Trump To Challenge His Own Agencies' Climate Change Risk Assessment

WASHINGTON, DC, United Statess

A new United States “Presidential Committee on Climate Security” will undertake an "adversarial" review of climate science to determine if research has overstated the risks posed by global warming according to a White House memorandum leaked this week. The group will be run by William Happer, a prominent opponent of climate science in the climate-change-denying administration of the country’s President Donald Trump.

"(These) scientific and national security judgments have not undergone a rigorous independent and adversarial scientific peer review to examine the certainties and uncertainties of climate science, as well as implications for national security," the memo says.

Happer is an emeritus physics professor at Princeton University who serves on the administration’s National Security Council as senior director for emerging technologies. Happer, who is not a climate scientist, has long rejected mainstream climate science, saying that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant and that the world could burn more fossil fuels without harm. He heads the CO2 Coalition, which advocates for a rejection of climate science, and he has said the world is in a "CO2 drought”. His work has been funded by prominent donors to Trump’s presidential campaign.

Happer has also previously drawn comparisons between carbon dioxide and Jews: “The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler,” he once told US news channel CNBC. “Carbon dioxide is actually a benefit to the world, and so were the Jews”.

Multiple climate change analyses have identified that climate change poses security risks throughout the world, from rising sea levels and the displacement of millions of people to deadly heat waves and floods. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Climate Assessment both found that civilizations face sharpening threats from a warming planet.

US Intelligence Community Describes Climate Change Security Threats

The Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community, a "Statement for the Record" presented January 29 this year to the US Senate Select Committee for Intelligence by the country's Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats projected that "Irreversible damage to ecosystems and habitats will undermine the economic benefits they provide, worsened by air, soil, water, and marine pollution."

“Extreme weather events, many worsened by accelerating sea level rise, will particularly affect urban coastal areas in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Western Hemisphere. Damage to communication, energy, and transportation infrastructure could affect low-lying military bases, inflict economic costs, and cause human displacement and loss of life”, according to the report.

Changes in the frequency and variability of heat waves, droughts, and floods—combined with poor governance practices—are increasing water and food insecurity around the world, increasing the risk of social unrest, migration, and interstate tension in countries such as Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, and Jordan, the Intelligence Community predicted.

"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," Coats told the committee.

Trump Administration And Protection Of Water Resources

Happer’s new role has echoes of this month’s appointment by the administration of David Dunlap, a former executive of Koch Industries to manage the country’s regulation of toxic PFAS chemicals which have been found to contaminate the drinking water of millions of US citizens. Dunlap, who was appointed October 2018 as a deputy in the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) spent the previous eight years as Koch Industries’ lead expert on water and chemical regulations, a position that typically includes helping companies to limit regulatory restrictions and liability for cleanups. He is now the top political official in the USEPA’s research office.

Koch subsidiary Georgia-Pacific has used PFAS in some of its products and is facing at least one class-action lawsuit related to contamination from the chemicals, raising conflict-of-interest concerns.

Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as perfluorinated chemicals, are a class of manufactured chemicals that have been used since the 1950s to make commercial and industrial products that resist heat, stains, grease and water, non-stick cookware products and, notably, fire-fighting foams. The best-known PFAS chemicals are PFOA, formerly used to make DuPont’s Teflon, and PFOS, formerly an ingredient in 3M’s Scotchgard. Both were phased out under pressure from the USEPA after revelations about their hazards and alleged manufacturer cover-ups of damning health studies.

Dunlap’s appointment caused concen among environmentalists with Senator Tom Carper of Delaware saying Dunlap's hiring only adds to his concerns about the Trump administration's handling of the chemicals, especially as Andrew Wheeler aims to take on the role of USEPA Administrator.

“When Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, installs a former Koch executive to clean up toxic chemicals in drinking water, the chances of it happening are about as likely as snowfall in San Diego,” said US NGO “Environmental Working Group” (EWG) Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Scott Faber. “We hope both Wheeler and Dunlap will follow EPA’s mission statement instead of the demands of the chemical industry and adopt a health-protective drinking water standard that will reduce PFAS in the drinking water serving millions of people.”

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