A committee working under the National Security Council (NSC) would include sceptics who have questioned the scientific consensus on manmade global warming, administration officials have revealed.
The White House plan has been championed by William Happer, one of the NSC’s senior directors and a physicist who has disputed the damaging impact CO2 emissions are having on the Earth’s atmosphere.
Having the panel operate under the NSC would avoid the public scrutiny usually required of government advisory committees, senior officials told The Washington Post.
The White House is thought to be keen to formally challenge recent federal reports, including the National Climate Assessment – an interagency study released in November that outlined the threats posed to the US by global warming.
The report linked climate change to an increase in natural disasters and warned of the dire effects in failing to contain a rise in global temperatures to 2C. Only days after its release, Donald Trump told reporters: “I don’t believe it.”
Climate scientists strongly condemned the latest Trump administration plan, reportedly discussed at the White House Situation Room on Friday.
“This is like assembling a panel of gravity sceptics who insist it’s safe to jump off tall buildings, except in this case they want to take us all with them,” Nasa climate scientist Kate Marvel told Axios.
“This is a truly bad idea that just refuses to die. All bureaucracies have them – they are just more dangerous when they originate and live in the White House,” the US navy's retired oceanographer David Titley told the website.
Donald Trump has characterised the National Climate Assessment as a study prepared by Obama administration officials, but scientists have insisted the federal study was subjected to a series of in-depth peer reviews.
There is also huge concern about the influence of Mr Happer, the senior NSC official set for a major role in the proposed committee, who has called the scientific consensus on climate change “a cult”.
In 2010, he told a climate committee in the House of Representatives that global warming “will be small compared the natural fluctuations in the earth’s temperature, and that the warming and increased CO2 will be good for mankind.”
Mr Happer previously ran a think tank of sceptics called CO2 Coalition, a group which has received funding from the right-wing Mercer Family Foundation, according to the Climate Investigations Centre.
The president has his own history of denying the science on anthropogenic climate change. Mr Trump once claimed the phenomenon was a Chinese hoax intended to hurt American exports and has repeatedly confused seasonal weather with global warming.
Last week he selected diplomat Kelly Craft to serve as the country’s next ambassador to the United Nations. Ms Craft has said she respects “both sides” of climate change science, framing the consensus as a debate in which deniers have equal credibility.
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