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Dahr Jamail | Administration of Denial: Trump’s Shock and Awe Attack on the Environment

This administration is our greatest existential threat.

President Trump signs a presidential proclamation shrinking Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 4, 2017. (Photo: Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images)

It’s no secret that Donald Trump, someone who would never be mistaken for an intellectual, does not believe in anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD).

We’re all familiar with his tweet from 2012 that stated: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

Fast forward to early 2018. Trump is now president of the United States, and a climate-disruption-driven Arctic cold front recently engulfed vast swaths of the US. Taking a page out of the fossil fuel industry propaganda playbook, Trump tweeted in late December: “In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!”

During the first year of his presidency, Donald Trump and his fossil-fuel backers have filled key positions in his administration with ACD deniers, and their war against scientists and government administrations tasked with dealing with ACD impacts has been one of shock and awe.

Fossil-Fueled Cronies

Rex Tillerson had been CEO of ExxonMobil for a decade when he accepted the post of secretary of state. Tillerson, who famously dodged questions about Exxon’s role in sowing doubt about ACD during his confirmation hearings, has stated that our ability to predict the impact CO2 is having on the atmosphere is “very limited.”

Mike Pence, Trump’s vice president, has called ACD a “myth.” He also voted twice against limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

Trump’s nominee for the Council on Environmental Quality, Kathleen Hartnett White, has claimed that UN efforts to reduce global CO2 emissions are actually a secret attempt to create what she has called a “one-world state ruled by planetary managers.

Scott Pruitt, Trump’s EPA administrator, refuses to link ACD to CO2 emissions. He was, of course, rabidly opposed to the Environmental Protection Agency itself during his tenure as Oklahoma’s attorney general. Pruitt even said he intended to form a team of “independent experts” to challenge well-established climate science because, he claimed, the subject has not yet undergone “a robust, meaningful debate.” Thousands of emails released in the early months of the Trump administration revealed the longstanding and very close relationship Pruitt has maintained with the oil and gas industry. Moreover, it has been known for a long time that Pruitt has maintained a secretive alliance with said industry.

Then there is Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who denies humans are the cause of ACD. Meanwhile, another more recent addition to this junta of ACD deniers is Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine, who has blamed ACD on the sun — and is now a nominee to head NASA, an agency that spends nearly 10 percent of its budget on monitoring the Earth and its climate. It’s worth noting that, echoing Trump’s position, Bridenstine has even implied that one day of snow disproved decades-long ACD trends.

Within moments of Trump’s inauguration as president, references to “climate change” were erased from the official White House website.

Along those lines, we have also Trump’s nominee for the Council on Environmental Quality, Kathleen Hartnett White, who has been a long-time outspoken ACD denier. She has called climate science a “kind of paganism” for “secular elites,” and claims that excess carbon emissions are “beneficial” and good for plant growth. She has even claimed that UN efforts to reduce global CO2 emissions are actually a secret attempt to create what she has called a “one-world state ruled by planetary managers.”

These are simply a few of the “highlights” of those who have been tasked with entrenching ACD denial across the spectrum of the US government under this administration.

Climate Change Vanishes Before Our Very Eyes

Within moments of Trump’s inauguration as president, references to “climate change” were erased from the official White House website.

Since then, a generalized scrubbing of all things “climate change” and “global warming” has become the norm across various federal agency websites, from the National Institutes of Health to the EPA. The Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, a watchdog group that monitors such things, commented to Mother Jones on these actions: “What has happened is a significant and systematic shift in ways that certain types of information and messages are presented on federal websites.”

This “significant and systematic shift” is clearly aimed at ignoring, or at best obfuscating, the facts and reality of ACD. This is indicative of the aforementioned fossil-fuel cronies doing the bidding of their backers.

While there have been far too many changes to websites to include all of them, there are several highlights worth noting.

The National Park Service has seen nearly 100 documents that describe its action plans regarding ACD scrubbed from its Climate Friendly Parks website.

The position of director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, which has in the past functioned as the president’s top science advisor, has remained unfilled. Less than two months into Trump’s term, that office’s website removed a line from a description of its mission that said it “ensures that the policies of the Executive Branch are informed by science.”

Tillerson’s State Department removed the term “greenhouse gas” from its Office of Global Change’s website, in addition to deleting links to the Climate Action Report.

The National Institutes of Health’s environmental unit changed mentions of “climate change” to “climate,” and the agency has erased links to a fact sheet about ACD’s threats to human health.

To see more stories like this, visit “Planet or Profit?”

The National Park Service has seen nearly 100 documents that describe its action plans regarding ACD scrubbed from its Climate Friendly Parks website.

EPA websites have been the hardest hit. Dozens of links to information aimed at assisting local officials prepare for ACD impacts have been deleted. More than a dozen mentions of the words “climate change” have been removed from the site’s main page, and other website pages that had detailed the risks of ACD, goals to curb emissions, and state plans to adapt to more extreme weather fueled by ACD are long gone.

The Department of the Interior (DOI) website has also seen dramatic changes. The Bureau of Land Management’s statement about the purpose of a 2015 Fracking Rule that entailed greater regulations for onshore energy production has been removed. Prior to Trump, the DOI website featured an extensive overview of its ACD priorities, which have now been reduced to just a few sentences that focus on the kinds of land the agency protects. Recently, just before this Christmas, the Interior Department rescinded a variety of ACD policies, along with mitigation policies, because they were “potential burdens” to energy development.

The Department of Energy, which runs the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, has made vast changes to its web pages that include the Bioenergy Technologies Office and the Wind Energy Technologies Office, including the reduction of emphasis on renewable energies as replacements for fossil fuels.

Meanwhile, the Department of Transportation (DOT) changed the language it uses across multiple web pages, exchanging “climate change” and “greenhouse gases” for terms such as “sustainability” and “emissions.” Furthermore, the DOT’s summary was changed from working to “reduce greenhouse gas pollution and improve resilience to climate change impacts” to helping to “enhance sustainability, improve resilience, and reduce energy use and emissions on our highway system.”

Attacking the Planet

Another nefarious way in which the Trump administration has been pushing its denialist approach to ACD is by disallowing government scientists from participating in conferences to discuss their work on the subject.

There are numerous instances of this, but one example occurred last October when the EPA canceled speaking appearances of three of its scientists who were to discuss ACD at a conference in Rhode Island.

Actions like this one — the suppression of the work of government climate scientists — have been widespread and common enough that several scientists exiled by the Trump administration recently formed a panel in order to continue their work. The scientists, who were members of a federal advisory committee on ACD that was disbanded by the administration, took their research to Columbia University’s Earth Institute which went on to hire one of the committee’s researchers who will reconvene the panel members to produce the report they were previously working on.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration continues its near-daily attacks on the environment itself, one of the more recent being its announcement to open most US coastal waters to oil and gas drilling. This came on the heels of another announcement that the administration aims to dramatically shrink several ocean monuments in order to allow for more commercial fishing, after announcing plans to shrink several land-based national monuments as well.

The planet’s warming, of course, is not pausing to wait out this administration. The last four years have been the four hottest years ever recorded. Signs of runaway ACD abound, and it is only intensifying.

The Trump administration’s attack on science and the environment, along with its denial of the largest existential threat to humanity (alongside nuclear war), will continue, and almost assuredly, intensify.

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