Trump Administration doubles down on climate science denial and dismissing U.S. intelligence agencies

It is a time honored practice of government that when it wants to kick the can down the road until after public interest has waned in order not to do anything, form a committee to study an issue.

Hence President Donald Trump, a long-time climate change denier, Every Insane Thing Donald Trump Has Said About Global Warming, will announce the formation of a White House Climate Panel To Be Chaired By A Climate Denialist (NY Times):

President Trump is preparing to establish a panel to examine whether climate change affects national security, despite existing reports from his own government showing that global warming is a growing threat. (See, Trump on climate change report: ‘I don’t believe it’.)

According to a White House memo dated Feb. 14, Mr. Trump’s staff members have drafted an executive order to create a 12-member committee, which will include a White House adviser, William Happer, whose views are sharply at odds with the established scientific consensus that carbon dioxide pollution is dangerous for the planet (Happer has written that carbon dioxide is beneficial to humanity).

Oh, Happer gets way worse. Trump’s pick to chair new climate panel once said CO2 has been maligned like “Jews under Hitler”:

[The White House will] establish a Presidential Committee on Climate Security to be chaired by a notorious climate change denier.

That man, NSC senior director William Happer, argued on CNBC in 2014 that “the demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler.”

Happer’s views have gotten no less extreme since then. When he was under consideration for the role of Trump’s science adviser in early 2017, Happer sent an email to a Jezebel reader asserting that the “demonization of CO2” “really differs little from the Nazi persecution of the Jews, the Soviet extermination of class enemies or ISIL slaughter of infidels.”

Media Matters has previously detailed how Happer, a retired Princeton professor who is not trained as a climate scientist, has tried — unsuccessfully — to conceal the fact that oil interests have directly funded his “research.” And as a recent paper in Nature Climate Change noted, the fossil fuel industry has long been involved in campaigns in US politics “aiming to refute, confuse and obstruct acceptance of the reality of climate change,” using scientists just like Happer to spread misinformation.

“Given Happer’s views, there’s little doubt that he’ll indulge Trump if he wants to use the panel to deny the well-established science of climate change. In doing so, the consequences are grave: He’d further imperil the United States and future generations everywhere.”

Let’s be clear: NASA says there is a Scientific consensus: Earth’s climate is warming: “Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.”

Scientists, of dubious professional qualifications, and the think tanks they work for that comprise the three percent of climate science deniers are funded by the fossil fuel industry, including ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, and Peabody Energy, for example. The Union of Concerned scientists says to Hold Corporations Accountable for Climate Deception.

Back to the Times report:

The memo casts doubt on multiple scientific and defense reports concluding that climate change poses a significant threat to national security, saying they “have not undergone a rigorous independent and adversarial peer review to examine the certainties and uncertainties of climate science, as well as implications for national security.”

The effort to establish the panel appears to be the latest step by the Trump administration to question the science of climate change, as Mr. Trump rolls back Obama-era regulations on planet-warming pollution from vehicle tailpipes and power plants. It also appears to be the latest example of Mr. Trump’s propensity to ignore the findings and recommendations of his own intelligence and defense officials.

At least to some extent, the matter may not entirely be in Mr. Trump’s control. Congress added language to the annual defense policy bill it passed with bipartisan support in late 2017 stating that climate change “is a direct threat to the national security of the United States and is impacting stability in areas of the world both where the United States Armed Forces are operating today, and where strategic implications for future conflict exist.”

The bill, which Mr. Trump signed into law, specifically required the Pentagon to produce a report on climate change’s impact on military installations and encouraged department leaders to consider the effects of climate change when planning for current and future missions. The report was issued last month.

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A spokesman for the National Security Council, which is leading the effort to create the panel, declined to comment on the record.

Scientists defended the research already conducted by the government. “The link between climate science and national security has been closely studied for over a decade at the highest levels of the U.S. government — by scientists, the Defense Department and intelligence agencies — and all those studies have made a strong case that various aspects of climate change have an effect on national security,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton.

Representative Adam Smith, Democrat of Washington and the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, called the creation of the panel part of Mr. Trump’s “rejection of reality” and warned that it could disrupt important national security planning around the world.

“At every turn here they have tried to basically bury the science behind climate change,” Mr. Smith said. “It is simply not debatable from a scientific standpoint. Climate change will lead to instability in parts of the world that are fairly predictable.”

Critics focused on the appointment of Dr. Happer to the panel given his public history of denying established climate science.

* * *

In casting doubt on the established science of climate change and the multiple studies linking climate change and national security, the White House memo highlights several reports, including the 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment, issued last month by the director of national intelligence, which asserted that climate change and other environmental degradation were “likely to fuel competition for resources, economic distress and social discontent through 2019 and beyond.”

* * *

The White House memo also casts doubt on the underlying science of the National Climate Assessment, issued as two reports in 2017 and 2018, which was the largest and most comprehensive scientific review of the impact of climate change to date in the United States.

* * *

The peer-reviewed reports, researched over several years, were published by more than 13 federal agencies alongside dozens of academic researchers. Dr. Oppenheimer scoffed at the White House’s contention that the reports had not gone undergone rigorous peer review.

“They underwent a total scrub-down by peer review,” he said.

In addition to those reports, the Pentagon has commissioned and funded scientific research on the impact of climate change and sea-level rise, in order to plan for the effects on low-lying military installations.

One of those reports, published last February, titled “The Impact of Sea-Level Rise and Climate Change on Department of Defense Installations on Atolls in the Pacific Ocean,” detailed numerous effects that rising seas have on military bases.

* * *

That Pentagon-funded research came after more than a decade of major military and scientific studies, dating back to the George W. Bush administration, that linked climate change to national security threats.

A 2014 Pentagon report asserted decisively that climate change posed an immediate threat to national security, multiplying risks from terrorism, infectious disease, global poverty and food shortages. It also predicted rising demand for military disaster responses as extreme weather created more global humanitarian crises.

That same year, the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review, the agency’s main public document describing the current doctrine of the United States military, drew a direct link between the effects of global warming — like rising sea levels and extreme weather patterns — and terrorism.

Donald Trump rejects all this peer reviewed science and uses the opportunity to once again dismiss U.S. intelligence agencies, and even the Department of Defense. His pal Vladimir Putin is certainly getting his money’s worth. Donald Trump is the greatest threat to America’s national security.


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