As a reader, you expect the news stories in this newspaper to be balanced and unbiased. You also expect all relevant information to be included in a story. Otherwise, you’d be misled by a publication that has the purpose of informing you. This could have disastrous consequences, because you and other readers make decisions based on that information.

Unfortunately, our government doesn’t follow the same ethical guidelines under which newspapers operate. Its decisions about what information to release to the public can often be politically motivated. This, of course, is nothing new. History has shown that governments frequently can’t be trusted. Hindsight has shown that President George W. Bush invaded Iraq based on faulty information. And Nixon resigned from the presidency after his cover-up of the Watergate scandal was discovered. The list goes on.

But such deception isn’t stopping now that President Barack Obama is in the Oval Office. The Obama administration is starting up its own kind of information control, and — like that of other corrupt political administrations — it’s set up to help its political goals.

We’re simply not able to count on the federal government to give us the truth, even with Obama leading the nation.

In March, the Environmental Protection Agency prepared to classify carbon dioxide as a pollutant, which would allow it to create regulations on the gas’s emission without Congressional approval. Alan Carlin, a senior analyst in the EPA’s National Center for Environmental Economics who has been at the agency for 35 years, thought that maybe the agency shouldn’t give carbon dioxide such a designation. As discovered in e-mails unearthed by the Competitive Research Institute in June, Carlin and a colleague, environmental scientist John Davidson, presented a 98-page analysis arguing that the EPA should reevaluate designating carbon dioxide a pollutant because of problems with the agency’s climate models and new research showing dropping global temperatures.

But the Obama administration couldn’t have high-ranking EPA scientists saying such things when combating global warming was one of Obama’s campaign promises. So Carlin had to be silenced. He received a number of e-mails from the director of the Center, Al McGartland, including one forbidding him from “any direct communication” with anyone outside of his office regarding his analysis. And McGartland told him that he shouldn’t research climate change anymore. “I can only see one impact of your comments…” McGartland wrote Carlin, “and that would be a very negative impact on our office.”

That “negative impact” would be embarrassment for the EPA. The federal agency was finally getting its chance to label carbon dioxide a pollutant and fight global warming with Obama as president (Bush was against efforts to combat climate change), and now this economist and scientist come along to contradict its findings.

Silencing research like this is harmful. If governments only release information that supports their political ideologies, then governments are deceiving their citizens. This creates a scenario in which governments use deception to pursue their political goals, betraying the citizens they’re supposed to be serving.

It’s easy for such a deception scenario to occur. Two weeks ago, I wrote on the new federal legislation to combat climate change that is being discussed in Congress (It’s not easy going green, 06/28/2009). In it, I cited research by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. At the time, I believed their research to be completely science-based and politically neutral. Now I’m not so sure. The Obama administration has already shown that it’s willing to silence global-warming skeptics within the U.S. If other governments do the same, then this intergovernmental organization on climate change may be producing coerced and faulty research. I certainly hope this isn’t the case.

For those in power, politics simply can’t help but get in the way of honesty. The Obama administration has proved that it doesn’t escape this trend. We should be wary of that as the Obama administration moves forward and proposes countless new ways to solve the nation’s problems. Are these solutions based on honest research, or are the facts of the case based on fabricated science? As the recent attempt to silence a senior analyst in the EPA has shown, a little skepticism is necessary when reading anything released by the government.

Patrick Zabawa can be reached at pzabawa@umich.edu.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *