Trump's Team Wants Climate Change Researchers "Outed" In Federal Agency


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

Is this part of a witch hunt? jannoon028/Shutterstock

The angry orange one’s cabinet picks are stealing all the headlines right now for precisely the wrong reasons. A white nationalist here, a racist there – classic Trump, you might say. Plenty of them also happen to be climate change deniers, and it appears that this anti-scientific thread is permeating behind the scenes too.

As reported by the New York Times, a questionnaire composed by Trump’s transition team has been sent to the Department of Energy. Not only does it demand a list of names of all employees that attended climate change policy meetings, but all of the documents, emails, communiqués and material associated with these conferences are also required to be handed over.


“Can you provide a list of all Department of Energy employees or contractors who have attended any Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Carbon meetings?” Another asks: “Can you provide a list of Department employees or contractors who attended any of the Conference of the Parties (under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) in the last five years?”

The 74 questions also probe the stances these employees have on climate change science and low-carbon energy technologies.

Curiously, there are also plenty of questions about Yucca Mountain, an enormous nuclear waste repository, and the red tape surrounding nuclear power plants. While we would argue that nuclear power is a powerful weapon to fight against climate change – and an efficient source of energy – it is concerning that there is not the same focus given to renewables.

In fact, the questionnaire appears to be geared towards identifying people who may be a confusing mix of anti-renewables, pro-nuclear, and pro-fossil fuels.


“Renewable and solar technologies are expected to need additional transmission costs above what fossil technologies need,” one question begins. “What is the magnitude of these transmission costs?” At no point is the damaging effect on the climate or environment of fossil fuels asked about, nor is their increasing costs.


It’s not unusual for incoming administrations to ask about the way various departments are run. But the fact that this took the form of a skewed questionnaire is fairly unorthodox.

So what’s the deal? It could be as extreme as a witch hunt, with the transition team looking for climate change mitigation proponents. It’s also possible that they are looking for quotes they can easily take out of context for use in upcoming pro-coal, pro-fracking, anti-renewable soundbites or policy announcements.

Or, to borrow a recent Trumpism, perhaps the transition team is just being “open-minded.” Then again, this is the same transition team that recently picked a longtime enemy of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to head the EPA, so best not hold your breath.


[H/T: New York Times]


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