At this writing, Donald Trump has nominated or appointed 28 individuals to serve his administration. As far as I can tell, of those 28 individuals, only three are on record affirming the scientific fact that human activity is causing global climate change.
The rest are not necessarily all climate deniers. Some have simply not taken a public position one way or the other. But a large majority of them are. Of the 19 nominees named so far who will require Senate confirmation, 13 are on the record either doubting that climate change is happening or doubting that humans are the cause, or they’ve worked for (and sometimes led) organizations that fund anti-climate propaganda.
In addition, the two most powerful men in the Trump White House — Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon — think climate change is a hoax, as does, famously, Trump himself.
It’s important for the public to remember that Republicans were not always so blind to the dangers of climate change. Even George W. Bush, a former oilman, recognized climate change as a serious problem. During the 2008 election, the debate was not over whether to do anything about carbon emissions, but what to do.
So what happened? A couple of things, I think. Republicans’ reflexive opposition to anything championed by Barack Obama — which grew out of their strategic decision to deny him even the hint of a bipartisan victory on any issue — helped shift attitudes, as did the general post-factual nature of the Tea Party faction that rose to prominence following his election.
Add to that the growing influence of special interests — think of how much money the fossil fuel industry has pumped into the Republican Party since Obama came into office — and you have a party completely ready to abandon reason, no matter what the cost.
Republicans no longer seem to care about facts, truth or science. All that matters is political victory and furthering their far-right ideological agenda — which doesn’t have room for the kind of action needed to take action to stop the worst impacts from climate change.
It’s also important to understand that this rejection of scientific consensus on this vitally important topic is totally outside of political norms. According to research by a Norwegian political scientist, no other political party in the world — however conservative — has rejected climate science and the need for action.
Even Trump buddy and benefactor Vladimir Putin calls climate change “one of the gravest challenges humanity is facing,” and he’s a petrostate dictator who has amassed perhaps one of the largest world’s fortune’s largely thanks to oil.
Vitally, Republicans are not simply out of touch with every other political party in the world, they are badly out of touch with scientists. A recent paper by authors of seven climate consensus studies came to two important findings:
- Depending on how consensus is measured, between 90 percent and 100 percent of scientists agree that humans are responsible for climate change, with most studies pegging the consensus level at 97 percent.
- The greater the climate expertise among the scientists surveyed, the higher the consensus.
A 2004 study of peer-reviewed papers published between 1993 and 2003 didn’t find one paper rejecting the consensus the climate change is caused by human activity. A more recent review of 2,258 peer-reviewed articles published from the end of 2012 through 2013 found only one author, published in the Herald of the Russian Acedemy of Sciences, who rejected human-caused climate change.
Next week, we’ll examine Trump’s appointments and their climate change records more closely, detailing statements they’ve made and other indications of where they stand on this vital issue. In the meantime, here is the list of his appointments. Those with a clear record of climate denial have been marked with an asterisk.
Radmacher is former editorial page editor of The Charleston Gazette and The Roanoke Times. This Land is a weekly column produced by Appalachian Mountain Advocates.