Trump has managed to roll back many Obama-era rules on climate change — but now he's going after the basic science itself.
Trump's taking his war on science to the next level.
An article in Sunday's New York Times draws a stark conclusion: Trump isn't just trying to undo President Obama's advances on climate change, which included curbing greenhouse gases and engaging in multinational efforts to combat warming. He wants to fundamentally "undermine the very science on which climate change policy rests."
This is a multi-pronged attack. It isn't just about pulling out of the Paris climate accords or telling people that global warming is great for trade and travel. It involves placing anti-science denialists at all levels of government to ensure that not even a tiny bit of actual science gets through.
The Times reports that the administration is ordering employees to change how they use computer-generated climate model data. Currently, government scientists use those models to project climate effects out 80 years, to the end of the century. Now, scientists can only project the impact of global warming out through 2040. Why does this matter? Because, as the New York Times points out, "the biggest effects of current emissions will be felt after 2040." The administration doesn't have science on its side, so it has to game the system by forcing scientists to work with flawed data.
Since researchers can't use robust climate data, that will severely damage the next version of the National Climate Assessment. That assessment is put together by scientists from 13 different federal agencies, and the most recent edition, issued in fall 2018, showed exactly how devastating climate change already is. So, of course, Trump just said he didn't believe it.
And there's even more to the administration's war on climate than changing methodology.
Many are already familiar, regrettably, with William Happer — a physicist and Trump's deputy assistant for emerging technologies on the National Security Council, who infamously said there is a "war on CO2" happening and that "the demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler." Happer has no background whatsoever in climate science, but he has very strong feelings about carbon dioxide.
Happer, the Times notes, also has an ally in National Security Adviser John Bolton, in large part because they both get piles of money from far-right anti-science billionaires Robert and Rebekah Mercer. Thanks to that allegiance, it looks like Happer's goal of having a climate science panel with no actual climate experts will soon be a reality. Bolton has already succeeded in removing all references to global warming from National Security Council speeches and statements.
The Times notes that Trump doesn't necessarily genuinely believe climate change isn't real. Instead, he thinks that the EPA is part of the "deep state" trying to undermine his presidency. Because of this utterly unfounded belief, he's happy to upend decades of research and progress and imperil the planet. In other words, it's not just that he wants to give the nation's ecological resources over to his cronies — it's that he feels somehow by doing so he's striking a blow against a conspiracy against him.
That's not the behavior of someone who can be influenced by reason, and this is an incredibly dangerous place for us all to be.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.