By Malee Oot
Amidst projections from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) identifying 2016 as the warmest year on record, America’s new president-elect, Donald Trump, has tapped one of the country’s most vociferous climate change deniers to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team. While 97% of climate scientists agree on the facts of global climate change, Trump’s selection for the EPA, Myron Ebell, remains one of the country’s most outspoken opponents of climate science consensus.
Although not a scientist, Ebell currently directs the Center for Energy and the Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a think tank which has consistently opposed efforts undertaken by the Obama administration to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions – particularly the Clean Power Plan and the Paris Agreement. Watchdog organizations like the Energy and Policy Institute and Media Matters have identified the Competitive Enterprise Institute as one of the front groups acting to champion the interests of the fossil fuel industry. While the Competitive Enterprise Institute has never publically disclosed the identity of its donors, an article published by the Washington Post in 2013 catalogued the contributors responsible for sponsoring the group’s annual fundraising dinner – a list which included organizations like Monsanto, American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, and the Murray Energy Corporation, which describes itself as the, ‘largest underground coal mining company in America.’
One of the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s other pet projects is SafeChemicalPolicy.org, a website dedicated to promoting articles suggesting chemicals – including herbicides and pesticides – are not detrimental to human health or the environment. SafeChemicalPolicy.org has consistently downplayed the impacts of the herbicide Atrazine, a known endocrine-disrupter banned by the European Union in 2003. The website has recently published articles like The Buzz: Six Reasons Not to Worry about Bees, a rejection of the substantial data documenting colony collapse; and a paper entitled, Rachel Was Wrong: Agrochemicals’ Benefits to Human Health and the Environment, a repudiation of Rachel Carson’s landmark 1962 environmental tome Silent Spring, a book credited with highlighting the devastating ecological impacts of agrochemicals like DDT, the pesticide responsible for pushing America’s iconic bald eagles to the brink of extinction a half century ago.
Ebell is also part of the Cooler Heads Coalition, a group funded by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which works on ‘dispelling the myths of global warming by exposing flawed economic, scientific, and risk analysis.’ In 2006, just a year before the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Ebell penned an op-ed in defense of climate change entitled Love Global Warming – asking ‘what’s wrong with mild winters anyway?’ – and claiming rising temperatures would merely mean, ‘Fewer people will die from the cold.’
Donald Trump has also consistently rejected climate science, claiming in a now infamous 2012 tweet, ‘The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.’ Trump was vocal about his support for fossil fuels during his presidential campaign, promising to end America’s ‘war on coal’. While climate change is not mentioned, in addressing energy independence the transition website for the Trump administration promises, ‘Rather than continuing with the current path to undermine and block America’s fossil fuel producers, the Trump Administration [sic] will encourage the production of these resources by opening onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands and waters.’
When Trump takes office in January, he will become the only world leader not advocating for climate action – and the only one still refuting empirical climate science – according to a 2016 report from the Sierra Club. Despite campaign promises to push for continued reliance on non-renewables, private sector companies have already urged Trump to promote a low carbon economy. More than 360 different companies and investors signed an open letter presented last week at the United Nations climate conference (COP 22) in Marrkech, Morocco calling on president-elect Trump to uphold the Paris Agreement. The letter was signed by companies like Starbucks, Nike, DuPont, and Levi Straus – and also warned the new president, ‘Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk.’
Malee is a freelance writer with a background in environmental management. She has lived in Kenya, Nepal, Thailand, and the United Kingdom and is currently based in Washington, DC.