The Corpus Callosum

More on Gerberding, Testimony Part II

Today I watched the C-Span broadcast (link
to Real Player file
80 minutes) of Dr. Gerberding’s testimony to the Senate Committee on
Environment and Public Works.  The topic: The potential
effects of
climate change on public health.

After seeing it, I have to agree that she was able to make many good
points, and the Senate is more informed as a result.  That
does not excuse the White House censorship of her written report;
rather, it simply means that their anemic efforts at censorship were
relatively ineffective. [BTW the original, pre-censorship, report can
be seen here
(88 KB PDF file.)]

What is important to note is that there was some give-and-take
discussion, in which some opposition was voiced.

It is interesting to see how people try to argue that the
of climate change on public health are not worth the costs that would
be required for mitigation.

Senator disputed Senator ‘s
assertion that spending one dollar to mitigate green house gasses can
result in five dollars of economic benefit (Nicholas Stern, citation
not given).  He cited a study that indicated that one dollar
would result in 25 to 50 cents in savings.  

expressed the belief that the best way to fight disease is to have a
strong economy.  The implication is that environmental
could weaken the economy, thereby lessening our ability to fight

This position also was advocated by one of the witnesses, Donald R.
Roberts, Ph.D.  Dr. Roberts is a Professor in the Division of
Tropical Public Health
Department, at the Preventive Medicine and Biometrics
Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.  He is
also a pro-DDT

Dr. Roberts pointed out that, along the Texas-Mexico border, residents
of Mexico have a risk of , while those in Mexico do not.  The
difference, he says, is that the people in Texas have air conditioners.

Boxer, who is not a professor of anything, pointed out that while air
conditioners may make a difference with Dengue, they have not stopped West
Nile virus

There are other points that could be made to refute Inhofe, Barrasso,
and Roberts.  Specifically, having a strong economy is only
helpful if wealth is distributed equitably.  it is not (and
disparity is deliberate,
incidentally).  Second, air conditioners are useful only if
is enough electricity to run them.  That is by no means
guaranteed.  Third, they would have to talk about more that
disease, in one location, to make any kind of effective argument
against a global problem with myriad sequelae.  

Furthermore, even vast wealth can do little in the face of poor air and
water quality — two likely consequences of climate change, as
mentioned in the testimony.  Sure, if the water quality is
you can get an elaborate filtration system, if you have the money.
 But water shortages are another problem, and filters do not
produce water from nothing.  

Another point the Barrasso, and others made, is easily dismissed.
 They stated that cold can be just as dangerous as heat, if
more so.  While that is true in an abstract sense, it is
hardly a
reason to be complacent about climate change.  Furthermore, it
illustrates a fundamental lack of understanding of the problem.

Climate change is more than global warming.  Seeing it in that
is an unfortunate consequence of being hobbled by one-dimensional
thinking (hot vs. cold).  If the temperature would merely
up or down, with all other parameters remaining the same, we could deal
with that.  But dealing with increased climate variability is
a much
more difficult problem
 Gerberding and Boxer pointed this out.
people who have one-dimensional thought processes don’t grasp this

Meanwhile, Boxer has been publicizing the White House edits, and is
conducting a battle via press release (1,2,3)
to find out what was taken out, by whom, and why.  

While I always am glad to see congress members push back against the
Republican War on Science, I do find it unfortunate that the censorship
has gotten to be a bigger deal in the news than the underlying issues.


  1. #1 Anne
    October 28, 2007

    You are the second psychiatrist I have come across this week that is interested in climate change issues. My personal belief is, the more the better! We need you! The human dimension, as you point out, is troublesome. While I agree that the more important issue here is educating the public and policymakers on the real risks associated with climate change, and on bringing scientists out of their ivory towers and into real give-and-take discussion of risks, solutions (mitigation and adaptation) and costs/benefits, I also have to support Senator Boxer’s aggressive stance against censorship. It is now well established fact that the fossil industries essentially paid scientists and others to engage in discourse that was intended to confound, confuse, and otherwise distort the basic scientific underpinnings of climate change, and thereby infuse paralysis on our collective willingness to embrace a low-carbon economy. The “global warming denial machine” waged by the oil companies stems from the kind of moral corruption so typical of the corporate-based profit-comes-above-all attitude that leaves us with a rapidly disintegrating planet, unsustainable for future generations. Inhofe, Cheney, Connaughton, Cooney, Ebell, Singer, and the lot of them should be marginalized and seen for what they are: elitist whores for the fossil industries. Personally, I would like to see them and their ilk deported (I am opposed to corporal punishment.) As for Gerberding, well, she is bending over backwards to cover for what she perfectly well knows was politically driven censorship. For that, she belongs on the boat with them. Shame on her. Her speech in Atlanta the following day is filled with the type of arrogant hypocrisy that is killing our once great nation. Earlier this year, she went around OMB’s back to get the budget she wanted, now she is saying they edit testimony all the time and have a legitimate right to do so. This type of dishonesty in government has got to go, and I personally will be standing behind Boxer with ounce of personal energy I have to take these corrupt thugs down, once and for all. These war criminals need to be stopped. Enough is enough.

    — a frustrated scientist / policy analyst / Earth advocate in washington dc

  2. #2 Greg P
    October 28, 2007

    I think we are entering a time when global warming will become something that one cannot escape as a marketing tool, a political lever, an apple-pie-and-Mom sort of thing, that countless dollars will be spent on talking about how important it is, yet in the end little will be done about it.

    The problem is so huge I don’t think that most can fathom it. Even if we did some extremely effective, dramatic thing today, things will continue to get worse for some time. It’s not something we can do for a number of years and see results in our lifetime.

  3. #3 Greg P
    October 28, 2007

    BTW, speaking of dangerous things, there was some strange link I seemed to get from the top of the page. I don’t know if it was a popup or some mistaken link. It went to some site talking about malware, pretended to do a scan of my computer (ludicrous, since it was showing all sorts of .dll files, and here I am running Linux), then as I tried to get rid of it, it wanted to download some sort of .exe file.

    Perhaps Science Blogs has some problems with intruders.

  4. #4 Doc
    October 29, 2007

    The Center for American Progress’ new science policy venture Science Progress has an interesting piece on the Gerberding testimony including reference to Gerberding’s reaction.

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