For every step forward, it seems there are two (hundred) steps back – at least when it comes to the US federal government and climate policy.
According to an email obtained by The Washington Post, the White House is preparing to create a 12-person panel called the Presidential Committee on Climate Security. Its purpose will be to investigate whether or not changes to the climate will affect US national security.
This panel's role, documents reveal, is "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."
But critics argue the committee is a transparent attempt to undermine accepted climate science. The document continues, falsely saying the science has "not undergone a rigorous independent and adversarial peer review to examine the certainties and uncertainties of climate science, as well as implications for national security.”
Not only does the panel fly in the face of reams and reams of evidence showing, in no uncertain terms, that climate change will affect national security (and public health and food security), but it is being spearheaded by William Happer, a senior director at the National Security Council, an emeritus professor of physics at Princeton University – and a big old climate change denier. For the record, Happer has managed to accomplish something even Trump and his band of climate skeptics have so far avoided and that is to break Godwin's law.
In 2014, he compared the vilification of CO2 to the Holocaust, saying, “The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler. Carbon dioxide is actually a benefit to the world, and so were the Jews."
In the past, Happer has received payment in the thousands from a fossil fuel company called Peabody Coal in exchange for his testimony at a Minnesota Public Utilities Commission hearing. That money was funneled into the CO2 Coalition, one of two climate-skeptic advocacy groups Happer is involved with as a board member. The second being the George C. Marshall Institute.
Happer has described the CO2 Coalition as "the CO2 anti-defamation league." Their mission – "to try and counter this myth that CO2 is a dangerous pollutant," despite study after study after study showing high concentrations of the molecule are harmful to our health and the environment.
Francesco Femia, chief executive of the Council on Strategic Risks and co-founder of the Center for Climate and Security, described Happer's leadership as equivalent to "setting up a committee on nuclear-weapons proliferation and having someone lead it who doesn’t think nuclear weapons exist."
"It’s honestly a blunt-force political tool designed to shut the national security community up on climate change," he told The Washington Post.
Only last month, the threat of climate change to national security was confirmed by not one but two federal reports. The first, conducted by the Pentagon, concluded rising sea levels and climate-induced extreme weather events are already affecting military bases in the US – and it's only going to get worse. The second, by Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, found "Global environmental and ecological degradation, as well as climate change, are likely to fuel competition for resources, economic distress, and social discontent through 2019 and beyond."
But despite all the evidence, Trump and the White House have continued to deny and undermine climate science that shows human actions are largely to blame for changes to Earth's climate – from his tweets during the polar vortex to his dismantling of Obama-era regulations and his exit from the Paris Agreement. This, it seems, is just the latest.