If You Don’t Like the Answer, Change the Question

On May 28, 2019, the New York Times reported on the latest efforts of the Trump Administration to discredit climate science and climate scientists. The article, “In Climate Fight, Trump Will Put Science On Trial,” by Coral Davenport and Mark Landler, is well worth reading.

          The article details how Trump and his political advisors intend to move well beyond their strategy of dismissive skepticism, sowing doubt, obfuscation and preying on ignorance, to a strategy of actively creating pseudo climate science. This will be done by creating a new climate review panel. William Happer, a 79 year old controversial, discredited  physicist with no training or experience in climate science, is in charge of forming the panel. The panel will issue reports utilizing faulty methodology, unrealistic assumptions and computer modeling limiting projections to 2050 which will, of course, produce results more to Trump’s liking.

In other words, they have decided upon the answer they want and will justify that answer by pointing to a faux “scientific panel” as the source of their data. I suppose one could say Trump is creating plausible deniability. Trump doesn’t want to stand on a debate stage and have to say climate change is a hoax without having something or somebody to back him up.  it is unfortunate for the country that Trump backed himself into this corner, but he thought he had to take an extreme position to win, and now he is doubling down.  In his mind, he has no choice. 

          Trump has already done everything within his power to undo regulations aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Trump and his appointees have already scrubbed mention of climate change from government websites and ordered that reference to global warming be removed from speeches and formal statements. This is not surprising if you consider the views of Trump administration officials. Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State, said the rapidly thawing Arctic was a land of “opportunity and abundance” because of its untapped reserves of oil, gas, uranium, gold, fish, rare-earth minerals and that melting sea ice was opening up new shipping routes. William Happer, Trump’s designated scientist, has defended the virtues of carbon dioxide and went so far as to say that carbon dioxide has been demonized “just like the poor Jews under Hitler.”

          Needless to say, the reaction of the scientific community has been quick and brutal. Phillip B. Duffy, the President of the Woods Hole Research Center and a panel member of the National Academy of Sciences, said, “What we have here is a pretty blatant attempt to politicize the science – to push the science in a direction that is consistent with their politics. It reminds me of the Soviet Union.”  You can’t say it better than that.

          Global warming caused by man is the elephant in the room. According to recent reports, in 2018 mankind released the greatest amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, ever. The science is not new, novel or even controversial.  We know now and we have known for decades that carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels cause global warming.  It is long past due that we face the problem rather than manipulate science until we find a reassuring answer.