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The Energy 202: Why ex-military leaders are trying to stop Trump's panel to counter climate science

with Paulina Firozi


Fifty-eight former high-ranking military and intelligence officials issued a stern warning to the White House: Think twice about creating a panel to counter the government’s own findings that climate change poses a threat to national security.

“Imposing a political test on reports issued by the science agencies, and forcing a blind spot onto the national security assessments that depend on them, will erode our national security,” wrote a group of former generals, admirals and other national security officials in a letter Tuesday to President Trump, which I reported on here. “It is dangerous to have national security analysis conform to politics.”

They are objecting to plans by top administration officials to convene an ad hoc group of select federal scientists to scrutinize and potentially dispute the conclusions of recent federal climate reports, which The Post's Juliet Eilperin, Josh Dawsey and Brady Dennis revealed last week.

Officials are still determining what sort of group they will assemble to assess the government’s scientific findings and whether they will eventually establish an independent federal advisory committee to scrutinize climate science. 

Yet the letter writers, who include heavyweights from President Barack Obama’s administration such as former secretary of state John F. Kerry and former secretary of defense Chuck Hagel, already worry the panel will end up unduly “second-guessing the scientific sources” that underpin the grave conclusions from most military leaders that climate change is a menace to the nation’s security. They do not want the White House to, as they say, “dispute and undermine military and intelligence judgments on the threat posed by climate change.”

The question is whether there is any chance that Trump — a commander in chief who likes to boast about “my generals” and “my military” — will listen to these former military leaders.

“This letter is not an attack on the president, it is an offer of dialogue,” said Andrew Holland, chief operating officer of the American Security Project. His group, along with the Center for Climate and Security, another policy and research nonprofit organization focused on security issues, organized the letter.

In various military and intelligence reports, military leaders predict that the impact of climate change will directly endanger U.S. facilities — for example, a rise in sea level is expected to increase the risk of flooding at some naval bases. They also project that climate change will exacerbate conditions, such as drought, that lead to conflict.

But for years, Trump himself has had his mind made up: Climate change is “madness,” a “con,” a “hoax.” His administration has worked hard to unravel efforts under the previous president to curb climate-warming emissions from coal-fired power plants, natural gas wells and automobiles.

Still, Holland said “we do hold out hope” of convincing Trump.

“We actively hope that he will listen to people like his daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law Jared Kushner,” he said. 

The couple, who both serve as senior White House advisers, each urged the president to keep the United States in the Paris climate accord, an international deal meant to keep the world below 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. But the president said early in his term the country would pull out of the widely hailed agreement.

Kerry helped broker that agreement for Obama. He, in particular, has made the urgency to curb global warming a focal point of his post-government career. In a recent Post op-ed denouncing Trump’s climate panel, Kerry called the administration’s efforts to “paralyze” U.S. climate action its “most dangerous collision with facts.”

But there is yet another goal to the letter, according to Holland: “To offer clear support” to career officers still working on climate and security issues within the federal bureaucracy.

In January, for instance, the national intelligence director delivered a worldwide threat assessment on “climate hazards” such as extreme weather and acidifying oceans, which threaten "infrastructure, health, and water and food security.”

And in November, scientists from 13 federal agencies published a National Climate Assessment that concluded that “the impacts of climate change are intensifying across the country.”

In an indication of where the White House panel is headed, Charles Kupperman, deputy national security adviser, said during the Situation Room meeting that Trump was upset that his administration had issued the National Climate Assessment at, The Post reported last week.

Read more here:

White House’s plans to counter climate science reports ‘will erode our national security,’ 58 former officials warn (Dino Grandoni)


-- Half-a-dozen energy and environmental rollbacks championed by the Trump administration will, if enacted, generate an additional 209 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, according to a new report released Tuesday by NYU Law School’s State Energy and Environmental Impact Center. 

The analysis, which was unveiled by the attorneys general from Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland and New York, calculated the emissions associated with rules affecting the coal, automotive, oil and gas and solid waste industry. Most of the rules have been proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency. By 2025 these regulatory changes would spur greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to the annual output of nearly 54 coal-fired power plants, according to the report, or nearly 15 percent of the nation’s current fleet.

Maryland Attorney Brian Frosh told reporters that President Trump vowed during the 2016 campaign that he would be “a change agent. And unfortunately, he has. He has become an agent of climate change.” “He has targeted fossil fuels not to decrease their emissions or their threat to society, but to increase their emissions,” Frosh said. The attorneys general said that they would continue to challenge the administration in court as they continued to rewrite the nation’s air and water policy. “We will sue EPA at every change we get,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James.

EPA spokeswoman Molly Block said the agency "has not reviewed the report." The EPA has estimated its replacement of Obama's Clean Power Plan — one of the rules analyzed in the report — could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 1.5 percent by 2030 from projected levels.
-- Juliet Eilperin

— McConnell vows Green New Deal will get vote soon: After telling reporters last week the resolution would get a vote in the Senate sometime before the August recess, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the chamber would vote on proposal in “the next couple of weeks,” Politico reports. Other Republicans continued a line of rhetorical attack on the plan, with Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) penned a USA Today op-ed calling the Green New Deal "unworkable and unaffordable." Politico reports, meanwhile, that Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) is putting himself in "a leading role in his party’s resistance."

