It is not surprising that President-elect Donald Trump will be surrounding himself with people who disagree with the scientific consensus about the urgency of taking action to reduce carbon emissions. Trump has made no secret of where he stands, and the large number of appointees with oil and gas interests is further guarantee that global warming deniers will play a large role in the incoming administration.
But we thought it was important to really dig into these nominees and appointees and to keep track as the administration comes together. You can find a list we’ve compiled here. We’ll keep it updated as Trump makes new announcements, and we’ll work to make the list more useful, detailing not just which nominees are climate deniers, but pointing out some of the statements and actions they’ve made that got them put in the denier category.
Some of the calls were a bit hard to make. I could not, for instance, find a quote from South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who Trump tapped as UN ambassador, flatly denying climate change. But in her reaction to Obama’s announcement of his Clean Power Plan, designed to cut carbon emissions, Haley was more concerned about its impact on jobs than on whether it would help curb climate change. And she helped bury a disturbing state report about the potential impact to South Carolina from climate change. That seemed sufficient to put her in the denier category.
Elaine Chao, wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, also doesn’t seem to have any direct statements about climate change on the record, but her close ties to denier groups like the Heritage Foundation (not to mention McConnell himself) warranted her inclusion.
And then there’s Rex Tillerson, the ExxonMobil CEO tapped by Trump to become Secretary of State. Tillerson has acknowledged the existence and dangers of climate change and, under his leadership, Exxon promised to stop funding groups that spread misinformation about the issue. Only, that promise turns out to have been broken. The company has continued to give millions to groups that deny climate change. That puts Tillerson firmly in the denier camp, whatever public shifts Exxon may have made under his leadership.
Others didn’t make the denier category, but maybe should have. Former General Michael Flynn, Trump’s pick for the vital role of National Security Advisor, hasn’t denied the reality of climate change, but he thinks the Islamic State is a greater threat to the United States, blasting President Obama for talking about climate change instead of concentrating on terror attacks.
“And here we have the President of the United States up in Canada talking about climate change,” Flynn said in a Fox News interview. “I mean, God, we just had the largest attack…on our own soil in Orlando. Why aren’t we talking about that? Who is talking about that? I mean, Fort Hood, Chattanooga, Boston, people forget about 9/11!”
Others in the military recognize climate change as a very grave security risk. A coalition of military and national security experts released a report in September warning that the impacts of climate change would contribute to “conditions that can lead to conflict, state instability, and state failure, straining military readiness, operations and strategy, and making existing security threats worse.”
The group recommended that the incoming administration assign a cabinet-level official to lead and coordinate responses to domestic climate change and security issues. It advised the new National Security Advisor to create a senior climate-level leadership post on his staff to help integrate plans to address climate-related impacts on national and international security priorities.
There were more recommendations for other members of the incoming Cabinet (remember, the report was released in September, before the election). The group advised the Secretary of State to create a Climate and Security Officer, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations to address climate security in the UN Security Council, the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop a “National Adaptation and Resilience Strategy to improve the nation’s climate resiliency and preparedness for climate and weather extremes,” among others.
It is safe to say that all of these recommendations will be ignored. In addition, Trump will try to scuttle the Paris Climate Agreement, Obama’s Clean Power Plan and other efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
Donald Trump is going to be a dangerous president. His thin-skinned narcissism, his hair-trigger temper, his utter lack of understanding of the complexities of the issues he faces, his bull-in-the-china-shop response to delicate areas of foreign policy, including nuclear policy, all combine to make him the biggest threat to American security I can remember in my lifetime.
But his administration’s open hostility to science and determination to fight efforts to respond to climate change make him a genuine threat to the entire world.
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.