THE LIGHTBULB

As a candidate, Donald Trump once said the nation's generals "don’t know much because they’re not winning."

Now as president, Trump's White House aims to try to prove that — at least when it comes to climate change.

Back in February, the White House began toying with the idea of formally countering the consensus of climate scientists that humans are responsible for rising global temperatures. They also sought to combat the idea that human-caused climate change poses an imminent national security threat -- an idea popular among high-ranking members of the military, even under Trump. 

But now, several agencies in the Trump administration say they do not anticipate taking part in the White House effort, The Post’s Juliet Eilperin, Brady Dennis and Missy Ryan report.

On the one hand, the White House’s National Security Council is entertaining the idea of establishing a new federal advisory committee to challenge the consensus on climate change.

On the other hand, numerous agencies — including the Defense and State departments, along with the Environment Protection Agency and Office of the Director of National Intelligence — have yet to offer the White House experts.

"One intelligence official said the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, who serves as the head of the intelligence community, 'recommended the [intelligence community] be excluded from the committee’s scope of review given [its] role is not to conduct scientific climate change studies but to assess and analyze national security implications of climate change,'" Eilperin, Dennis and Ryan report. 

Still others — namely, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the main two federal agencies responsible for studying and understanding Earth’s atmosphere — have yet to even be approached about offering their expertise to the effort.

High-ranking military officers, meanwhile, are continuing to express concern about the capacity for climate change to fuel conflicts abroad. Per Eilperin, Dennis, and Ryan: 

Speaking before the Senate Armed Forces Committee on Thursday, Gen. David L. Goldfein, Air Force chief of staff, cited the conflict in Syria as an example of how climate change’s impact is already destabilizing some nations. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) asked about recent comments made by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr.

“Most don’t remember what caused the Syria conflict to start,” Goldfein said. “It started because of a 10-year drought.”

“I think what . . . Chairman Dunford was talking about was that we have to respond militarily very often to the effects of, globally, of climate change.”

Goldfein’s remarks came two days after the commanders of U.S. European Command and U.S. Transportation Command voiced similar views before the same Senate panel.

After Warren asked Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, who also serves as NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe, whether he agrees with the intelligence community’s assessment that climate change presents a security threat, Scaparrotti replied, “I do, and I believe that, as you noted, much of this will be drivers for potential conflict, or at least very difficult situations that nations have to deal with.”

Congress should expect to hear the same sort of warnings when on Tuesday former secretary of state John F. Kerry and former defense secretary Chuck Hagel testify to the House Oversight Committee.

Last month, two former Cabinet secretaries led more than four dozen former military and intelligence officials in a letter warning Trump that plans to counter climate science "will erode our national security."

Nevertheless, Myron Ebell, a director at the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, suggested that the outreach from the White House to federal agencies to enlist in the effort to counter climate findings may not be fruitful. Many of the scientists who came to that consensus, of course, work for the federal government, he points out. 

“They will only confirm what they’ve already done,” he told The Post.

Indeed, the NSC brought in its own academic, Princeton emeritus professor William Happer, to spearhead the climate effort. While Happer is a physicist, not a climate scientist per se, he did once led a group that touted the environmental benefits of increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Read the rest of the story here:

Health & Science
“There are people in the administration who don’t think climate change is a risk, or is real, and there are people in the administration who do think it’s a risk and is real.”
Juliet Eilperin, Brady Dennis and Missy Ryan
POWER PLAYS

— How much 2020 Democrats are talking about climate change: Based on a look at their social media posts about policy, The Post’s Kevin Schaul and Kevin Uhrmacher put together an extremely helpful guide through the issues the Democratic candidates are running on so far. One takeaway: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has lived up to his vow to make climate change his top campaign priority. Eighty-one percent of Inslee’s posts about policy were about climate change and included mentions of things such as the Green New Deal, environmental regulation and renewable energy. Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper stands in second place with 33 percent of his policy-related posts mentioning climate change.

— Another Bernhardt probe request: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is calling for an investigation into acting interior secretary David Bernhardt over reports that the nominee to permanently lead the agency may have been involved in lobbying activities in violation of the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995. In a letter to U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Jessie Liu, the Oregon Democrat said the “troubling allegations” can be added to a “long list of reasons why the nomination of David Bernhardt should be stopped, or at minimum delayed, until the Senate and the American people get all the facts.” Wyden has become Bernhardt's chief antagonizer, telling him during his confirmation hearing he sounded "like just another corrupt official."

