Environmental and public health experts overwhelmingly denounced editing by the White House of a federal health agency head's testimony to Congress Tuesday. Significant deletions were made from the testimony, concerning global warming and the potential impact on human health.
The original, unedited testimony presented to Congress by Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and obtained by ABC News was 14 pages long, but the White House Office of Management and Budget edited the final version down to a mere six pages.
Scientists and public health organizations called the move "frustrating," "terrible" and "appalling." The edits essentially deleted all sections that referred to climate change as a public health concern -- including the risks of increased food-borne and waterborne diseases, worsening extreme weather events, worsening air pollution and the effect of heat stress on humans.
"Dr. Gerberding is the lead of the premiere public health agency in the U.S.," said Kim Knowlton, a science fellow on global warming and health at the National Resources Defense Council in New York. "It's shocking that she was not allowed to say in a public discussion some of these vital details.
"One has to wonder why was this is so threatening to the White House."
In response to the controversy that followed, White House press secretary Dana Perino stated that the White House Office of Management and Budget redacted the majority of the information on the basis that the science in the testimony did not match the science reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
However, a review of the latest report on climate change issued by the IPCC -- the organization that shared the Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore two weeks ago for efforts to educate the public about climate change -- shows that it contains an entire chapter about the human health impacts.
The IPCC report describes in detail how climate change would lead to effects such as heat waves, cold spells, extreme weather events and weather disasters, air pollution, increased infectious diseases, and increased waterborne and vector-borne infectious diseases.
These same effects, listed point-by-point in Gerberding's original CDC testimony, were among the casualties in the edited version.
"The science that Dr. Gerberding was trying to bring forward was based on the IPCC report," Knowlton said. "It's quite stunning that only weeks after that group received the Nobel prize for their work that the White House is deleting scientific statements based on that work. What was cut was the section with the details -- the most detailed sections on the health impact of global warming, including descriptions of the links that are coming out of the IPCC report."
There was overwhelming agreement in the scientific community that the information was in no way alarmist or controversial.
"This is really standard information available to anyone on the issue," said Dale Jamieson, director of environmental studies at New York University. "What was removed was an uncontroversial report of what is currently known and believed about the fact of climate change, its health effects and its likely impacts on the United States."