Jim Bridenstine represents Oklahoma's first Congressional district, which includes parts of Tulsa and Broken Arrow, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Photo: bridenstine.house.gov

By Emily Atkin
30 October 2017

(New Republic) – It became clear early in Donald Trump’s presidency that many of his top officials shared a common trait: They were climate deniers. Though “climate denial starts at the top,” the New York Times’ Coral Davenport wrote in March, it was trickling down into a variety of high-influence position: Vice President Mike Pence, who once called global warming a “myth” disproved by the fact that his home state once had a cold winter; then-senior advisor Steve Bannon, whose news site Breitbart remains one of the top destinations for climate misinformation; Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, who believes carbon dioxide is not a “primary contributor” to global warming; and Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who believes the same myth, saying in June, “No, most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in.”

But that was just the beginning. Nine months into Trump’s presidency, he continues to nominate climate deniers to key spots in his administration. The latest denier of note is Trump’s nominee to lead the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Oklahoma Congressman Jim Bridenstine. Though commonly thought of as solely a space exploration agency, NASA dedicates nearly a tenth of its budget to studying the earth’s climate from space. Scientists around the world use NASA’s space station and its 16 earth science satellites for climate research. NASA scientists monitor and predict changes in Arctic sea ice, as well as changes in the earth’s temperature and rainfall patterns due to carbon emissions. NASA is one of the few remaining government Twitter accounts that still tweets accurately about climate science.

And yet, Trump nominee Bridenstine—whose confirmation goes before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on Wednesday—frequently spouts easily debunked climate misinformation. A former Navy pilot with no scientific background, Bridenstine has implied that a single snowy day disproves long-term global warming trends. He has used the tired red herring, “The climate has always changed.” He’s explicitly denied that carbon emissions have anything to do warming trends, saying perhaps the sun is instead to blame.

If confirmed, Bridenstine could move NASA away from one its core missions: studying changes to the planet. He once demanded an apology from President Barack Obama for “wasting money” on climate research, and this year he told E&E News that he’s “open to moving earth science out of NASA and into another federal agency.” But Bridenstine is far from the only science denier whom Trump has nominated or appointed in recent months. Here’s a look at the latest misinformers Trump has chosen to top spots in his administration, and how those nominees threaten to take anti-science far beyond basic environmental policy.

The White House has its own body for shaping climate policy, the Council on Environmental Quality, and earlier this month Trump nominated Kathleen Hartnett White to run it. If confirmed by the Senate, she would be one of the more outspoken climate deniers in his administration. The former chair of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), she has called climate science a “kind of paganism” for “secular elites.” She has said excess carbon emissions are “beneficial,” an “essential nutrient for plant growth.” And she believes the United Nations’ efforts to reduce carbon emissions are a veiled attempt to create a “one-world state ruled by planetary managers.” [more]

Trump’s Gang of Climate Deniers Has Grown Into an Army

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