The joke is on us with climate policy
There is a joke in Washington. How much is two plus two? It is whatever members of Congress want it to be. Facts simply do not matter. Math is interpretative. Science is spun. Well the joke is on us, particularly as it pertains to the Trump administration approach to climate disruption.
After pulling us out of the Paris climate accord, rolling back bipartisan environmental commitments dating back to the Nixon administration, and even prohibiting the words “climate change” from being written into an international agreement on melting arctic ice caps, it is clear the Trump administration has opened up a new front with climate policy. The White House is seeking to create an advisory panel to dispute long accepted scientific consensus on the many risks of continued climate disruption.
Meanwhile, the director of the United States Geological Survey, who was appointed by President Trump, has decided that the agency will only run climate models through 2040. The year 2040 is not arbitrary. It is about when we will really start seeing a difference in our future from emissions today. It is when all the trends begin going from deeply concerning to potentially catastrophic. By hiding nearly a half century from us, the Trump administration not only sugarcoats the truth, it turns it invisible.
This decision to purge bad news from scientific assessments is like ordering HBO not to show any of the episodes of “Game of Thrones” after season one. This is one of many ways the Trump administration has been censoring science in more than 300 actions and counting, according to a tracker kept by Columbia University. The decision is likely part of a larger strategy that includes the recent move to deploy a science approach that was first developed to help the tobacco industry evade regulation.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration runs headlong into the mountain of scientific evidence proving fossil fuels are causing warming, seeking to upend the consensus of 97 percent of climate scientists with a handful of questionable experts like William Happer, who is advising the White House and sits on the National Security Council. Happer is a Princeton University physicist who has spent the twilight decades of his career claiming that carbon dioxide pollution is good, first for the George Marshall Institute, which is funded by ExxonMobil, and then its spinoff, the CO2 Coalition.
A few years ago, Happer admitted to being paid by Peabody Energy to provide a losing legal argument against climate action. More recently, an interview from 2014 resurfaced in which Happer made an unbelievable comparison with the Holocaust. He bluntly said, “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.”
The Trump administration wants to meddle with established academic findings and to treat science selectively. A president who so relishes in populism believes you are too ignorant to make your own judgements. President Trump basically wants two plus two to equal whatever he says.
We will survive his tweets. We will get through his loutish behavior. But we may not survive the full scale assault by his administration on the science of climate disruption, an assault designed to enrich polluter profits today at the expense of the health and environment of our children tomorrow.
Steve Israel represented New York in Congress for 16 years and served as the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011 to 2015. He is now the director of the Institute of Politics and Global Affairs at Cornell University. You can find him on Twitter @RepSteveIsrael.