An official at the Interior Department embarked on a campaign that has inserted misleading language about climate change — including debunked claims that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is beneficial — into the agency’s scientific reports, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times.
The misleading language appears in at least nine reports, including environmental studies and impact statements on major watersheds in the American West that could be used to justify allocating increasingly scarce water to farmers at the expense of wildlife conservation and fisheries.
The effort was led by Indur M. Goklany, a longtime Interior Department employee who, in 2017 near the start of the Trump administration, was promoted to the office of the deputy secretary with responsibility for reviewing the agency’s climate policies. The Interior Department’s scientific work is the basis for critical decisions about water and mineral rights affecting millions of Americans and hundreds of millions of acres of land.
The wording, known internally as the “Goks uncertainty language” based on Mr. Goklany’s nickname, inaccurately claims that there is a lack of consensus among scientists that the earth is warming. In Interior Department emails to scientists, Mr. Goklany pushed misleading interpretations of climate science, saying it “may be overestimating the rate of global warming, for whatever reason;” climate modeling has largely predicted global warming accurately. The final language states inaccurately that some studies have found the earth to be warming, while others have not.
He also instructed department scientists to add that rising carbon dioxide — the main force driving global warming — is beneficial because it “may increase plant water use efficiency” and “lengthen the agricultural growing season.” Both assertions misrepresent the scientific consensus that, overall, climate change will result in severe disruptions to global agriculture and significant reductions in crop yields.
Samuel Myers, a principal research scientist at Harvard University’s Center for the Environment who has studied the effects of climate change on nutrition, said the language “takes very specific and isolated pieces of science, and tries to expand it in an extraordinarily misleading fashion.”
President Donald Trump thinks the windmills in Palm Springs, California, are “rusty,” “rotting,” and “look like hell.”
Trump was talking about energy dependency and the use of wind turbines at a campaign event in Colorado Springs on Thursday, a day after he was in Palm Springs for a fundraiser, according to KESQ. That’s when he “spoke out against” the Palm Springs windmills.
“And they’re all over the place,” The Desert Sun reported Trump said. “You look at Palm Springs, California. Take a look. Palm Springs. … They’re all over the place. They’re closed, they’re rotting, they look like hell.”
He said the windmills are made in China and Germany, have an effect on the ozone layer and kill birds, KESQ reported.
“You know if you shoot a bald eagle they put you in jail for a long time,” Trump said, according to KESQ. “But the windmills knock them down like crazy.”
It’s not the first time Trump has been angry about the Palm Springs windmills. In 2012, Trump tweeted that Palm Springs had been “destroyed” by the “world’s ugliest wind farm.”
In 2016, Trump said Palm Springs was a “poor man’s version of Disneyland” on a radio show, The Desert Sun reported.
Palm Springs Mayor Geoff Kors fired back at Trump on Friday, praising the city’s mission to use only carbon-free energy, NBC Palm Springs reported.
“It is unfortunate that, at this critical time in our history, we have a president who lies about and denigrates clean green power while embracing and promoting dirty power such as coal and offshore oil drilling, which is destroying our planet,” Kors said in a statement to the news outlet.
Despite a growing mountain of evidence that shows the world is careening towards a climate catastrophe, symbolized this month by the devastating bushfires in Australia, President Donald Trump thinks that “this is not a time of pessimism, this is a time for optimism.”
In his remarks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Tuesday morning, Trump spent the vast majority of his speech reeling off a laundry list of economic indicators that showed just how strong the U.S. economy is. But he finished his address by attacking climate change activists and scientists who have been raising the alarm about the plight of the planet.
“Fear and doubt is not a good thought process,” Trump said. “Because this is a time for tremendous hope and joy and optimism in action. But to embrace the possibilities of tomorrow, we must reject the perennial prophets of doom, and their predictions of the apocalypse.”
Trump once again repeated the lie that the U.S. has “the cleanest air in the world” when, in fact, his administration has made the air quality in the U.S. worse. According to the Environmental Performance Index, a metric from environmental scientists at Yale and Columbia, the U.S. ranks 10th when it comes to clean air quality.
Trump also said that today’s climate scientists are simply repeating errors of the past when “foolish fortune tellers…predicted an overpopulation crisis in the 1960s, mass starvation in the 70s, and an end of oil in the 1990s.”
Climate change is a hot topic at Davos this year, and an hour before Trump took the stage, Greta Thunberg, the 17-year-old Swedish activist who the U.S. president has criticized for her outspoken opinions and “anger management issues,” told the world’s elite that they have done “basically nothing” to avert a climate catastrophe.
“Pretty much nothing has been done since the global emissions of CO2 has not reduced,” Thunberg said. “If you see it from that aspect, what has concretely been done, if you see it from a bigger perspective, basically nothing, it will require much more than this, this is just the very beginning.”
Trump labeled activists like Thunberg “alarmists” who are simply seeking “absolute power to dominate, transform and control every aspect of our lives.”