"We're going to keep at this": Yet again, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) criticized McConnell’s planned vote as a “political stunt.” On the Senate floor, Schumer referred to a climate resolution he’s announced, with backing from the entire Senate Democratic caucus, saying “we’re not locking anyone in to this proposal or that proposal, we’re simply saying let’s start talking about it.” He added: “Actually… the one good thing about Leader McConnell’s stunt, we are talking about it."

— He's not running: Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday he will not throw his hat into the already hat-filled ring for president. "Advisers said he ultimately decided not to run after concluding he could accomplish more through his political activism and philanthropic work over the next two years, and by focusing on such issues as gun violence, opioid addiction and climate change," The Post's Michael Scherer reports.

What Bloomberg will do instead: "Bloomberg plans to increase his investment in a philanthropic effort called Beyond Coal, which has worked to shutter coal-fired power plants in recent years, and to launch a new effort called Beyond Carbon, with the goal of largely eliminating the use of gas, oil and coal in the United States by 2050."

— “It’s directly impacting our way of life”: During the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee’s first hearing of the year on climate change, Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski said addressing energy concerns amid global warming will be a “priority for all of us.” The Alaska Republican said the panel will prioritize efforts including “keeping energy affordable and advancing cleaner technology that can help reduce greenhouse gases.” She also lamented how climate change is impacting her home state of Alaska. “In the Arctic we’re seeing warming at over twice the average of the rest of the Lower 48. It is directly impacting our way of life,” the panel’s chair said. “It’s diminishing sea ice and melting permafrost…It’s impacting subsistence. It’s impacting food security. It’s certainly impacting our economy with our fisheries.”  

Joe Manchin III, the panel's top Democrat from the coal-producing state of West Virginia, too said "all communities, including those in energy-producing states like West Virginia and Alaska, are experiencing the harmful impacts of the climate crisis." He added that solution to that crisis must not put "additional economic burdens" on states like his already hurting from the downturn in coal.

— EPA blocked NASA plane from reviewing hurricane-ravaged Houston: Following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, NASA scientists wanted to fly a pollution-monitoring plane over the hurricane zone following the catastrophe that caused chemical spills and damaged industrial plants. But the Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Texas stopped that from happening, the Los Angeles Times reports. The state’s director of toxicology Michael Honeycutt told NASA officials: “At this time, we don’t think your data would be useful.” EPA deferred to Honeycutt, and the "response stunned NASA scientists, many of whom had flown similar missions in the past, including over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico."

—  Lawmakers want answers on WWF after BuzzFeed report: Two lawmakers are calling for an investigation into the World Wide Fund for Nature, better known as WWF, following an extensive report from BuzzFeed News revealed it has equipped and helped fund “paramilitary forces that have been accused of beating, torturing, sexually assaulting, and murdering scores of people." “I strongly support efforts to combat wildlife trafficking, but this must not come at the cost of the health, safety, or life of innocent civilians,” House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said in a statement, according to BuzzFeed, while Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) called for an “immediate and thorough review” of the United States’ support of the charity.


— Ocean heat waves are happening more frequently: A new study found they’re happening more often than they did last century and it’s having a negative impact on marine life, the New York Times reports. The heat waves, which happen when sea temperatures are warmer than normal for at least five straight days, are damaging ocean ecosystems, including for kelp forests, sea grass beds and coral reefs. “Scientists estimate that the oceans have absorbed more than 90 percent of the heat trapped by excess greenhouse gases since midcentury,” the Times reports. “This excess heat is increasing not only baseline ocean temperatures but also the frequency and duration of marine heat waves.”

— Forbidding foam: Maryland is one step closer to becoming the first state to prohibit plastic foam cups and food containers after a bill to do so gained final approval in the state Senate. It now moves on to be considered in the state House, The Post’s Ovetta Wiggins and Arelis R. Hernández report. Lawmakers in Hawaii are also considering a statewide ban and some cities, like New York, Miami and the District, already bar foam food and beverage containers. “Support for the foam ban fell largely along partisan lines, with all Democrats backing it except Sen. Katherine A. Klausmeier (Baltimore County), who said she worried about the impact on small businesses,” they write. “Opponents of the bill said they were not certain it would help the environment as much as proponents claimed.”


— Oil giants announce big plans for Permian output: In the coming years, oil giants Chevron and Exxon want to boost production in the “heart of the American fracking boom,” the Permian Basin, the Wall Street Journal reports.  “In the next five years, Chevron expects to more than double its production in the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico to 900,000 barrels of oil and gas a day… That is a nearly 40% rise from its previous forecast,” the Journal reports. “Not to be outdone, Exxon on Tuesday announced plans to increase its Permian output to one million barrels of oil and gas a day by as early as 2024.” The moves are the latest signal that major oil companies will drive future expansion of shale drilling.



  • The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources holds a hearingon the policies and priorities of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, and the U.S. Geological Survey.
  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee holds a hearing on highway infrastructure.
  • The House Oversight Subcommittee on the Environment holds a hearing on PFAS chemicals and their risks.
  • The House Science, Space and Technology Committee holds a hearing on leadership in science and technology.

Coming Up

  • The House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Energy holds a hearing on the energy water nexus on Thursday.
  • The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife holds an oversight hearing on threats to the North Atlantic Right Whale on Thursday.
  • The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies holds a hearing on energy workforce opportunities and challenges on Thursday.
  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a roundtable on issues related to public lands in the Western United States on Thursday.

— Here’s your next cold-weather activity: Next time the air turns frigid, try making frozen bubbles, The Post’s Matthew Cappucci suggests.