The Trump administration spent time last year mulling over what its public position on climate science should be — and, according to a report published Wednesday by The Washington Post, outrightly “ignoring” new research was one option that officials considered.
Citing an internal memo drafted in September by President Donald Trump’s then-top energy and environmental aide, Michael Catanzaro, the Post reported that White House officials had discussed whether to “consider having a firm position on and a coherent, fact-based message about climate science ― specifically, whether, and to what extent, anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are affecting the climate system, and what level of concern that warrants.”
Three options were reportedly presented in the memo: The first was to conduct “red team/blue team” debates to “highlight uncertainties” in climate data; the second was to review scientific studies under the Administrative Procedure Act; and the final option was to simply “ignore, and not seek to characterize or question, the science being conducted by Federal agencies and outside entities.”
An option to endorse scientists’ findings was not put on the table.
No formal policy ever did materialize from the memo or subsequent discussions on the issue. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt was reportedly an advocate of holding “red team/blue team” debates to publicly critique climate science, but that idea was ultimately blocked by the White House, reported The New York Times in March.
Remember that "red team, blue team" debate on climate change that Scott Pruitt proposed for E.P.A.? Here's who killed it (at least for now).https://t.co/MDn5rCC8Qg
— NYT Climate (@nytclimate) March 9, 2018
As the Post noted, the Catanzaro memo offers a glimpse into the challenges faced by the Trump administration on the issue of climate change. While White House officials continue to publicly downplay climate data and adopt policies to expand fossil fuel production in the U.S., federal agencies have continued to publish research showing that climate change is real, man-made and a growing threat to the U.S.
On Friday, for instance, the National Park Service published a report that said the effects of climate change, like rising sea levels and intensifying storms, could damage park sites across the country. The report’s lead researcher had earlier accused the Trump administration of attempting to censor the study by removing all mentions of human-caused climate change.
Following public outrage, the paper was quietly published with the climate change references intact.
On Wednesday, Democratic lawmakers reacted with fury to the Post’s report.
“Unacceptable and immoral,” wrote Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) on Twitter.
“Ignoring the overwhelming evidence only sets us back further in addressing this serious threat,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).
"Ignore," distort, or censor. Those are the options the Trump White House is considering to deal with the overwhelming consensus on climate change. Unacceptable and immoral. We need a vision and a plan to #ActOnClimate, not willful ignorance. https://t.co/cT6O0sxXvX
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) May 24, 2018
Climate change is real. It impacts New Hampshire every day. Ignoring the overwhelming evidence only sets us back further in addressing this serious threat. https://t.co/vh080HazeO
— Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (@SenatorShaheen) May 23, 2018