Resisting Trump’s climate denial can work

Resisting Trump’s climate denial can work
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As the Trump administration brings a “drill baby drill” message to the United Nations climate talks in Germany, our nation’s leading scientists have confirmed what most of us already knew. 

The federal Climate Science Special Report says categorically that catastrophic climate change is on the horizon and humans are responsible. The report shows the horrific consequences that will flow from continued climate denial from the Trump administration.


Though the report’s findings are grim, its release shows that spotlighting the Trump administration’s suppression tactics can work.


In August, brave scientists spoke out, warning that Trump officials might try to alter or suppress the report, which needed “final clearance” by the EPA and other agencies. Igniting further suspicion, Trump disbanded the national advisory committee that guides the public and private sectors on implementing the report’s findings.

These events led to public outcry and threats of lawsuits from my organization and many others. Our fears were well founded, as Trump officials have racked up a chilling record climate censorship. 

Leaked emails show the Energy Department instructed staff not to use the phrase “climate change.” The EPA scrubbed mentions of “climate change” from its website. More recently, the EPA barred its scientists from presenting scientific reports on the subject.

The report comprises the first part of the National Climate Assessment. The Global Research Change Act of 1990 requires the administration to release an assessment every four years, but interference would not be unprecedented.

In 2006 my organization successfully sued President George W. Bush after his administration repeatedly stalled the release of the National Climate Assessment due in 2004. The Bush administration, under court supervision, eventually released the assessment in 2008. 

Facing Trump’s team of climate deniers, we made it clear our willingness to go back to court to defend this crucial assessment. Under intense public and legal pressure, the administration released the report last week without obvious signs of censorship.

We may have won this battle, but the war rages on. The White House quickly put out a statement after the report was released, attempting to minimize its findings and exaggerate its uncertainty. 

The science is crystal clear that curbing climate change will require phasing out fossil fuels. Yet the administration is hosting a panel at the UN climate talks next week to double-down on its inane and dangerous fossil-fuel-first agenda.

The Trump team’s panel, mainly composed of fossil fuel industry executives, will promote mythical “clean coal” along with natural gas and nuclear power as tools of climate mitigation.

It’s incredibly harmful and embarrassing that the U.S. will defy the consensus of its own scientists to tout dirty fossil fuels on a global stage. Going into the conference, the U.S. already faced harsh criticism for Trump’s decision to abandon the Paris climate accord. The administration will further degrade our nation’s position in the worldwide fight against climate change.

The report’s alarming findings would catapult a normal administration into immediate action to keep fossil fuels in the ground, ban fracking and fully utilize the Clean Air Act to cut planet-warming pollution.

But this president isn’t normal, and neither is his EPA chief Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: House stimulus aims to stem airline pollution | Environmental measures become sticking point in Senate talks | Progressives propose T 'green stimulus' Court sides with scientists on EPA policy barring grantees from serving on agency boards Overnight Energy: Senate energy bill stalled amid amendment fight | Coronavirus, oil prices drive market meltdown | Green groups say Dem climate plan doesn't go far enough MORE, who has even denied that carbon dioxide is the primary driver of climate change. They are dismantling environmental policies much more aggressively and recklessly than any previous administration.

The administration wants to maintain the illusion that its environmental rollbacks are motivated by populist sentiment. But survey after survey shows that only a small minority of Americans deny climate change. Rejecting scientific guidance only benefits the industries fueling the climate crisis.

That means that scientists, advocates and the American people alike must keep speaking out, demanding transparency, and pressuring the administration to put climate science into action.

With every environmental rollback and rejection of science we fall farther behind in combatting climate change. We cannot allow this administration to keep putting fossil fuel industry profits above the health and safety of our people and wildlife. 

We must demand that Trump reverse course, acknowledge the science and stand with the vast majority of Americans who accept the reality of climate change. As the devastation from climate-fueled storms in Puerto Rico, Florida and Texas showed us, it’s a matter of life and death.

Attorney Kassie Siegel is director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute.