The White House is working on putting together a panel to assess whether climate change is a national security threat, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post, a conclusion confirmed by federal intelligence agencies several times since President Trump took office.
The proposed Presidential Committee on Climate Protection, which would be established by implementing decree, is led by William Happer, a senior director of the National Security Council. Happer, emeritus professor of physics at the University of Princeton, said that carbon emissions related to climate change should be seen as an asset rather than a pollutant.
The initiative represents the most recent attempt by the Trump government to question the findings of federal scientists and experts on climate change and comes less than three weeks after the director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats has issued a global threat assessment that considers it a significant identified security risk.
At the end of November, Trump rejected a report from the government stating that global warming intensifies and poses a major threat to the US economy by saying "I do not see it." Last month, his plenipotentiary to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, acting administrator Andrew Wheeler testified that he did not see climate change as one of the urgent challenges of the world.
According to the NSC's discussion paper, the order would create a federal advisory committee "to advise the president on scientific understanding of today's climate, how the climate could change in the future under natural and human influences, and how a changing climate could improve safety. influence the United States. "
The document notes that the government has issued several important reports under Trump which state that climate change is a serious threat. "However, these scientific and national safety assessments have not undergone a rigorous independent and contradictory peer review to investigate the certainties and uncertainties of climate science, as well as implications for national security," he said.
Francesco Femia, chief executive of the Council on Strategic Risks and co-founder of the Center for Climate and Security, said in an interview that the plan seemed to be an attempt to undermine the consensus within the national intelligence community that climate change needs to be addressed. to avert serious consequences.
"This is the equivalent of setting up a nuclear proliferation commission and having someone who does not think nuclear weapons exist," he said. "It is frankly a political tool with blunt power that is designed to protect the national security community against climate change."
It is unclear how much support the Happer initiative has within the administration: delegates from more than a dozen agencies are invited to attend a meeting on Friday in the Situation Room of the White House.
Several agencies refused to comment on the case this week, including the NSC, the Pentagon, the White House for Science and Technology Policy Office and the Office of the Director of the National Intelligence Service.
Happer, who worked at the Energy Department under George H.W. Bush and in September at the White House to work on emerging technologies & # 39; is not formally trained as a climate scientist. He developed a national reputation for his work on laser technology used in missile defense and on the interactions between light and atoms.
He served on the boards of two advocates who wondered whether the greenhouse effect posed a serious risk, the CO2 coalition and the George C. Marshall Institute. When he was asked in March of last year in connection with court proceedings whether he had received money from the fossil fuel industry, Happer said he'd got somewhere between $ 10,000 and $ 15,000 from Peabody Coal to testify before a committee of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission heard it.
At an energy and climate policy conference held in December 2016 sponsored by the Conservative Heritage Foundation, Happer explained that the CO2 coalition wanted to counteract the idea that carbon dioxide is a pollutant because it is the main cause of recent climate change.
"I like to call this the CO2 anti-slander league," he said, gesturing to a slide, "because there is the CO2 molecule, and it has undergone decade after decade of abuse, without any reason.
"We are doing our best to combat this myth that CO2 is a dangerous polluter," he said. "It is not a polluter at all … We have to say the scientific truth that more CO2 is actually an advantage for the earth."
Most scientists have a different opinion and conclude that in the coming decades the world will have to drastically reduce its carbon emissions, or that it must have serious consequences. Global temperatures have risen about 1 degree Celsius or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit from preindustrial levels. In an American report from October it was stated that the world will have to cut over 1 billion tons annually in the coming decade to prevent the increase of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
However, the Trump government has accelerated domestic fossil fuel production and has attempted to reverse most of the greenhouse gas emission curbs adopted under President Barack Obama. Last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published an analysis that predicted that the global temperature rise by 2100 under the current government route could reach 4 degrees Celsius or 7 degrees Fahrenheit.
Although several Trump appointments have argued that climate change does not pose a significant risk to the defense capabilities of the country, the Pentagon and intelligence services have reached the opposite conclusion.
The Coats evaluation submitted on January 29 to the Senate Intelligence Committee, for example, states: "Global environmental and ecological degradation, as well as climate change, will make competition for commodities, economic problems and social discontent more likely until 2019 and beyond.
The Ministry of Defense said in a report submitted to Congress in mid-January that several dozen military installations in the United States are already experiencing climate effects. The review, which called climate change "a question of national security", said rising seas, forest fires and other such disasters are likely to pose more serious problems for the military in the coming years.