“We will never let radical socialists destroy our economy, wreck our country, or eradicate our liberty,” Trump added.
Thunberg said the world needed to pay attention to the findings of the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which shows that in order to have the best chance at keeping the rise in global temperatures to under 1.5 degrees, countries must limit carbon emissions to a collective 420 gigatons.
She added that people often assume that “future generations will somehow suck hundreds of billions of tonnes of CO2 out of the atmosphere, even though such technology doesn’t exist yet.”
One of those people appears to be Trump, who made a cryptic reference to some unknown scientific breakthrough that would solve the current crisis.
“We’re continuing to work on things that you’ll be hearing about in the near future,” Trump said. “You’ll be hearing about it but we have found the answers to things people said, would not be possible certainly not in a very short period of time.”
New Yorkers worried that global warming might flood the city should get mops, President Trump says.
The Queens native — famed for supporting walls that keep immigrants out — on Saturday ripped the idea of a seawall to protect the city from calamities like 2012′s Hurricane Sandy, which caused massive devastation.
“A massive 200 Billion Dollar Sea Wall, built around New York to protect it from rare storms, is a costly, foolish & environmentally unfriendly idea that, when needed, probably won’t work anyway,” Trump tweeted. “It will also look terrible. Sorry, you’ll just have to get your mops & buckets ready!”
A seawall is one of five proposals considered by the Army Corps of Engineers to protect the greatest city in the world from storms that could become more frequent with climate change.
The Trump administration on Thursday unveiled significant changes to the nation’s landmark environmental law that would make it easier for federal agencies to approve infrastructure projects without considering climate change.
Many of the White House’s proposed changes to the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act have been supported by business groups that contend the law has delayed or blocked projects like laying out oil pipelines and building dams and mines, among other things.
Environmentalists said that the rules would endanger wildlife and lead to more carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, and contend that the regulations should be strengthened not weakened as the world copes with global warming.
If the proposals are enacted, it would be the first overhaul of NEPA in more than 40 years.
The plan, released by the White House Council on Environmental Quality, would no longer require any form of federal environmental review of construction projects that lack substantial government funding. The change would also widen the category of projects that will be exempt from NEPA regulations.
“We want to build new roads, bridges, tunnels, highways, bigger, better fast and we want to build them at less cost,” President Donald Trump said at the White House on Thursday.
The changes are expected to be published in the Federal Register on Friday. There will be a 60-day comment period and two open hearings before the final regulation is delivered.
The administration has argued that the law can increase costs for builders, block construction projects and threaten jobs for American workers and labor union members.
“The step we’re taking today, which will ultimately lead to final regulations, I believe will hit a home run in delivering better results to the American people by cutting red tape that has paralyzed common sense decision making for a generation,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said Thursday.
Jay Timmons, president and chief executive of the National Association of Manufacturers, said that the president’s plan is exactly what his group wanted.
“Our efforts should be used for building the infrastructure Americans desperately need, not wasted on mountains of paperwork and endless delay,” he said.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., a senior member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, argued that the changes prioritize polluters and corporations over the environment.
“This NEPA rewrite favors big polluters and corporate profits over balanced, science-based decision making and would prevent Washingtonians from voicing their views on proposals ranging from siting a new fossil fuel pipeline in their backyard to building an open-pit mine that could destroy the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery,” she said in a statement.
“We need to make smarter environmental decisions, not roll back the safeguards we already have,” Cantwell said.
The administration’s proposed changes might not make it through court, according to Bruce Huber, an environmental law professor at Notre Dame Law School.
“The law requires federal agencies to report the environmental impacts of their actions that significantly affect ‘the quality of the human environment,’” he said. “If the regulations announced today drive agencies to diminish the extent or quality of their reporting, federal courts may very well conclude that their reports do not comply with the law.”
William Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, said that the White House’s proposal is consistent with other environmental regulation rollbacks.
“This is all about the election and Trump getting out there and shoring up his base,” Snape said. “The Trump administration has been losing more cases than it’s winning in oil and gas – and this is a chance to blame someone else.”
During a press gathering today, President Donald Trumpunexpectedly backtracked on his previous, stated belief that climate changes is a “hoax” and instead called it a “very serious subject” and claimed that he had a book about the topic he was going to read.
In the midst of massive, cataclysmic wildfires ravaging Australia, the devastating impacts of climate change have become a worldwide news topic. So, Trump’s apparent reversal on the issue, noted by New York Times’ climate change reporter, Lisa Friedman, seemed to have the potential for a breakthrough moment.
But as Trump expounded on the book referenced, it became clear he was not discussing one based on scientific research.
After a follow-up, the Times’ Friedman confirmed the book that Trump, who is notoriously averse to reading long news articles or briefing folders let alone books, plans to read is a hagiographic, self-published book written by his former New Jersey golf course consultant during the 2016 campaign. Russo worked for Trump for 17 years and is not a climate scientist.
