The White House is recruiting researchers who reject the scientific consensus on climate change for its “adversarial” review of the issue.
The proposal to form a “Presidential Committee on Climate Security” at the National Security Council (NSC) has shifted, into an ad-hoc group that will review climate science out of the public eye. Those involved in the preliminary discussions said it is focused on recruiting academics to conduct a review of the science that shows climate change presents a national security risk.
William Happer, a senior director at the NSC and an emeritus Princeton University physics professor not trained in climate science, is leading the effort.
Among those who have been contacted are the relatively small number of researchers with legitimate academic credentials who question the notion that humans are warming the planet at a rapid pace through the burning of fossil fuels. A number of the names the White House is targeting are those frequently invited by Republicans to testify at congressional hearings on climate change where uncertainty is emphasized.
The stated goal of the committee, according to a leaked White House memo, is to conduct “adversarial scientific peer review” of climate science.
Those involved in the preliminary discussions caution that the list of researchers, which could include scientists as well as statisticians, is still under discussion and that the shape of the committee has yet to be determined. Most of the members are expected to come from outside the federal government.
Happer did lead a meeting Friday to discuss the goals of the committee, according to a White House official. It could take about a month for an executive order creating the committee to receive President Trump’s signature, the official said.
The official would not confirm those who attended Friday’s meeting, but a memo that leaked ahead of the gathering showed representatives from NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy were among those invited to participate.
On Friday, White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway would not comment on why the administration was challenging the science of its own agencies.
“Do you have an articulate, competent question?” she said — and then refused to answer any questions about the meeting.
The list of researchers who have been approached or discussed includes: Judith Curry, a former professor at the Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences; Richard Lindzen, a retired Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who has called those worried about global warming a “cult”; and John Christy, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, and a newly installed member of EPA’s Science Advisory Board. A leader of the effort is Steven Koonin, a New York University professor and former undersecretary for science in the Department of Energy in the Obama administration.
It’s possible the review will also include scientists who agree with the vast majority in the field of climate science that humans are warming the planet at a pace unprecedented in the history of civilization.
Koonin has been actively recruiting participants for the effort. He and Happer worked with former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to conduct a “red team, blue team” climate debate at EPA, which would also have taken an adversarial approach to scientific peer review, but that effort was ultimately scuttled by former White House chief of staff John Kelly.
The new group plans to take a close look at the recent congressionally mandated National Climate Assessment, which found that “the impacts and costs of climate change are already being felt in the United States, and changes in the likelihood or severity of some recent extreme weather events can now be attributed with increasingly higher confidence to human-caused warming.”
While the Trump administration signed off on the report, the president said he did not believe it. His administration attempted to bury the report by releasing it on the day after Thanksgiving.