Top Republicans are shifting the climate change debate away from the human role and toward a more pragmatic discussion over what government can do about it — but it’s increasingly clear that President Trump, not his Cabinet nor lawmakers, will be setting the environmental agenda.
Mr. Trump, now the nation’s foremost climate change skeptic, seems to be at odds with three of his key Cabinet nominees on the science of global warming. Despite that, his past statements calling climate change a hoax and his administration’s crackdown this week on federal agencies that have highlighted the issue on social media in recent days underscore how the White House will control the message and the policy on the issue.
While Cabinet nominees such as former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and Rep. Ryan Zinke — the proposed heads of the Energy Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department, respectively — told Senate panels last week that they believe climate change is real and that human activity has helped cause it, analysts say their opinions matter little.
“They can influence, they can put the arguments forward, they can try and give [Mr. Trump] counsel. But at the end of the day, it’s up to him. They weren’t elected. He was,” said Christine Todd Whitman, former New Jersey governor and head of the EPA under former President George W. Bush. “At the end of the day, it’s what the president wants.”
In 2012 and 2013, Mr. Trump called climate change a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, and he continued casting doubt on the concept of global warming throughout his presidential campaign.
His administration has kept up that approach during its first few days, ordering officials at the Badlands National Park to delete a series of tweets Tuesday that repeated scientific facts related to climate change. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said some of the offending tweets have been taken down for violating the agencies’ own social media policies, but reports say the National Park Service and other agencies have been told not to tweet about the global warming issue.