Sunday, November 20, 2016

Donald Trump’s First Staff Picks All Deny the Threat of Climate Change

Ten days removed from the presidential election, President-elect Donald Trump has finally begun filling out his team, releasing a slew of offers for various high-level positions, from CIA director and attorney general to national security adviser.

Unlike the Departments of State or the Interior, these posts have less of a direct impact on domestic and international climate and energy policy.  But climate change is a problem that permeates all policy realms — especially national security.

The Department of Defense has called climate change a “threat multiplier,” noting that it has the potential to exacerbate conflict and threaten national security.  And in September, 25 military and national security experts — including former advisers to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush — issued a report warning that climate change poses a “significant risk to U.S. national security and international security.”  Middle East experts have suggested that the Syrian civil war is a contemporary example of a climate-driven conflict, one where widespread drought and crop failures helped tip the scale.

Trump, on the other hand, does not believe in the scientific consensus on climate change.  He has called climate change a “hoax,” and has vowed to roll back nearly every single climate policy enacted under the Obama administration, from the Clean Power Plan to the Paris climate agreement.

So it should be no surprise that, when it comes to climate change, Trump’s first five advisers also reject the scientific consensus, as well as national security community’s warnings, regarding the dangers of global warming.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (Credit: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) Click to Enlarge.
Here’s a rundown of Trump’s first five staff picks, and how they stack up on climate change.
  • Attorney General: Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
  • In Congress, Sessions has repeatedly voted for policies that expand fossil fuel development and restrict regulations on greenhouse gases.  He voted in favor of a measure that would prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases, and has argued that carbon dioxide is not really a pollutant because it is “a plant food,” and that it “doesn’t harm anybody except that it might include temperature increases.”
  • CIA Director: Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS)
  • In 2010, Rep. Mike Pompeo rode into Washington on the coattails of the Tea Party movement, which saw a wave of ultra-conservative representatives elected to Congress.  Pompeo has deep ties to petrochemical billionaires Charles and David Koch:  He gained most of his wealth from a firm he founded with investment funds from Koch Industries, and relied heavily on campaign donations from Koch Industries’ PAC to power him through his primary and the general election.

    The Koch brothers have actively disseminated misleading information about climate change for years, so perhaps it is no surprise that Pompeo chooses to deny the scientific consensus on climate change.
  • National Security Advisor: Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn
  • Michael Flynn used to serve as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, until he was forced out in 2014 for allegedly being a bad manager who “left chaos in his wake,” according to NBC News.  Since then, he has been a loyal Trump surrogate and was even floated as a potential vice presidential candidate.
    Flynn’s most notable statement about climate change came this summer, in the wake of the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida.  Weeks later, Obama traveled to Canada to discuss — among other things — climate change.  Flynn went on Fox News to criticize Obama’s move, arguing that the president was more interested in climate change than national security.
    Flynn does not seem to care that the Department of Defense has called climate change a “threat multiplier” and that prominent members of the national security community, like Dov Zakheim, who served in the Department of Defense under both Reagan and George W. Bush, have highlighted climate change as a risk to U.S. military operations.
  • Chief White House Strategist: Steve Bannon
  • Steve Bannon — who ran Trump’s campaign and has been named Chief White House Strategist — is many things.  He is a racist whose appointment to the White House has been cheered by the Klu Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party.  He is a misogynist and bigot who has called women “dykes” and ran a website that disparaged Jews and minorities.

    And on top of all of that, he is a climate denier and peddler of climate conspiracy theories.  Breitbart News, Bannon’s conservative website, has tried to claim that climate change is a hoax created by activists, scientists, and renewable energy executives.  Breitbart has published pieces calling NASA and NOAA scientists “talent-less low-lives.”

    Bannon himself has accused the Pope of “hysteria” on climate change.  He has called for unfettered fossil fuel extraction, arguing on a radio interview that there could be an “American renaissance, and an industrial renaissance in front of us, if we can just get the government out of our way.”
  • White House Chief of Staff: Reince Priebus
  • “Democrats tell us they understand the world, but then they call climate change, not radical Islamic terrorism, the greatest threat to national security,” Priebus said during the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference.  “Look, I think we all care about our planet, but melting icebergs aren’t beheading Christians in the Middle East.”
Read more at Donald Trump’s First Staff Picks All Deny the Threat of Climate Change

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