I needed to say,” she said.
Dr. Gerberding, who addressed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Tuesday, said she had freely spoken for more than a year about the implications for public health should warming from the buildup of greenhouse gases proceed as scientists project. Still, cuts made to her written testimony included the only statements casting the health risks from climate change as a problem, describing it variously as posing “difficult challenges” and as “a serious public health concern.”
The testimony that remained said, “Climate change is anticipated to have a broad range of impacts on the health of Americans and the nation’s public health infrastructure.” But a line saying “the public health effects of climate change remain largely unaddressed” was gone, and the testimony focused on the ways health agencies were already prepared to tackle any problems.
The changes were first reported Tuesday by The Associated Press, and the draft testimony, whose authenticity was not challenged by Bush administration, was disseminated to reporters and posted online yesterday by several private groups, including Climate Science Watch.
This shift in tone prompted criticisms of the administration by some Democratic lawmakers, including Senator Barbara Boxer of California, the committee’s chairwoman.
The cuts, done by the Office of Management and Budget last week, halved the 12-page draft testimony Dr. Gerberding submitted before her testimony.
Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the committee, sided with the administration, said Matthew Dempsey, a spokesman. “All administrations edit testimony through the O.M.B. process,” Mr. Dempsey said.
Dana Perino, the White House press secretary, told reporters in a daily briefing yesterday that other agencies questioned whether the testimony adequately reflected the findings on health and climate of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body that issued voluminous reviews of climate science this year.
“It was not watered down in terms of its science,” Ms. Perino said. “It wasn’t watered down in terms of the concerns that climate change raises for public health.”
Dr. Michael McCally, executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility, who testified at the same hearing, called the cuts in the written testimony “a misuse of science and abuse of the legislative process.”