What’s the Point?

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 13: Physicist William Happer arrives in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, NY on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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The Post has an article about how the Trump National Security Council plans to set up a new committee of scientists basically to refute climate science. It will be spearheaded by an NSC senior director named William Happer. He ran a right-wing “pro-carbon” group before entering the administration and got another round of attention last week for once comparing the “demonization of carbon dioxide [to] the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler.”

Needless to say we are literally carbon-based lifeforms and carbon is the sixth most common element in the universe. Carbon is entirely indifferent to our criticism or praise. Indeed, carbon is a molecule which does not think. But to more serious concerns, I’m curious about even the point of this enterprise.

From what I can tell from the Post article the idea is at least in part to scour the federal government for climate denier scientists, get them all on one panel and produce reports which dispute the scientific consensus on climate change. At some level, sure, they’ll get a government report that says climate change isn’t real or isn’t caused by carbon or humans or whatever. But to the extent that we have a big minority of the population that currently disbelieves climate science, mainly for partisan reasons, they don’t seem to need more encouraging. They’re doing fine disbelieving it on the basis of things they hear on Fox News or seeing guffaws when there’s a cold spell on the theory that that disproves ‘warming’.

What’s equally true is that the Trump administration seems quite content to disregard the views or findings of government scientists and continue to pursue their fossil fuel intensive policies. Various laws can allow government findings to constrain policy decisions. But the Trump administration generally seems comfortable disregarding them or changing the regulations that create the constraints.

The world and basically everyone in the United States, regardless of which side of the equation they’re on, realizes that the US government is officially indifferent to climate change and against the range of policy actions virtually every other government in the world, at least in principle if not always in practice, supports. It’s hard to see how this changes that or even strengthens that position. It seems more like just a rightwing hobbyhorse, an act on principle, a sort of global owning the libs.

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