Withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement was only the beginning. According to a new report from the New York Times, the Trump administration is poised to enter a dangerous, politically motivated new front of its war on climate science. “It reminds me of the Soviet Union,” Philip Duffey, an expert who served on the National Academy of Sciences, told the paper.
In the coming months, the White House is expected to officially vanquish what’s left of Obama-era regulations to curb emissions from tailpipes and power plants. Though the scientific community agrees that to pumping carbon dioxide into the environment will be catastrophic for future generations, the administration isn’t very concerned with the state of the planet beyond the president’s potential lifespan. According to the Times, U.S. Geological Survey Director James Reilly — a former petroleum geologist appointed by Trump — has ordered his office to only study the effects of climate change up to 2040. Doing so would paint a relatively rosy picture of the effects of climate change, as the rate of warming isn’t expected to increase precipitously until the middle of the century.
Such ignorance of the future will be one of the tentpoles of the administration’s combative approach to the environment. Not only will the USGS turn a blind eye to life after 2040, “worst-case scenario” projections may not be included in federal reports on climate science, including the National Climate Assessment, which several government agencies collaborate to produce around every four years.
The the most recent National Climate Assessment was released last fall. It didn’t quite jibe with the Trump administration’s refusal to acknowledge climate science. “Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities,” researchers wrote in a report that spanned 1,600 pages. They added that the impacts of climate change are “projected to intensify in the future” and that the “severity of future impacts will depend largely on actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the changes that will occur.”
“I don’t know that it’s manmade.” Trump said of climate change in an interview with 60 Minutes a month before the report was released. “I think something’s happening. Something’s changing and it’ll change back again.” Two days before the report was released, Trump sarcastically tweeted, “Whatever happened to Global Warming?” in response to cold temperatures throughout the United States.
“I don’t believe it,” he said after the release of his administration’s own climate assessment.
The White House tried to stifle the impact of the report by making it public the day after Thanksgiving and putting out statements emphasizing that the the report focused on “extreme” scenarios. The administration looks to be putting together a more robust plan to combat climate science going forward. A scientific review panel could soon be created with the intention of disputing the findings of climate scientists and discrediting the idea that climate change is a national security threat.
The panel would be led by William Happer, a former Princeton professor who was named to the National Security Council last September. Happer, 79, does not believe humans are responsible for climate change. In fact, he once likened CO2, the greenhouse gas most responsible for warming temperatures, to the Jewish people during the Holocaust. “The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler,” he said in 2009 and has since reiterated.
Absolutely insane: “The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler,” said William Happer.
Happer is a member of Trump's National Security Council, advising on climate change and emerging technologies. pic.twitter.com/CBHjcyDjmt
— Justice Democrats (@justicedems) May 28, 2019
The potential creation of a Happer-led panel was first reported in February. According to the Times, several White House officials — including Larry Kudlow, the economic adviser Trump recently forced to stand up and say publicly that the president was calm during a meeting with Democratic leaders — have objected to the idea. But at a meeting earlier this month, Trump seemed to side with Happer, whose proposal to create a federal panel of climate deniers is also supported by National Security Adviser John Bolton. As the Times points out, groups affiliated with both Happer and Bolton have received money from the ultra-wealthy Mercer family, one of the principal causes of which is to deny climate science. The Mercer family also support Trump.
Experts interviewed by the Times found creative ways to explain the danger of the administration’s approach to climate change, particularly its willful ignorance of “extreme” scenarios and how temperatures will warm after 2040. Katharine Hayhoe, the director Texas Tech University’s Climate Science Center and one of the authors of the National Climate Assessment, likened the assessment to a medical diagnosis, noting that warnings to prepare for the worst-case scenarios are similar to a doctor telling a patient they need to start eating better or else they could need quadruple bypass surgery. Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences at Princeton, said ignoring the future effects of man-made warming “would be like designing cars without seatbelts or airbags.”
Meanwhile, the Trump administration is praising — not warning against — the effect of climate change. In a speech to the Arctic Council earlier this month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo proudly explained that melting glaciers are “opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade.”
"Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade. Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals" -Mike Pompeo on how the Arctic's collapse is a business opportunity actually pic.twitter.com/TpBAxclQ0L
— Brian L Kahn (@blkahn) May 7, 2019
The same day of Pompeo’s speech, the United Nations released a bombshell report which found that up to one million plant and animals species are facing imminent extinction due to climate change and other man-made factors. “Human actions threaten more species with global extinction now than ever before,” the report read.
Last October, the same UN panel released a report explaining that governments around the world must make “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” in order to avoid a worldwide, climate-induced disaster. Trump was dismissive. “It was given to me. And I want to look at who drew it,” he said. “You know, which group drew it. I can give you reports that are fabulous and I can give you reports that aren’t so good.”
Trump seems to view Happer as someone who can provide something “fabulous” regarding warming temperatures. If and when he does, let’s hope he can at least tone down the Holocaust metaphors.