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Creation of panel disputing climate change causes White House infighting

Benjamin Hulac, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- Plans to create a White House panel to dispute established climate science are facing sharp opposition from within the building, according to an official familiar with the matter and an administration adviser.

The Trump administration is considering establishing a cohort of scientists at the National Security Council, led by Princeton physicist and climate change denier William Happer, to challenge established scientific conclusions of the severity of climate change and humanity's contributions to it.

"We do not comment on the deliberative process," a senior administration official said when asked about differences over the panel among President Donald Trump's advisers. "The United States government takes seriously the issue of climate change, and it is important that policies and decision-making be based on transparent and defensible science."

Myron Ebell, who led the Trump transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency, said Trump would likely support the panel but acknowledged resistance to it.

"There is opposition within the White House and in some Cabinet departments," Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the free-market group the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said in an email. "But there is also a lot of support," he said. "My guess is that process of considering it will end up with the president, who will decide to go ahead."

The Trump administration has made disputing climate change research and stripping mentions of the topic from government reports and websites a priority during its term.

Moments after Trump was sworn into office, climate information was wiped from White House websites. And reports on environmental sustainability at federal agencies, including the Treasury Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, were edited to remove mentions of climate change.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Democrats will introduce legislation to eliminate funding for the panel, which a group of 58 former military and national security officials denounced in a letter last week. "Imposing a political test on reports issued by the science agencies, and forcing a blind spot onto the national security assessments that depend on them, will erode our national security," they wrote.


Ebell said Happer has planned an independent "commission" that would "conduct an adversarial review of the fourth National Climate Assessment and other official reports." He added: "Such a review is long overdue."

Happer has said that fossil fuels are a moral good and carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that insulates the planet and traps heat, is good for Earth.

"It's actually good for the world," he said at a 2017 conference of the conservative Heartland Institute.

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