The US political divide on climate change couldn’t be starker: Democrats argue over differences on a Green New Deal that would remake the US energy mix and quickly reduce the carbon dioxide emissions that are heating the planet; the Trump administration denies that human-caused climate change exists and tries to ridicule those silly ducks who believe the overwhelming global scientific consensus on the crisis. That divide has, however, taken on a new and ominous dimension with the Trump administration’s decision to attack the methods by which government climate science is produced.
In a ground-breaking piece, the New York Times reports that the federal government will no longer engage in “what scientists say is one of the most urgent jobs of climate science studies: reporting on the future effects of a rapidly warming planet and presenting a picture of what the earth could look like by the end of the century if the global economy continues to emit heat-trapping carbon dioxide pollution from burning fossil fuels.”
This effort to defang official US climate reporting appears aimed at making sure the government does not reproduce anything like the recent National Climate Assessment, which projected drastic results—”higher sea levels, more devastating storms and droughts, crop failures, food losses and severe health consequences”—unless quick action to counteract climate change is taken. If followed through, the administration’s anti-science effort would limit the time frame allowed in government climate projections, so that, in the case of the US Geological Survey, those projections could not extend beyond 2040, even though the most severe effects of climate change are expected to occur in the decades beyond that arbitrary deadline.
In addition to hamstringing climate assessment methodology to make climate change seem a less serious problem than it is, the Trump administration is trying to create a climate review panel that would examine government regulations from, it seems clear, a climate change-denialist vantage. The effort to create the panel is led by 79-year-old physicist William Happer, a deputy assistant on the National Security Council “who had a respected career at Princeton but has become better known in recent years for attacking the science of man-made climate change and for defending the virtues of carbon dioxide—sometimes to an awkward degree,” the Times says, perhaps understating by use of the word “awkward.”
Among other things, Happer has said, “The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler.”
I have searched my mind to find a proper description of the administration’s most recent, genuinely Orwellian efforts to distort rational truth-seeking on climate change and cannot come up with anything better than the quote given to the Times by Philip B. Duffy, the president of the Woods Hole Research Center, who served on a National Academy of Sciences panel that reviewed the government’s most recent National Climate Assessment: “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.”