In what environmental experts warned could be President Donald Trump's most dangerous assault on science yet, the White House is reportedly moving to end long-term assessments of the impacts of the climate crisis while pushing a polluter-friendly agenda that is making the planetary emergency worse.
As the New York Times reported late Monday, "the White House-appointed director of the United States Geological Survey, James Reilly, a former astronaut and petroleum geologist, has ordered that scientific assessments produced by that office use only computer-generated climate models that project the impact of climate change through 2040, rather than through the end of the century, as had been done previously."
"A pretty blatant attempt to politicize the science—to push the science in a direction that's consistent with their politics."
—Philip Duffy, Woods Hole Research Center
"As a result," according to the Times, "parts of the federal government will no longer fulfill what scientists say is one of the most urgent jobs of climate science studies: reporting on the future effects of a rapidly warming planet and presenting a picture of what the earth could look like by the end of the century if the global economy continues to emit heat-trapping carbon dioxide pollution from burning fossil fuels."
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—the United Nations' leading climate body—warned in a landmark report last October that if carbon emissions are not dramatically and rapidly reduced, catastrophic effects of the climate crisis could be felt across the world as early as 2040.
But, as the Times reported, scientists say that Trump administration's attempt to cut off government climate projections at that year "would give a misleading picture because the biggest effects of current emissions will be felt after 2040."
"Models show that the planet will most likely warm at about the same rate through about 2050," according to the Times. "From that point until the end of the century, however, the rate of warming differs significantly with an increase or decrease in carbon emissions."
Philip Duffy, the president of the Woods Hole Research Center, told the Times that the White House's move to restrict government climate predictions "is a pretty blatant attempt to politicize the science—to push the science in a direction that's consistent with their politics."
Critics also expressed alarm on social media.
"The Trump gang is attacking the scientific process itself," tweeted environmentalist Alex Steffen, "in an attempt to prop up fossil fuel industries, delay inevitable action, and run the carbon bubble as long as it will last."
Donald Trump poses a mortal threat to all of humanity. https://t.co/SPXm0N9Ykz
— Justin Hendrix (@justinhendrix) May 27, 2019
— Dan Froomkin (@froomkin) May 27, 2019
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In addition to attempting to severely limit the government's climate science methodology, the Times reported, the Trump administration is also working "to question its conclusions by creating a new climate review panel" led by physicist William Happer, who once said the "demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler."
Happer was brought on to the National Security Council by John Bolton, Trump's national security adviser.
"Mr. Happer and Mr. Bolton are both beneficiaries of Robert and Rebekah Mercer, the far-right billionaire and his daughter who have funded efforts to debunk climate science," the Times reported. "The Mercers gave money to a super PAC affiliated with Mr. Bolton before he entered government and to an advocacy group headed by Mr. Happer."
Absolutely insane: “The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler,” said William Happer.
Happer is a member of Trump's National Security Council, advising on climate change and emerging technologies. pic.twitter.com/CBHjcyDjmt
— Justice Democrats (@justicedems) May 28, 2019
The Trump administration's efforts to distort government climate findings in a way that aligns with its fossil fuel agenda began after the release of the second volume of the National Climate Assessment last November, according to the Times.
As Common Dreams reported, the Trump administration attempted to bury the report—which warned that "Earth's climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization"—by releasing it on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
The assessment's findings directly contradicted the Trump administration's denialism, as environmentalists and climate scientists pointed out at the time.
"This report makes it clear that climate change is not some problem in the distant future," said Brenda Ekwurzel, the director of climate science at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). "It's happening right now in every part of the country."