And then Lucy pulled the football away.
On Friday, news broke that the Trump transition team had made an unusual set of requests of the Department of Energy. A questionnaire sent from Trump Tower requested information about department employees who'd been involved in international climate change efforts under President Obama and details about the numbers used in estimating the effects of the warming climate.
"My guess is that they’re trying to undermine the credibility of the science that DOE has produced, particularly in the field of climate science," a climate researcher told The Post's Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin. The request for names of employees raised a more unusual prospect: A possible purge of those who had worked on the issue. "What’s next? Trump administration officials holding up lists of ‘known climatologists’ and urging the public to go after them?," the deputy director of the Union of Concerned Scientists said to Mufson and Eilperin.
This was hardly the worst news of the week for those advocating for bold action to curtail the emissions that contribute to the climate problem.
On Wednesday, Trump announced his intention to nominate Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Oklahoma produced five percent of the oil in the United States in September and is one of the states that's benefitted the most from the boom in production that followed innovations in hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking. That benefit has had side effects: A spate of earthquakes that have hit the state have been linked to wastewater wells from the fracking industry.
As attorney general of a state that makes a lot of money from the fossil-fuel industry, Pruitt was perhaps unsurprisingly hostile to attempts by the EPA to curtail the greenhouse gas emissions that fossil fuels produce. Pruitt (along with a number of officials from other states) sued the EPA. But his advocacy often went further. In 2014, the New York Times won a Pulitzer for its reporting on the conflicts between state attorneys general and business interests. One story singled out Pruitt for having taken a letter from the energy industry and simply putting it on his official letterhead. Pruitt, simply put, rejects established science linking climate change to human activity.
Our Chris Mooney spoke with experts who explained the extent to which the United States could single-handedly affect the ability of the world to keep warming in check. Under one scenario, the difference by the year 2100 could be between an increase of 1.9 degrees and one of 2.3 degrees. Warming of 2 degrees is generally seen as a critical threshold in preventing the worst warming effects.
That's up to Donald Trump and, by extension, to the people who are managing the government on a day-to-day basis for the next four years. This week, those looking for action on climate change got one tiny hint of good news and at least two very big hints of bad news.
Or perhaps three. Among those reportedly being considered for the position of secretary of state is Rex Tillerson, CEO of energy giant ExxonMobil.
There may be one other tiny hint of optimism in that pick, though. ExxonMobil itself acknowledges the problem of climate change.
That view, of course, is to the left of the man who may run the EPA and, it seems, the man who will be president.