Climate Science Denied as Trump Admin Orders Halt on Long Term Projections
One way in which climate change deniers are getting their way in the Trump administration is by subverting the application of scientific findings by ignoring long-term projections when setting policy. We discuss the implications with Senior Greenpeace Climate Campaigner John Noel
The Trump administration plans to leave out “worst case scenario” projections from the National Climate Assessment, a multi-agency report published every four years that presents scientific research on the effects of the climate crisis. According to the New York Times, Director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) James Reilly has directed the report to only provide projections through 2040, which will not show the devastation brought about by climate change into the next century.
“After 2040 is when we really need to have policies in place to start adapting to the serious climate changes that are in the pipeline right now. And without the science, the data, and the policy to prepare us, we're really at a loss,” John Noel, Greenpeace's senior climate campaigner told The Real News Network's Marc Steiner.
Noel explained that it represents another example of Trump prioritizing corporate interests above all else—including the future of the planet itself.
“It shows how powerful the interests are within the administration that are pushing for energy dominance at all costs. These forces, largely bankrolled by the fossil fuel industry, will do whatever it takes to produce all the oil and gas and coal reserves that this country has, regardless of what the climate science says—and up until this point the climate science doesn't comport with endless production of fossil fuels,” Noel said. “So the only strategy these players can come up with is to not study the science anymore. And that is really dangerous when it comes to protecting people in the future, because climate science drives policies which protect people.”
Steiner explained that Trump has frequently appointed climate change deniers such as physicist William Happer, who is the president’s deputy assistant for emerging technologies on the National Security Council. Recently, a 2014 clip of Happer claiming “the demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler,” has spread across the internet. Earlier this month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that lowering levels of sea ice—the result of climate change—“are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade.”
“I mean, these are fringe folks,” Noel said. “[And] now they're in mainstream positions of power driving policy. And it just shows you it's a sign of the times. I mean, if the QAnon conspiracy had a climate chapter, these folks would be in it, right?”
In response to climate change and Trump's glaring inaction on the matter, Greenpeace will continue its organizing work, Noel explained.
“We're going to advocate for climate policies that will help protect communities going forward, and we think that we're already seeing some of that mass mobilization right now. You're seeing it with the youth climate strikes, you're seeing it with the elections in Europe. There is an uprising coming,” Noel said. “If you look at any of polls of people 18 to 29, all these folks think that climate change is a top, if not one of the top issues for voters going in the Democratic primaries. You're seeing young kids show up at strikes. You have young kids talking climate change—I mean, these are the folks that are inheriting the Earth, which we have on lease right now.”
MARC STEINER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Marc Steiner. Great to have you all with us.
Donald Trump pulled us out of the Paris Climate Accord, and mocks the whole notion that we are facing a dangerous future because of climate change and mass global warming every chance he gets. Now he is halting the scientific conclusions that our own government agencies have come to with their projections about the severity of climate disasters that could affect us in the coming century. He has put climate change deniers in charge of key agencies as a policy that is clearly designed by his financial supporters in the fossil fuel industry. So what does all this portend? What does this latest Trumpian salvo attacking scientific methodology portend? What does it mean?
That’s what we’ll discuss now with our guest, Greenpeace’s Senior Climate Campaigner, John Noel. And John, welcome to The Real News. Good to have you with us.
JOHN NOEL: Thank you.
MARC STEINER: So on top of everything else–which we’ll talk about in a minute–I mean, this is a direct attack on what government agencies have come to with their science reports they put out every four years, these national climate assessments. So what do you think is in play here? How did this happen? What happened here? What does it mean?
JOHN NOEL: Yeah. It shows how powerful the interests are within the administration that are pushing for energy dominance at all costs. These forces, largely bankrolled by the fossil fuel industry, will do whatever it takes to produce all the oil and gas and coal reserves that this country has, regardless of what the climate science says. And up until this point, the climate science doesn’t comport with endless production of fossil fuels, so the only strategy these players can come up with is to not study the science anymore. And that is really dangerous when it comes to protecting people in the future, because climate science drives policies which protect people. And that may not be the case going forward.
MARC STEINER: So this thing that we’re talking about here is called the National Climate Assessment. That comes out every four years. And so, here’s the interesting piece I’d like you to parcel out for us, just as we kind of probe what this means. So this assessment takes us–what they do is they use these computer models to take us to the end of the century to see what things could be, because things could heat up past 2040 to the next century. But the way climate change works right now is that the numbers can be what they are now and keep growing until 2040, so he wants to cut that off at 2040. So explain why that’s so important.
JOHN NOEL: It’s important because obviously people are going to be around in the US past 2040. I mean, there are children being born right now who will be in college in 2040, and they want to have healthy and prosperous environments for when they get out of college. But the climate crisis is here, that is obvious. We’re seeing the climate emergencies play out in the U.S. and things are going to cascade. Each year these emergencies and the impacts are going to cascade and they’re going to get worse every decade. But scientists say after 2040 things really can kick it up a notch and things could start to–you know, we essentially shift into another climate system, potentially not coming back. So the climate crisis is here, it’s happening now, it’s going to get worse, and after 2040 is when we really need to have policies in place to start adapting to the serious climate changes that are in the pipeline right now. And without the science, the data, and the policy to prepare us, we’re really at a loss for how to best protect U.S. populations.
