A Trump-elevated skeptic has been ordering Interior scientists to muddy department climate reports

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 08: U.S. Secretary of Interior David Bernhardt (L) speaks as President Donald Trump (R) looks on during an East Room event on the environment July 7, 2019 at the White House in Washington, DC. President Trump delivered remarks on “his Administration’s environmental accomplishments of cleaner air and cleaner water, including helping communities across the Nation reduce air pollution and meet our air quality standards, as well as modernize outdated infrastructure and improve water quality while at the same time growing a strong economy for all Americans.”  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Indur Goklany is a longtime Interior Department staffer who was elevated by Team Trump into a top climate policy role soon after the great orange buffoon Donald took office. The reasons for choosing him seem evident enough: Goklany is a climate “skeptic” who won minor acclaim with conservative climate change denial groups such as the fossil fuel-funded Heartland Institute for the usual bog-standard suppositions. That “Well Actually maybe scientists do not know what the evidence shows they know about the climate,” “Well Actually maybe climate change will have upsides that you eggheads have not considered,” and “Well Actually maybe tamping down on pollution would be far more harmful to society than, you know, worldwide ocean acidification, extinctions, and those other minor unpleasantries.”

Unsurprisingly, The New York Times is now reporting that Goklany has been putting his mark on “at least nine” of the agency’s key scientific reports, muddying the agency’s scientific messages in an effort to both sides the fate of the planet.

As has been standard practice in the pro-extraction, oil-funded climate denialist movement, the language Goklany has been ordering scientists to include in agency reports revolves around claiming scientific uncertainty where little actually exists. The end result of this is to defraud the public—blunting government’s own scientific conclusions in an effort to stifle demands for stricter pollution controls. The Times reports that Goklany insisted climate science “may be overestimating the rate of global warming.” In fact, newer climate studies have repeatedly found warming to be happening at a faster rate than previous studies had predicted.

He also, said the Times, ordered scientists to note that increasing carbon dioxide levels “may increase plant water use efficiency” and “lengthen the agricultural growing season.” This one is trotted out only by the most dishonest of denialists; while it is technically true that plant respiration may benefit slightly from higher carbon dioxide levels (and heat), the effect is minuscule compared to the effect of the planet’s climate zones changing positions out from under those same plants. If deserts are expanding into agricultural areas and drought is dropping precipitation rates throughout this nation’s heartland, the plus of those newly unusable lands having slightly longer growing seasons doesn’t enter into it.

The short version is, once again, that we are screwed. The point of Trump-style climate denialism is not to deny climate change is happening outright but to instead insist that the science is far too “uncertain” to justify action. As with a certain coronavirus in the news, the premise is that while we cannot know what might happen, what we do know is that this is all the fault of people who want to bring the stock markets down with unpleasant news rather than letting the invisible hand of the markets decide what percentage of humanity needs to die off in order to boost the financial portfolios of Dear Leader’s friends and allies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *