Last week, the Washington Post reported that President Donald Trump was considering assembling a panel — the Presidential Committee on Climate Security — to question the established position on climate change. The planned panel’s most prominent supporters are notorious for rejecting the scientific consensus, often in exchange for payment. What this proposed committee represents is nothing less than a bribe that seeks to rob us of our planet’s future viability, in exchange for maintaining the profit margins of those who reap benefits from fossil fuel use.
The Department of Defense released a review in 2014 stating climate change was a “threat multiplier,” meaning its effects have the potential to increase poverty and worsen sociopolitical tensions in addition to the environmental degradation. Figures from former President Barack Obama and former Defense Secretary James Mattis affirm that climate change is a national security issue. President Trump, however, incorrectly believes otherwise.
Trump’s plan was spearheaded by William Happer, a retired physics professor from Princeton University and a senior director on the National Security Council. Happer, despite having no formal training in climate science, rejects the scientific consensus on climate change. In this capacity, Happer is also the co-founder of the CO2 Coalition, an organization which seeks to promote the benefits of carbon dioxide; the coalition has also received more than $200,000 from anti-climate change organizations, such as the Mercer Family Foundation and the Charles Koch Institute. Fellow Princeton Geoscience Professor Michael Oppenheimer has said Happer’s views are “simply not true.”
The CO2 Coalition is the successor organization to the George Marshall Institute, a now-defunct conservative think-tank. Though named after a respected World War II general, GMI itself garnered little respect. Created in 1984 to defend Reagan’s controversial “Star Wars” initiative, it shifted to climate skepticism after the collapse of the Soviet Union. GMI had questionable sources of funding, including Exxon-Mobil. In 1998, Jeffrey Salmon, then Executive Director of GMI, helped the American Petroleum Institute develop a plan that would “maximize the impact of scientific views consistent with ours.” Former Executive Director Matthew Crawford, who left the organization after five months, has definitely stated that there was an obvious conflict of interest at GMI. Happer later become the chairman of GMI and helped it transition into the CO2 Coalition.
Not only does Happer operate within corrupt organizations, but he himself is also corrupt. In a sting operation conducted by Greenpeace, members appeared as consultants for fossil fuel companies and contacted Happer to write a report that outlined the benefits of carbon emissions. Greenpeace found that Happer agreed to do so — for a fee of $8,000. In an email, he acknowledged that the review would most likely not pass a peer-reviewed study and suggested alternative ways to make the report viable. When the sting was uncovered, Happer did not refuse the veracity of the emails, instead refusing to comment.
This is yet another allegation of corruption against Trump’s environmental policy team, further chipping away the administration’s credibility on this issue — if he ever had any to begin with. As Trump tries to move forward with his anti-climate plans, we must strongly oppose all efforts to counter the established consensus on climate change. We must also defend the various institutions and initiatives that exist to fight against climate change, as they are currently in their most vulnerable state. The current presidential administration believes they can set a price on the future of our planet and get away with it. It is our moral imperative to prove them wrong.
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