White House avoids any endorsement of work of Government scientists

A “Fact-Based” Approach to Ignore Facts

Feeding the climate change denial of Donald Trump and Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt, White House staff have suggested ignoring scientific research.

The Washington Post reports on a September 2017 document from Michael Catanzaro, Trump’s special assistant for domestic energy and environmental policy, setting out the approach to dismiss scientists in Government agencies.

Preparing the memorandum for a meeting of senior White House and agency officials, Catanzaro asked about “a firm position on and a coherent, fact-based message about climate science — specifically, whether, and to what extent, anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are affecting the climate system, and what level of concern that warrants”.

To establish this “fact-based” position, Catanzaro did not consider endorsement of the scientists’ conclusions. Instead, he laid out three options to undermine them.

*A “red team/blue team” exercise to “highlight uncertainties in climate science”
*A formal review of the science under the Administrative Procedure Act
*“Ignore, and not seek to characterize or question, the science being conducted by Federal agencies and outside entities”

The White House did not adopt a formal approach, but in practice it has taken the third path.

Last month, US Geological Survey scientists released a Pentagon-funded study that found that low-lying coral atoll islands around the world — some of which host military bases — could become “uninhabitable” within decades because rising seas will spoil their drinking water supplies and eventually swallow the islands.

On May 18, the National Park Service issued a report projecting that sea-level rise linked to human activity could damage park sites in areas such as coastal Virginia and New Orleans.

No publicity has been given to either study.

The White House did block an attempt by Pruitt — the EPA head who has curbed the work of the EPA — to assemble a team to “write a detailed criticism” of a November 2017 climate science report by Government scientists. The study confirmed that climate change is caused by humans and that there is “no convincing alternative explanation”.

However, deputy press secretary Raj Shah played down the report, “The climate has changed and is always changing.”

That muted response continues. Last week Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross avoided any support of the scientists’ conclusion that human activity is driving climate change “Commerce Department’s NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] has issued various reports that reflect the thinking of their scientists, and those reports in general have been reviewed, sometimes favorably, sometimes less so by other people in that field.”