Vote scheduled: The Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed cloture on Bernhardt’s nomination, setting up a vote for later this week. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last week approved his nomination by a 14-6 vote.

— Beto's offshore flip: Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke’s presidential campaign told the Texas Tribune the candidate has reversed his position on a 2016 offshore drilling vote he made when he was in Congress. Spokesman Chris Evans said O’Rourke “wouldn’t cast that same vote today with all that he knows and all that he has heard from people.” His vote would have allowed for federal funds to be used to study oil and gas exploration in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Now, though, there’s bipartisan support for the current ban on offshore drilling there, including in key states ahead of 2020.

— Pipeline plans: Speaking of Texas, the president is set to travel there this week to announce new executive orders meant to ease regulations and boost pipeline construction. “The executive orders, which will be announced at the International Union of Operating Engineers' International Training and Education Center outside Houston, will each focus on incentivizing private investment in energy infrastructure and streamlining permitting of projects,” the Hill reports. A White House official told the publication the orders are meant to help U.S. energy firms “avoid unnecessary red tape, allowing the U.S. to continue to be the undisputed global leader in crude oil and natural gas production for the foreseeable future.”

— Congress OKs Colorado River drought plan: Lawmakers in the House and Senate both passed Monday a bill that would allow the federal government to issue a seven-state drought plan for Colorado River basin states, a deal that’s meant to curb water use during water shortages. “The drought plan is a short-term fix to stave off the most immediate effects of a 19-year drought that continues to threaten parts of the Southwest,” the Arizona Republic reports. “Once the bill is signed by President Donald Trump, representatives of the seven river states are expected to meet again to finalize the deal.”

THERMOMETER

— Another potential historic storm heading to the Plains: The huge spring storm is set to unleash high winds, blizzard conditions and flooding in central states by the middle of the week, and like the “bomb cyclone” that bombarded the region last month, the storm could set more records. “Despite the calendar drifting deeper into April, the biggest story from this storm sequel might be the predicted heavy and wind-blasted snow from South Dakota to southern Minnesota and Wisconsin,” The Post’s Ian Livingston reports. “To the south of the snow in the Great Plains, the potent winds may also whip up fires.”

OIL CHECK

— The aftermath of floods in the Midwest: The severe floods that barraged Midwestern states have inundated the struggling ethanol industry, trapping or flooding barrels of ethanol and causing biofuel shortages. That in turn has propelled increases in gas prices in western states, with southern California gas prices reaching the highest in the country. “While some ethanol plants were flooded, the primary effect of the rising waters was to shut rail lines that serve as the main arteries for corn and ethanol deliveries,” Reuters reports. “Ethanol prices on the coasts spiked due to shortages, but Midwest producers have been unable to take advantage because of washed-out rail lines, market sources told Reuters.”

— Fiat Chrysler said it will pay $110 million to settle a lawsuit brought by investors that alleged the automaker misled U.S. investors over diesel emissions and failed to comply with federal safety regulations. The automaker has vehemently denied the allegations, Reuters reports. This settlement is just the latest from the company, which agreed in January to an $800 million settlement to resolve allegations from the Justice Department and California that Fiat used illicit software to get false diesel emission tests results.

DAYBOOK

Today

  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on the 2020 budget request for the USDA Forest Service.
  • The House Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on the status of rebuilding and privatization of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.
  • The House Oversight and Reform Committee holds a hearing on the "Need for Leadership to Combat Climate Change and Protect National Security."
  • The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness holds a hearing on homeland security impacts of climate change.
  • The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources holds a hearing on health and environmental impacts of mountaintop removal mining.
  • the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Environment holds a hearing on the history of a consensus and causes of inaction related to climate change.

Coming Up

  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on "Opportunities for Energy Innovation and Other Potential Solutions to Help Address Global Climate Change" on Thursday.
EXTRA MILEAGE

— What could it mean? At 9 a.m. Eastern time Wednesday, a group of astronomers is expected to unveil much-anticipated photos of a pair of black holes, the New York Times reports. Here’s how the National Science Foundation teased the news: