The federal government is preparing to cast aside its long-term projections of climate change in what’s being called “a new assault” on science by the Trump administration.
A new report from The New York Times details the administration’s latest attack, following a report last week that detailed how the Environmental Protection Agency is set to change modeling on air pollution to lower premature death estimates.
This time, the effects of climate change — and public knowledge of those effects — are squarely in the crosshairs. From the Times:
In the most recent example, the White House-appointed director of the United States Geological Survey, James Reilly, a former astronaut and petroleum geologist, has ordered that scientific assessments produced by that office use only computer-generated climate models that project the impact of climate change through 2040, rather than through the end of the century, as had been done previously.
The administration is targeting the National Climate Assessment, which is produced every four years since 2000. The assessment contains a projection which determines what may happen to the earth’s atmosphere, sea levels, etc., if fossil fuel emissions continue at “business as usual” levels.
The next report is due in 2021 or 2022, but officials said that from now on, worst-case scenarios won’t “automatically” be included in that assessment or other government reports. Physicist and climate change expert Philip B. Duffy told the Times,
“What we have here is a pretty blatant attempt to politicize the science — to push the science in a direction that’s consistent with their politics. It reminds me of the Soviet Union.”
It seems that not all agencies will be going along with the plan, however. A spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the agency wasn’t considering any changes in limiting its climate models.
The Times report also examines who may be influencing Trump’s own views on climate change, as the president is described as “less an ideologue than an armchair naysayer about climate change.”
While Trump may see agencies such as the EPA as “the deep state,” and has “contempt for their past work,” efforts to form the new climate review panel are being led by William Happer, a former Princeton physicist who has become a prominent climate change denier.
As Happer once infamously said, “The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler.” His proposed panel is backed by National Security Adviser John Bolton, and the Times report offers this notable nugget:
Mr. Happer and Mr. Bolton are both beneficiaries of Robert and Rebekah Mercer, the far-right billionaire and his daughter who have funded efforts to debunk climate science. The Mercers gave money to a super PAC affiliated with Mr. Bolton before he entered government and to an advocacy group headed by Mr. Happer.
It’s reported that some current and former White House officials are pressing the president not to adopt Happer’s proposal, fearing public blowback. But at this point, Trump is expected to push forward with the new panel and its suggestions.
Climate scientists around the world have “long given up” on the current White House. Johan Rockström, the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, told the Times:
“It is very unfortunate and potentially even quite damaging that the Trump administration behaves this way. There is this arrogance and disrespect for scientific advancement — this very demoralizing lack of respect for your own experts and agencies.”
Happer’s comment comparing carbon dioxide to the Holocaust has already gotten a lot of attention, though the quote actually comes from a TV interview with CNBC in 2014, which was actually prompted by another comment he made five years prior to that. Here’s a clip of the segment, if you actually want to subject yourself to it:
The full Times report is worth your time, as it offers a well-considered summary of the current administration’s relationship with climate science, and has a number of other choice quotes from scientists and former officials. Be sure to read our recent climate coverage as well.
The EPA is also set to unveil its formal fuel economy standard rollback in the coming months. There’s an ever-so-slight chance some of these proposals could change, or more likely, be delayed further. But with the current administration, assume the worst.
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