Donald Trump has pledged to wipe out Obama’s climate change efforts, including the Clean Power Plan and the Paris Agreement. His choice to head the transition team for EPA shows how little his view of climate change has evolved since he tweeted that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” He claimed as recently as Tuesday night that he didn’t say this, but the thing about the Internet is, nothing ever really disappears. And he used the term hoax repeatedly in tweets.
Trump’s EPA transition head is Myron Ebell. As Ebell once told Vanity Fair, ““There has been a little bit of warming … but it’s been very modest and well within the range for natural variability, and whether it’s caused by human beings or not, it’s nothing to worry about.”
Ebell, who has no scientific training of any kind, has devoted most of his career to arguing that the climate isn’t changing; or if it is, that’s just natural variation; or if humans play a role, it’s only a small one; or if there’s substantial change it will desirable because people like to live in warm places. He specializes in the defense counsel trick of picking flaws in each individual bit of evidence, rather than looking at the totality of the evidence. If defense counsel are to be believed, the only way to prove someone guilty is to have a single piece of irrefutable evidence establishing every aspect of the defendant’s guilt. Similarly, unless there is a scientific study that is 100% certain proving the existence and risks of climate change, we must supposedly ignore the thousands of studies that are each 90% certain. It seems plain that there is no conceivable amount of scientific evidence that would persuade Ebell to change his mind.
Ebell’s also skeptical of the benefits of decreasing particulate pollution, by the way. (This is part of his argument against regulating mercury emissions.) Maybe there’s some kind of pollution that Ebell thinks is actually a problem, but I haven’t been able to find it. He’s also no fan of clean energy, complaining about efforts at “replacing cheap fossil fuels with expensive but unreliable alternatives such as windmills.” That makes him the perfect pick for Trump.
Trump has made expanded use of fossil fuels a key policy. As he said just a few days ago in Pittsburgh,
“America is sitting on a treasure trove of untapped energy – some $50 trillion dollars in shale energy, oil reserves and natural gas on federal lands, in addition to hundreds of years of coal energy reserves.
“It’s all upside: more jobs, more revenues, more wealth, higher wages, and lower energy prices.
“I am going to lift the restrictions on American energy, and allow this wealth to pour into our communities – including right here in Pennsylvania. . . .
“In addition, we will streamline the permitting process for all energy infrastructure projects, including the billions of dollars in projects held up by President Obama – creating countless more jobs in the process.”
Unlike his shifting on many issues, Trump has been completely consistent on energy policy and pollution law throughout his campaign. You may disagree with him. But if he puts all of these policies into effect, you won’t be able to say that he hid the ball. Though the resulting pollution might, of course, hide the sky.