More Science Our Leaders Can Ignore

05/25/2011 11:55 am ET
  • Carl Pope Former executive director and chairman, Sierra Club

Seattle, WA -- Four years ago, President Bush came to Portland, Oregon, to announce a "Healthy Forests" initiative, whose central premise was that logging was good for forests. It did not faze him at all that common sense said otherwise. And when the Sierra Club suggested that until we had finished creating the buffer zones around America's small towns and communities that would protect people and businesses from wildfires we shouldn't waste money with giveaways of federal dollars and forests to the timber industry, Congress ignored us and passed a Healthy Forests bill that permitted almost half of the total money to be wasted. The Administration then failed to fund even the fig-leaf promises it had made to protect communities at risk from fire.

In the end, the real results of the President's announcement in Oregon were more giveaways of old growth forest in the Alaska's Tongass and a huge emphasis on the idea of post-fire "salvage" logging. (Having first allowed global warming to roast our forests and dramatically increase the risk of fire, the Administration now proposed to "restore them" by going in after the drought-induced fires and logging.)

Well, the forest-science community has now spoken out. Five hundred leading scientists sent the Senate a letter yesterday "warning about the negative impacts of logging after fires and other natural disturbances." The letter was sent to ensure closer Senate scrutiny of the Walden logging bill, passed by the House of Representatives. The bill, H.R. 4200, would fast-track logging by suspending environmental safeguards and reducing the American public's ability to give input on how its forests are managed.

But don't count on the facts forcing the Administration to reconsider its views. As the following news shows, they treat facts as something to hide, not respect.

The New York Daily News has revealed that when it became clear that the EPA had lied to the people of New York about the health risks from the pollution at Ground Zero after 9-11, the President authorized EPA Administrator Christy Whitman to classify the documents as secret. "I hereby designate the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to classify information originally as 'Secret,'" states the executive order, which was signed by President Bush on May 6, 2002.

Whitman admitted to the News that "We didn't want to scare people." Instead, the Administration chose to kill them.

There's so much news breaking on global warming, both the problems and the solutions, that I'm adding a new periodic feature to "Taking the Initiative" that looks at both.

Here's What Science Said Global Warming Would Be Like:

According to a major new study, California could be 10 degrees warmer, there could be six times as many heat-related deaths in urban areas, and there could be 100 days of extreme (greater than 100 degree F) temperatures in Los Angeles and Sacramento each year. Full report (pdf file)

And Here's What We Can Do About It:

Proposition 87, on this November's California ballot, would require the oil companies to pay a tax on the oil they extract in California, and would use the tax to reduce the state's consumption of oil by 25 percent.