To No One's Surprise, Climate Change Denier To Be Trump's New Secretary Of The Interior


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

Ryan Zinke speaking to a conference of the American Conservative Union back in March of this year. Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

Donald Trump has nominated a pro-environment, climate change-fighting conservationist to be the Secretary of the Interior, the cabinet official that looks after America’s stunning national parks, waterways, and public forests.

Just kidding.


Ryan Zinke, a congressman from Montana, former Navy SEAL commander and – surprise surprise – a climate change denier is poised to take the helm. Until now, it looked like another climate change denier, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, was about to get the post, but it has now been officially announced that Zinke is Trump’s choice.

Like Rodgers, he has declared that the science behind climate change isn’t clear at all. “It’s not a hoax,” he told the Billings Gazette, a Montana newspaper, “but it’s not proven science either. It’s not a settled science.”

Also like Rodgers, he doesn’t appear to be too enthusiastic about the post he is likely to get. His personal Twitter feed, for example, never uses the phrase “climate change,” and only mentions “environment” once in an erroneous reference to the vetoed Keystone XL Pipeline. “National parks” never appears, although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pops up in a tweet about protecting the coal industry.


Unlike Rodgers, however, he does not appear to be in favor of selling off federal land for profit. However, Zinke is a huge proponent of the fossil fuel industry, and a staunch opponent of environmental regulations, particularly those that involve greenhouse gas emissions.


Zinke has spent much of his time in Congress trying to push back against the EPA’s efforts to clean up America’s air. It’s perhaps no coincidence that his home state contains a quarter of the US’s coal reserves, and the EPA’s regulations will cut down coal use significantly.

Federally-owned lands contain 20 percent of America’s oil and gas reserves, and 40 percent contain the nation’s coal reserves. Zinke will ultimately be able to change US policy in this regard, and although he’s not likely to give the land away, he’s almost certainly going to drill down into some of them.

Obama has spent much of his second term in office preventing any additional extraction of fossil fuels from public or environmentally sensitive lands. Zinke will have the power to reverse these actions, even if it does take him some time to untangle the legal framework surrounding them.

Trump’s cabinet is full of climate change deniers, but the fact that the Secretary of the Interior, the head of the EPA, the Secretary of Energy and the Secretary of State all fall into this camp is deeply distressing.


These are four incredibly influential and powerful government positions, and the first three are fairly intertwined. They certainly won’t have any trouble reinforcing each other’s actions.

[H/T: New York Times]


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