Energy & Environment

Trump officials attack science in dire climate change report

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Trump administration officials are aggressively attacking the science behind a government report released last week that found climate change is set to take a huge chunk out of the U.S. economy by the end of the century.

A rash of officials from President Trump on down are parroting similar lines to dispute the claims of the congressionally-mandated report, describing the science as “radical,” “not based on facts” and based on “worst-case” scenarios.

{mosads}White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders at a Tuesday press briefing called the climate report, written by nearly 300 government scientists from 13 federal agencies, “radical.”

“It’s not based on facts. … It’s not data-driven,” Sanders said at the briefing — the only one held by the White House in November.

“We’d like to see something that is more data-driven, that’s based on modeling, which is extremely hard to do when you’re talking about the climate,” she said.

The same day, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, while visiting California communities devastated by historic wildfires that have been blamed in part on climate change, dismissed the administration’s report as being focused on the extremes.

“It appears they took the worst scenarios and they built predictions on that,” he told KCRA, an NBC affiliate in Sacramento, Calif.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the report “was written in 2016, and was at the direction of the previous administration,” suggesting that was why the report had such a dire outlook. He speculated that the Obama administration “told the report’s authors to take a look at the worst-case scenario for this report.”

“I think a lot of the worst-case scenario information in that assessment is what’s concerning a lot of people in this administration,” he said.

Trump told reporters “I don’t believe it” when he was asked about the report on Monday.

He blamed other countries for failing to step up their emission reductions.

“Right now we’re at the cleanest we’ve ever been and that’s very important to me,” said Trump, who decided last year to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement, an international pact meant to drastically limit greenhouse gas emissions. “But if we’re clean, but every other place on Earth is dirty, that’s not so good.”

The report is the second major publication on climate change to be largely dismissed by the Trump administration.

Earlier this fall, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that the world had 12 years to significantly cut carbon emissions or face irreversible environmental damage.

Few Republicans in Congress gave much attention to the report, while Trump questioned who wrote the U.N. paper.

“It was given to me, and I want to look at who drew it,” he told reporters at the time. “Because I can give you reports that are fabulous, and I can give you reports that aren’t so good. But I will be looking at it, absolutely.”

Environmental groups say the critiques from the administration are wholly inaccurate — and come right out of the fossil fuel industry’s own playbook.

“It’s like the tobacco industry saying they needed more science showing the link to smoking and cancer,” said Nathaniel Keohane, senior vice president of climate at the Environmental Defense Fund.

“This is the most data-driven assessment we’ve ever had in the U.S.” he added.

Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, took issue with administration claims that the study’s data was based on worst-case scenarios.

“It’s just factually incorrect that it’s based on the most extreme scenarios. It’s not,” he said.

“It’s based on three scenarios. One lower one, one middle ground and one high-emissions scenario taken directly from the IPCC, which means it’s been agreed upon by a large number of countries and governments,” Rosenberg said.

He criticized the administration for continuing to cast doubt on the idea that humans are contributing to climate change.

“What it seems like they are trying to do is to cast doubt. ‘Oh, there is a lot of uncertainty, we’re uncertain it’s caused by humans.’ No, we aren’t. There is strong evidence that that’s correct,” he said.

The worst-case scenario for the planet, Keohane said, is that the reports aren’t taken seriously by the administration and Congress.

“The worst-case scenario is that we have an administration that completely ignores the information coming out from its own scientists, its own analysts, and not only rolls back protections and safeguards, but tries to do things like subsidize coal plants to keep them running,” he said.

It’s possible clashes over climate change could pick up between the Trump administration and Democrats about to take power in the House.

On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers released legislation that would charge fossil fuel companies a tax for their carbon dioxide emissions. The legislation would charge $15 for each ton of carbon emitted into the air and would increase that fee by $10 every year afterward.

Another bill, introduced by two Democratic senators on Wednesday, aims to transition the U.S. to 100 percent zero-emission vehicles by 2040.

Tags Donald Trump Ryan Zinke
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