OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Internal watchdog to probe Trump officials who cast doubt on climate science | Kerry on climate talks: ‘I regret that my country has been absent’ | Biden leans on Obama-era appointees on climate
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OUT OF OFFICE, BUT UNDER SCRUTINY: An internal government watchdog is investigating after two former Trump administration officials apparently published papers purporting to be from the White House that promoted climate change skepticism.
“After careful consideration, we decided to review this matter further,” the inspector general’s office at the Commerce Department wrote to Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii).
Hirono, along with several other Democrats, had asked for the investigation.
The New York Times first reported the probe on Friday.
The two Trump administration officials, David Legates and Ryan Maue, had been on detail at the White House when their names appeared on papers in a series that cast doubt on the science behind climate change and its impacts.
These papers purported to be copyrighted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) but appeared on a third-party website and were disavowed by the office.
Then-OSTP spokesperson Kristina Baum said in a statement posted on Twitter that Kelvin Droegemeier, who led the office at the time, “was outraged to learn of the materials that were not shared with or approved by OSTP leadership.”
“He first became aware of the documents when contacted by the press,” Baum said.
Following this, Legates and Maue were ousted from the White House and returned to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), where they were initially hired.
An NOAA spokesperson declined to comment on the probe, but confirmed that the two officials left the government “on or before” Jan. 20, the day of President Biden’s inauguration, like other Trump political appointees.
Papers included in the series promoted discredited theories including one blaming climate change on the sun.
The paper attributed to Maue cast doubt on whether human-caused climate change was conclusively impacting hurricane activity in the Atlantic. There has been research finding that climate change is making hurricanes more intense.
Read more about the probe here.
TODAY AT THE UN:
Sorry about that… U.S. climate envoy John Kerry told the United Nations on Monday that he regrets America’s absence from the fight against climate change during the previous administration.
“Three years ago scientists gave us a stark warning. They said we have 12 years within which to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. Now we have nine years left and I regret that my country has been absent for three of those years,” Kerry said at the United Nations Climate Adaptation Summit.
Kerry’s speech was one of his first official acts since President Biden named him a special envoy on climate and follows the president signing an executive order to recommit the U.S. to the Paris climate accord.
“We’re proud to be back. We come back, I want you to know, with humility for the absence of the last four years, and we’ll do everything in our power to make up for it,” Kerry said.
“President Biden has made fighting climate change a top priority of his administration. We have a president now, thank God, who leads, tells the truth and is seized by this issue.”
Read more on his speech here.
The make-it-or-break-it year… The leader of the United Nations warned Monday of “existential threats” to the global climate and biodiversity.
Speaking to the World Economic Forum, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said that today’s world suffers from “fragility,” invoking issues such as the coronavirus pandemic and resulting job losses.
“We also see fragility in the climate and biodiversity crisis. Both are existential threats, and both are getting worse,” Guterres said.
“We are waging war on nature and destroying our life support system, and nature is striking back,” he added.
Later in his speech, he said 2021 is the “make-it-or-break-it year” and called on countries to commit to reaching carbon neutrality.
“We need to make sure that countries present their nationally determined contributions in 2021 with a dramatic reduction in emissions up to 2030,” he added, referring to national goals to reduce emissions.
Read more on Guterres’s comments here.
THE GANG’S ALL HERE: President Biden has begun to draft officials to lead his primary environmental agencies, turning to former Obama-era appointees, nonprofit leaders and longtime congressional aides to enact his climate vision.
The administration this week announced the first round of political appointees who will begin working at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Interior Department and the Department of Energy.
The latest hires will be key players in carrying out the energy and environment agenda that Biden set forth on the campaign trail, including goals of reaching carbon neutrality by the year 2050 and having a carbon free power sector by 2035.
Biden last month tapped Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) to lead Interior, North Carolina regulator and former EPA official Michael Regan as that agency’s administrator, and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) to be his Energy secretary. All are awaiting confirmation.
The latest appointees have already gotten to work at their respective agencies and in just a few days have begun carrying out Biden’s agenda.
Melissa Hoffer, who was named as the Biden EPA’s principal deputy general counsel, has asked lawyers at the Department of Justice to pause cases where Trump administration rollbacks are being challenged by environmental groups.
And a recent Interior Department order that temporarily halted new drilling permits on federal lands, a step toward the Biden campaign promise of ending new public lands leasing, is stirring up mixed reactions.
“It is a team that is exceptionally knowledgeable in the subject areas they are getting hired for. These folks are not going to need a lot of ramp up time,” said Aaron Weiss, deputy director of the Center for Western Priorities.
The moves were praised by environmentalists, but the Biden administration’s early action on climate change has received pushback from Republicans.
Read more about the hiring spree here.
WHAT WE’RE READING:
Money and Politics Could Doom the Florida Panther — and the Endangered Species Act, The Intercept reports
NYC to divest $4B from ‘fossil-fuel’ companies, officials say, The New York Daily News reports
Biden in hot seat to protect workers from warming, E&E News reports
ON TAP TOMORROW:
The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold its formal organizational meeting, where it will adopt rules and subcommittees
ICYMI: Stories from Monday and over the weekend…
Biden leans on Obama-era appointees on climate
Indoor portions of National Mall closed due to COVID-19
World’s ice melting 57 percent faster than in 1990s: study
Internal watchdog to probe Trump officials who cast doubt on climate science
Kerry on climate talks: ‘I regret that my country has been absent‘
UN chief warns of ‘existential threats’ to climate, biodiversity
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