climate change

Report: Climate Denier to Lead White House Climate Panel

William Happer in Trump Tower in January 2017. Photo: The Washington Post/The Washington Post/Getty Images

The White House is reportedly forming a panel to determine if climate change is a threat to national security, a question National Intelligence director Dan Coats answered for the president just last month. In his January report, Coats described the erosion of our current environment as a threat multiplier, stating that climate change is “likely to fuel competition for resources, economic distress, and social discontent through 2019 and beyond.” Despite that very clear message from the head of the intelligence community, Trump reportedly plans to investigate the matter himself by creating the Presidential Committee on Climate Security to find out “how a changing climate could affect the security of the United States.”

Suspicions that this is just a bad-faith ploy to jam the consensus on climate change with mixed messages were quickly confirmed: Trump has pegged a climate denier, William Happer, to “spearhead” the new panel, according to the Washington Post. Happer, a professor emeritus of physics at Princeton and National Security Council senior director, said in 2016 that “more CO2 is actually a benefit to the Earth,” despite carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels being the overwhelming source of climate havoc on the planet. “We’re doing our best to try and counter this myth that CO2 is a dangerous pollutant,” Happer said, at an event sponsored by the Heritage Foundation that year. “It’s not a pollutant at all.” The year before, in a sting operation conducted by Greenpeace, Happer emailed the environmental advocacy group that “the only way to limit CO2 would be to stop using fossil fuels, which I think would be a profoundly immoral and irrational policy.” And in 2014, Happer proffered this gem on CNBC: “The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler. Carbon dioxide is actually a benefit to the world, and so were the Jews.”

According to a document obtained by the Washington Post, the 12-person panel intends to provide a “rigorous independent and adversarial scientific peer review” to academic reports that have already passed peer review. “This is the equivalent of setting up a committee on nuclear-weapons proliferation and having someone lead it who doesn’t think nuclear weapons exist,” Francesco Femia, the co-founder of the Center for Climate and Security, told the Post. “It’s honestly a blunt-force political tool designed to shut the national security community up on climate change.”

The move is in line with Trump’s larger agenda of appointing agency and panel heads to undermine the exact policies and purpose laid out by those very agencies. Trump’s original Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt oversaw an effective dismantling of laws designed to protect the environment — when he wasn’t dealing with the 13 federal investigations into his alleged ethics violations. Since Pruitt resigned in July 2018, the acting EPA head, and former coal lobbyist, Andrew Wheeler has dismantled clean air policies even more efficiently than his predecessor.

For his part, Trump has repeatedly denied the realities of climate change as president, whether by denying landmark reports by federal agencies, or by sharing his insights on Twitter:

Contrasting the president’s new panel, military and intelligence communities across the world are in lockstep agreement that climate change will have profound influences on issues of national security. Just this week, a former Dutch general founded the International Military Council on Climate and Security to help military agencies prepare for climate-induced chaos. “We are concerned because our territories regularly get hit,” a French defense official told the Independent. “We are threatened by climate change, and we have to be ready for all the factors: health risks, the vulnerability of our infrastructure. We’re still at the beginning of it.”

Report: Climate Denier to Lead White House Climate Panel