December 12, 2016 | The heads of Donald Trump’s transition teams for Nasa, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Energy, as well as his nominees to lead the EPA and the Department of the Interior, all question the science of human-caused climate change, in a signal of the president-elect’s determination to embark upon an aggressively pro-fossil fuels agenda.
Trump has assembled a transition team in which at least nine senior members deny basic scientific understanding that the planet is warming due to the burning of carbon and other human activity. These include the transition heads of all the key agencies responsible for either monitoring or dealing with climate change. None of these transition heads have any background in climate science.
Trump has also nominated Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA and is expected to pick congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers to head the interior department. Pruitt has claimed that scientists “continue to disagree” about the causes and extent of global warming while McMorris Rodgers has said that former vice-president Al Gore, who has championed climate action, “deserves an ‘F’ in science.”
The president-elect has vowed to pursue an “America first” energy policy that will open up a new frontier in domestic coal, oil and gas extraction while eviscerating the effort to combat climate change, which Trump has previously called a “hoax”.
Trump is personally invested in this agenda. According to his latest financial disclosure records, Trump held investments in the fossil fuel companies Shell, Halliburton, Total and Chevron. His largest energy investment was in BHP Billiton, with the documents showing a stake worth up to $1.015m.
Trump also had interests in Energy Transfer Partners and Phillips 66, which are behind the controversial Dakota Access pipeline that Trump wants to see completed. Jason Miller, a Trump spokesman, has said that Trump sold all of his shares in June but has produced no evidence to prove this.
Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said of Trump’s choices: “These are people that had slipped out of the conversation, we haven’t been even debating them in years because they were so out of step with where the American public and business is going on climate change.
“Now they’ve leapfrogged into the White House. The world has been turned upside down and it feels like basic science is up for debate. Will we now have to debate whether gravity exists too?”
Myron Ebell, head of the EPA transition team, is director of energy and environment at the libertarian thinktank the Competitive Enterprise Institute and chairman of the Cooler Heads Coalition, a group that opposes “global warming alarmism”.
Ebell has said that the scientific consensus on climate change is “phoney” and that scientists are part of an effort to spread falsehoods that will result in millions of people being “further impoverished by the higher energy prices resulting from the alarmists’ policy agenda”.
He has suggested that “alarmists could also be prosecuted for denying or grossly underestimating the deleterious effects of their energy-rationing policies on human flourishing”.
Other members of the EPA transition team have been plucked from rightwing thinktanks with fossil fuel funding. Amy Oliver Cooke, of the Independence Institute, has said she is an “energy feminist because I’m pro-choice in energy sources”. She has lashed out at “global warming alarmism” on Twitter and claimed falsely in 2014 that there had been 16 years without any global warming.
David Kruetzer, of the conservative Heritage Foundation, has erroneously claimed there has been “global cooling” in recent years while David Schnare, a former EPA lawyer, said last year that “for the last 18 years, the global temperature has been level”. Schnare’s statement is incorrect.
Department of the Interior
Doug Domenech, head of the interior department transition team, has said carbon dioxide is a “trace greenhouse gas” and has railed against “climate alarmists”.
Domenech is a former Virginia secretary of resources and is now part of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which states the “forgotten moral case for fossil fuels” as its mission. Trump’s plan to open up more land for drilling will “reinvigorate communities across the nation, especially those most seriously impacted by the current restrictive energy policies”, Domenech wrote in November.
Chris Shank, deputy chief of staff to the Republican congressman Lamar Smith, is leading Trump’s landing team at Nasa. Last year, Shank said: “The rhetoric that’s coming out, the hottest year in history, actually is not backed up by the science – or that the droughts, the fires, the hurricanes, etc, are caused by climate change, but it’s just weather.”