Why ex-military leaders are trying to stop Trump’s panel to counter climate science

Source: By Dino Grandoni, Washington Post • Posted: Thursday, March 7, 2019

Donald Trump at a 2018 rally in Charleston, W.Va. (Reuters/Leah Millis)

Fifty-eight former high-ranking military and intelligence officials issued a stern warning to the White House: Think twice about creating a panel to counter the government’s own findings that climate change poses a threat to national security.

“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,” wrote a group of former generals, admirals and other national security officials in a letter Tuesday to President Trump, which I reported on here. “It is dangerous to have national security analysis conform to politics.”

They are objecting to plans by top administration officials to convene an ad hoc group of select federal scientists to scrutinize and potentially dispute the conclusions of recent federal climate reports, which The Post’s Juliet Eilperin, Josh Dawsey and Brady Dennis revealed last week.

Officials are still determining what sort of group they will assemble to assess the government’s scientific findings and whether they will eventually establish an independent federal advisory committee to scrutinize climate science.

Yet the letter writers, who include heavyweights from President Barack Obama’s administration such as former secretary of state John F. Kerry and former secretary of defense Chuck Hagel, already worry the panel will end up unduly “second-guessing the scientific sources” that underpin the grave conclusions from most military leaders that climate change is a menace to the nation’s security. They do not want the White House to, as they say, “dispute and undermine military and intelligence judgments on the threat posed by climate change.”

The question is whether there is any chance that Trump — a commander in chief who likes to boast about “my generals” and “my military” — will listen to these former military leaders.

“This letter is not an attack on the president, it is an offer of dialogue,” said Andrew Holland, chief operating officer of the American Security Project. His group, along with the Center for Climate and Security, another policy and research nonprofit organization focused on security issues, organized the letter.

In various military and intelligence reports, military leaders predict that the impact of climate change will directly endanger U.S. facilities — for example, a rise in sea level is expected to increase the risk of flooding at some naval bases. They also project that climate change will exacerbate conditions, such as drought, that lead to conflict.

But for years, Trump himself has had his mind made up: Climate change is “madness,” a “con,” a “hoax.”His administration has worked hard to unravel efforts under the previous president to curb climate-warming emissions from coal-fired power plants, natural gas wells and automobiles.

Still, Holland said “we do hold out hope” of convincing Trump.

“We actively hope that he will listen to people like his daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law Jared Kushner,” he said.

The couple, who both serve as senior White House advisers, each urgedthe president to keep the United States in the Paris climate accord, an international deal meant to keep the world below 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. But the president said early in his term the country would pull out of the widely hailed agreement.

Kerry helped broker that agreement for Obama. He, in particular, has made the urgency to curb global warming a focal point of his post-government career. In a recent Post op-eddenouncing Trump’s climate panel, Kerry called the administration’s efforts to “paralyze” U.S. climate action its “most dangerous collision with facts.”

But there is yet another goal to the letter, according to Holland: “To offer clear support” to career officers still working on climate and security issues within the federal bureaucracy.

In January, for instance, the national intelligence director delivereda worldwide threat assessment on “climate hazards” such as extreme weather and acidifying oceans, which threaten “infrastructure, health, and water and food security.”

And in November, scientists from 13 federal agencies publisheda National Climate Assessment that concluded that “the impacts of climate change are intensifying across the country.”

In an indication of where the White House panel is headed, Charles Kupperman, deputy national security adviser, said during the Situation Room meeting that Trump was upset that his administration had issued the National Climate Assessment at, The Post reported last week.

Read more here:

Climate and Environment
Generals, admirals and other national security officials sent a letter to President Trump objecting to plans to convene an ad hoc panel to counter federal climate reports.