In his ongoing war with U.S. intelligence agencies, President Donald Trump is now challenging the military’s longstanding conclusion that climate change poses a serious national security threat to America, appointing a fringe climate science denier to lead the effort.
Trump has decided to assemble a Presidential Committee on Climate Security, spearheaded by William Happer, one of the president’s National Security Council (NSC) appointees, the Washington Post reported after obtaining an NSC discussion paper on the subject.
“It’s designed to try to scare our intelligence, defense and science professionals into doing and saying nothing about this pressing threat,” retired Rear Admiral David Titley said in a statement.
Titley, a former oceanographer of the navy who led its Task Force on Climate Change, called Trump’s new panel “an embarrassment” and said Happer holds “an extreme, fringe view even for the tiny number of scientists” who deny climate science.
How extreme is Happer? He has claimed that more carbon pollution “would be a benefit” to humanity, as he wrote in a widely mocked 2013 Wall Street Journal op-ed headlined, “In defense of carbon dioxide.”
Happer has compared the overwhelming scientific consensus that carbon dioxide causes global warming to Nazi “propaganda” and said, “What used to be science has turned into a cult.”
In 2014, he went as far as to claim that “the demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler,” in an interview with CNBC. “Carbon dioxide is actually a benefit to the world, and so were the Jews,” Happer said.
Happer served as board chair at the Exxon-funded George C. Marshall Institute, which he spun into a new group, the CO2 Coalition. In 2015, he was caught in a sting accepting payment of $250 an hour, to be funneled through his CO2 Coalition, to write a pro-fossil fuel report secretly paid for by what he thought was Middle Eastern oil and Indonesian coal businesses.
Similarly, Peabody Coal donated $8,000 to Happer’s CO2 Coalition in exchange for his testifying at a Minnesota regulatory hearing on the social cost of carbon. “I told Peabody I’d be glad to write testimony for them,” Happer told ClimateWire in December 2015. “And if they want to pay me, I’d be delighted to take the money for our little coalition.”
Of course, Trump himself is an unabashed climate science denier who has repeatedly called climate change a hoax and worked to kill domestic climate action. He is in the process of withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement, the only major country in the world to take that step.
At the same time, the administration’s own scientific experts have repeatedly issued White House-approved reports explaining that Trump’s anti-climate policies will have catastrophic impacts on this country. The president’s own intelligence and security agencies have issued multiple Worldwide Threat Assessments acknowledging the security risks of climate change. A Pentagon study released last year concluded that climate change threatens nearly half of all U.S. military sites.
Indeed, Trump himself signed into law the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that explained, “climate change is a direct threat to the national security of the United States and is impacting stability in areas of the world both where the United States Armed Forces are operating today, and where strategic implications for future conflict exist.”
But, then, facts, science, and U.S. intelligence assessments have never stood in the way of either the president’s statements or his policies. Like Happer, the president is more interested in defending carbon pollution than this country.