President Trump has nominated a well-known climate change doubter to the top science job at the Department of Agriculture.
The nomination, which had been expected, was announced in a statement by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Sam Clovis, an early campaign adviser to Trump, will serve as undersecretary for research, education and economics.
“Dr. Clovis was one of the first people through the door at USDA in January and has become a trusted advisor and steady hand as we continue to work for the people of agriculture," Perdue said. "He looks at every problem with a critical eye, relying on sound science and data, and will be the facilitator and integrator we need."
Clovis, who does not have a science degree, according to a Washington Post report, takes over a position that it said has generally gone to someone with an advanced degree in science or medicine.
If confirmed by the Senate, he would serve as the USDA’s chief scientist, coordinating the department’s research and education policies and ensuring the “scientific integrity” of the research done at the department.
Clovis is a former college professor who has challenged the general scientific consensus that human activity is the primary cause of climate change. He has called himself a skeptic, telling Iowa Public Radio in 2014 that he is “extremely skeptical" of climate change and claimed “a lot of the science is junk science.”
“It’s not proven; I don’t think there’s any substantive information available to me that doesn’t raise as many questions as it does answers,” he said.
The nomination had been opposed by environmentalist groups.
Ricardo Salvador, director of the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, expressed concern about Clovis’s appointment in May, saying in a statement reported by Think Progress that the USDA’s chief scientist should be a scientist, not a political ally.
“If the president goes forward with this nomination, it’ll be yet another example of blatant dismissal of the value of scientific expertise among his administration appointees,” Salvador said. “Continuing to choose politics over science will give farmers and consumers little confidence that the administration has their interests at heart.”
Clovis has degrees in political science, business and public administration, according to the Post.
And Perdue highlighted his career of military service; Clovis spent 25 years in the Air Force.
"Dr. Clovis has served this nation proudly since he was a very young man, and I am happy he is continuing to serve," Perdue said.