Energy & Environment

New White House special climate panel to include climate denier

The White House is putting together a special panel to look into the potential effects of climate change on national security and the group will include at least one well-known climate change skeptic.

The panel, called the Presidential Committee on Climate Security in the proposal, will be formed via executive order and driven by William Happer a senior director on the White House's National Security Council (NSC), according to an email obtained Wednesday by The Washington Post.

According to the NSC discussion paper obtained by the Post, the new order sent Feb. 14 would create a 12 member federal advisory committee "to advise the President on scientific understanding of today's climate, how the climate might change in the future under natural and human influences, and how a changing climate could affect the security of the United States."

Happer, a retired Princeton University physics professor and vocal critic of mainstream science including climate change, joined the NSC as an adviser to Trump last September.

In the past, Happer has said that carbon emissions, a major contributor to greenhouse gas, should be seen as an asset. In 2017 he called pushes to reverse global warming "sort of a cult movement in the last five or 10 years" and called climate change science "tremendously exaggerated."

A number of studies in the past year, including the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report and the United States' own National Climate Assessment, have concluded that climate change is occurring at an alarming rate and said significant action must be taken to slow it.

The Department of Defense in January also submitted a report to Congress that listed several dozen military installations across the U.S. as threatened by the impacts of climate change.

The report called climate change "a national security issue" due to the likely impacts of rising sea levels, strengthening hurricanes and growing wildfire seasons on the military. The report was criticized at the time by members of Congress who say it failed to highlight the most at-risk military installations.

The Trump administration, however, has rejected many of the claims made in the reports. Trump notably said back in November of the national climate assessment, "I don't believe it."

According to the NSC document, a main purpose of the panel will be challenging the points made in the various climate studies, including those released by the U.S. government under Trump.

The NSC document references the several major climate reports released under the Trump administration, but countered, "However, these scientific and national security judgments have not undergone a rigorous independent and adversarial scientific peer review to examine the certainties and uncertainties of climate science, as well as implications for national security."

Agency representatives have been invited to attend a Friday meeting on the topic in the White House Situation Room, according to The Washington Post.

The White House and Environmental Protection Agency did not respond to a request for comment.

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