MARC STEINER: And when you look at what all this kind of puts together, let’s talk a bit about a couple people in this administration and what they’ve been saying and how this feeds into what’s going on here, the people he puts in power. When he talks about William Happer, the former astronaut and nuclear physicist, who–and this is a great quote. And it’s a quote that we have to share with everyone here, when he said, “The demonization of carbon dioxide is like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler.” So when you hear stuff like that, and then you hear Pompeo saying to the eight nations who make up the group that manages the Arctic Circle, when he says that, “Oh, this is wonderful. Climate change is not a problem because it opens sea waves and makes the earth better performing,” and he goes through all that. I mean, this is very serious stuff when you take science and turn it on its head.
JOHN NOEL: It’s wild. So there’s really two camps driving this. You have the ideologues, so that’s people like William Happer, Myron Ebell, Steve Milloy, John Bolton; I mean, these are fringe folks. In the Obama administration, they were out there in the fever swamps, but now they’re in mainstream positions of power driving policy. And it just shows you it’s a sign of the times. I mean, if the QAnon conspiracy had a climate chapter, these folks would be it. That’s how fringey their views are. I mean, I don’t think that’s an overstatement, that’s how fringey–it’s really out there. It’s like magical thinking. It’s startling.
And then, on the other side, you have the fossil fuel interest. These are serious players, they are capitalists, and they see that Trump is not really paying attention to either side. It’s the last person in his ear, and they’re going to use this opportunity to further policies that will help them extract as much fossil fuels as possible in the limited time that we have left. And so, I call them serious players because there’re business players, but they can’t be taken seriously anymore. They have no history of acting in good faith when it comes to the climate crisis. And people staying silent now in this latest Trump administration announcement, they’ll be in the history books for the level of inaction here.
MARC STEINER: But when Trump says things like this Tweet–and let’s pull from this Tweet he said a little bit ago which I think is really important. And the Tweet says, “Be careful and try staying in your house. Large parts of the Country are suffering from tremendous amounts of snow and near record setting cold. Amazing how big this system is. Wouldn’t be bad to have a little of that good old fashioned Global Warming right now!” So in some ways, this is kind of a popularization of people wanting to pooh-pooh and kind of not take as important what’s happening with climate change. But it may be very effective as well. There’s a real danger here, it’s not just that these people are some kind of obtuse fringe dwellers. I mean, they’re making this a centerpiece of the administration, which is funded by the fossil fuel industry–not that Democrats aren’t, they are as well. I mean, could this have much longer lasting effects than what we’re just seeing now in kind of people enjoying to ridicule Trump around certain issues?
JOHN NOEL: Totally. I mean, he’s going all in on the short term gain of making a joke out of climate change. And anyone who knows anything about climate change can see how embarrassing that is, but he’s going in on the short term gain. But the thing is, it’s a losing strategy because climate change is here. Ask the farmers in the Midwest who have fields soaked record flooding if climate change is here. Ask firefighters in northern California. Ask any mayor of a coastal city in this country if they think climate change is here. I mean, there’s only so much you can do to make a joke out of it. Yes, it’s embarrassing, but it’s also tragic at the same time, and it’s incredible that he’s gotten away with it for this long. But again, it’s a losing, short term strategy going to be wrapped up in a lot of suffering. And we hope we can hold him and everyone else in his administration accountable for the serious, serious life-destroying impacts that are in the pipeline from climate change.
MARC STEINER: And speaking of pipelines, I mean Trump pulled back on the presidential orders around tailpipe emissions and around emissions from smokestacks and all the rest. He’s done that. So I’m curious what you think strategically has to happen with groups like Greenpeace and other groups that are deeply involved in the issue of climate change. How do you respond to this? How do people who think this is really dangerous to the future respond to this?
JOHN NOEL: Yeah. We’re focused on building grassroots and political power to change the calculus of what is possible around climate change. That’s all it is, creating a mass movement of people who care about bold, aggressive climate action on scale of the challenge itself. And we’re driven by compassion for our friends and our family and our neighbors. And we follow the climate science and we’re going to advocate for climate policies that will help protect communities going forward. And we think that we’re already seeing some of that that mass mobilization happening right now. You’re seeing it with the youth climate strikes, you’re seeing it with the elections in Europe. There is an uprising coming. We just need to make it happen faster, essentially. [crosstalk]
MARC STEINER: I mean, because it’s one of the primary issues facing humanity at the moment. This is a crisis of proportions–I think that part of the problem sometimes is that folks who really understand what’s going on and believe we have to change are having a more difficult time of popularizing what this really means in more simple ways than people like Trump with his little stupid Tweets. That was a pejorative, but yeah.
JOHN NOEL: I mean, totally. But it may be working though. If you look at any of the polls of people 18 to 29, all these folks think that climate change is top–if I not the top– issue for voters going into the Democratic primaries. You’re seeing young kids show up at strikes. You have young kids talking about climate change. I mean, these are the folks that are inheriting the Earth which we have on lease right now. And so, when you see a president who is in his last chapter making a joke out of climate change, young kids, they can see that. They can see that. That’s why I think it is a losing, short term strategy. And again, as the climate emergencies continue to kick off, people are going to come around. And it’s going to be tragic because it’s taking so long, and climate change is a speed scale issue that needs to happen fast.
MARC STEINER: Well, John Noel, senior climate campaigner at Greenpeace, thank you so much for being with us here on The Real News. It’s been a pleasure to talk with you and thanks for the work you do.
JOHN NOEL: My pleasure.
JOHN NOEL: And I’m Marc Steiner here for The Real News Network. Thank you all for joining us. Take care.