Those that believe honest disagreement is behind the Trump administration’s refusal to address climate change would be hard pressed to defend some of its recent, Orwellian moves to control information, language, and testimony on the subject. If the administration really believed its own argument, that there’s no solid scientific consensus behind humanmade climate change, perhaps it wouldn’t have to spend so much time suppressing scientific voices on the subject.
Last week, the White House blocked written testimony from a federal intelligence agency saying that climate change would cause “significant” and “possibly catastrophic” consequences.
Avoiding this outcome depends on the world’s ability to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, wrote Rod Schoonover, a senior analyst at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research.
While Schoonover was allowed to give his spoken testimony at a June 5th climate hearing, White House officials blocked the written statement, telling the Washington Post that its content didn’t “jibe” with administration climate policy. Before it barred the report entirely, the administration had first asked the Bureau of Intelligence and Research to cut out some of its claims about climate change, which it declined to do.
Skeptics often accuse climate activists of politicizing the scientific debate around climate change, and yet it’s the Trump administration that is suppressing science that doesn’t fit with its preconceived politics. If the White House really believes that the science behind climate change is weak or unsettled, why does it need to actively suppress the conclusions of its own officials? And the recent incident is far from the first time.
Last month, the administration sought to remove any mention of climate change from an international statement from the Arctic Council, a conference of the eight Arctic nations that meets every two years. While the other nations see climate change as a central issue for the Arctic, which is warming twice as quickly as the rest of the world, the US “indicated its resistance to any mention of climate change whatsoever,” one official, who was involved in preparation for the meetings, told the Post.
And late last year, the administration moved up the release of the administration’s Fourth National Climate Assessment to the day after Thanksgiving, during a holiday in which few Americans are paying attention to the news. It was originally set to be released the following month, and many observers saw a clear political agenda in the timing—especially given Trump’s own comments. “I don’t believe” the assessment, Trump said, noting he had read “some” of the report from his own administration.
The report, commissioned by Congress and compiled by 13 federal agencies within the administration, concluded that climate change “is transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us,” and threatens “substantial damages to the US economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades.”
In particular, their point about economic damage directly contradicts an ongoing argument from the administration, saying that action to address climate change would simply be too costly for the economy. The report suggests that the cost of inaction would be considerably higher.
The White House is also aiming to establish a Presidential Committee on Climate Change, geared specifically to contradict the conclusions of climate scientists from the rest of the federal government. A leaked memo revealed that the stated mission of the committee is an “adversarial scientific peer review” that will specifically seek to challenge the National Climate Assessment and other science from the administration’s own federal agencies.
Again, we see the administration allowing its policy to dictate science, missing the point that a true “scientific peer review” can’t be formed explicitly to oppose existing conclusions. To do so, the administration would have to handpick scientists that are already opposed to those conclusions. And they seem to be doing exactly that. Such a plan is anything but scientific.
If the Trump administration really believed that there’s no solid consensus on climate change as a result of human activity, they wouldn’t be afraid to let the science speak for itself. Instead, they’re using every tool they have to suppress science, control language, and shape the narrative based on politics alone. If those policy decisions stemmed from genuine doubt over the science, we would see science dictating policy, rather than the other way around.