Sen. Carper eviscerates Trump’s Homeland Security pick for her climate science denial

The president's choice to oversee all climate-related disaster response doesn't even accept science approved by the White House.

President Donald Trump names Kirstjen Nielsen to be Secretary of Homeland Security, Oct. 12, 2017. CREDIT: AP/Evan Vucci
President Donald Trump names Kirstjen Nielsen to be Secretary of Homeland Security, Oct. 12, 2017. CREDIT: AP/Evan Vucci

President Donald Trump’s choice to run the Department of Homeland Security — which oversees the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response to disasters — refuses to acknowledge the basic climate science needed for her to protect the nation from future disasters during her Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday.

Ignoring the fact that the White House just approved and released a massive report from 13 federal agencies declaring that humans are responsible for all recent global warming, DHS nominee Kirstjen Nielsen still repeated the same tired science-denying talking point that has become a common refrain in the Trump administration: namely, that the climate is always changing and humans play some role, but darned if you know what it is.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), one of Congress’ top proponents of climate action, was able to utterly dismantle Nielsen’s denial.

Carper was concerned about whether the person who would be overseeing FEMA disaster planning and preparation understood the threat posed by sea level rise and accepted the role humans are playing in accelerating it.


At first Nielsen tried to dodge his question as to whether she accepted the scientific consensus that climate change is “primarily caused by human beings,” replying, “I do absolutely believe that the climate is changing. I can’t unequivocally state it’s only caused by humans.”

Carper immediately replied, “that was not my question — primarily caused.” Nielsen dodged the question again: “There are many contributions to it, yes sir,” she said.

Again, Carper wouldn’t accept the evasion, saying, “My question was do you believe it is primarily caused by human beings.” But Nielsen again refused to acknowledge the scientific consensus, telling Carper, “I believe that climate change exists. I’m not prepared to determine causation.”

Carper, surprised, asked, “Really? Why not?” And when she started to defend her denial, “Because I do believe –” he cut her off and restated the fact that there is a broad scientific consensus, which the entire world has accepted and is now acting on.

Carper might have added that the White House had just approved a 600-page scientific report peer-reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences, which concluded, “Based on extensive evidence… it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.” The report further notes that the best estimate is that humans caused 100 percent — or more — of the warming since 1950.


Later in the hearing, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) expressed concern about Nielsen’s “qualifications” to oversee the nation’s response to natural disasters, given that she chose “politics before science” in dodging Carper’s question.

And when Nielsen said that she would factor climate change into disaster modeling and preparation, Hassan quickly pointed out, “But if you are unwilling to acknowledge that the primary cause of it is human behavior, then you are not going to be able to change the modeling appropriately.”

Indeed, top scientists have said that this summer’s superstorms — some of the very worst disasters this country has ever seen, including Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria — were worsened because of human-caused climate change.

Hassan continued, “So what we are looking for is people who are willing to acknowledge that there is a huge and incredibly well vetted peer-reviewed science that tells us that climate change is primarily caused by human activity.”

Tragically, it has become all too clear that the Trump administration has no intention of nominating such people.