President Trump lashed out at a familiar foe during a speech on Saturday, calling windmills “monsters” that “kill many bald eagles,” ruin the visual appeal of “magnificent” farms and fields, and “look like hell” after 10 years.
“I never understood wind,” Trump said at the start of the lengthy tangent, days after he became the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. “You know, I know windmills very much. I’ve studied it better than anybody I know. It’s very expensive. They’re made in China and Germany mostly — very few made here, almost none. But they’re manufactured tremendous — if you’re into this — tremendous fumes. Gases are spewing into the atmosphere.”
He continued: “You know we have a world, right? So the world is tiny compared to the universe. So tremendous, tremendous amount of fumes and everything. You talk about the carbon footprint — fumes are spewing into the air. Right? Spewing. Whether it’s in China, Germany, it’s going into the air. It’s our air, their air, everything — right?”
The president’s latest attack on wind turbines came as he kicked off his holiday stay in Florida with an appearance at Turning Point USA’s annual summit. The event by the conservative student group was staged in West Palm Beach, near Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, presenting an opportunity for him to, as Politico put it, “bask in the love of some of his fiercest supporters, with scores of 20-somethings donning ‘Make America Great Again’ hats and rhinestone ‘TRUMP’ hair clips.”
In an address that stretched to more than an hour, Trump cycled through some of his greatest hits, saying that he brought back the expression “Merry Christmas” and that his administration “achieved more in this month alone than almost any president has achieved in eight years in office.” He took aim at “Crazy Nancy” Pelosi, “Crooked Hillary” Clinton, Hunter Biden, the “almost totally corrupt” media, the “Washington swamp,” the “illegal, unconstitutional and hyperpartisan impeachment” — and wind turbines.
Trump’s disdain for wind energy can be traced to about a decade ago, when he bought property for a luxury golf resort in Scotland and found out that a wind farm was planned nearby. Concerned that it would detract from his course’s views, he mounted a vigorous campaign against wind energy. Over the years, he has suggested that wind turbines threaten schoolchildren and even cause cancer — a claim not grounded in any robust evidence.
He has also tweeted about them.
On Saturday, Trump arrived at the topic by way of complaining about the Green New Deal, climate change legislation championed by liberal Democrats. After talking about the “tremendous fumes” generated by wind turbines, he moved on to complaints that wind turbines are ugly and kill birds. (They do kill birds, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, although collision with glass buildings, communication towers, electrical lines and vehicles are by far the worst offenders.)
“You want to see a bird graveyard?” he asked. “You just go. Take a look. A bird graveyard. Go under a windmill someday. You’ll see more birds than you’ve ever seen ever in your life.”
There was laughter and scattered applause in the crowd.
“You know, in California, they were killing the bald eagle,” Trump continued. “If you shoot a bald eagle, they want to put you in jail for 10 years. A windmill will kill many bald eagles. It’s true. And you know what? After a certain number, they make you turn the windmill off. That’s true, by the way. This is — they make you turn it off after you — and yet, if you killed one, they put you in jail. That’s okay. But why is it okay for these windmills to destroy the bird population? And that’s what they’re doing.”
Someone yelled, “Because they’re idiots!”
“Okay,” Trump said, laughing. “This is a conservative group, Dan. No, but it’s true. Am I right?” He had referenced Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex.) earlier in the program.
Then: “I’ll tell you another thing about windmills. And I’m not — look, I like all forms of energy. And I think in — really, they’re okay in industrial areas. Like you have an industrial plant, you put up a windmill — you know, et cetera, et cetera.
“I’ve seen the most beautiful fields, farms, fields — most gorgeous things you’ve ever seen, and then you have these ugly things going up. And sometimes they’re made by different companies. You know, I’m like a perfectionist; I really built good stuff. And so you’ll see like a few windmills made by one company: General Electric. And then you’ll see a few made by Siemens, and you’ll see a few made by some other guy that doesn’t have 10 cents, so it looks like a — so you see all these windows, they’re all different shades of color. They’re like sort of white, but one is like an orange-white. It’s my favorite color: orange.”
That line drew a wave of applause. But Trump wasn’t done with the turbines.
“No, but — and you see these magnificent fields, and they’re owned — and you know what they don’t tell you about windmills?” he asked. “After 10 years, they look like hell. You know, they start to get tired, old. You got to replace them. A lot of times, people don’t replace them. They need massive subsidy from the government in order to make it. It’s really a terrible thing.”
President Donald Trump mocked teen climate activist Greta Thunberg on Twitter on Thursday after she was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year, calling her win “ridiculous” and suggesting she take anger management classes.
“So ridiculous,” Trump tweeted. “Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!”
In September, after she made an emotional speech at the United Nations, Trump appeared to mock the 16-year-old by tweeting that she “seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!”
Thunberg did not respond directly to the president but hours later updated her Twitter bio to mimic his tweet.
Thunberg, who has Asperger’s syndrome, was asked to speak on climate change in front of several high-profile entities, such as the United Nations and Congress.
“I shouldn’t be up here,” she said in her September U.N. speech.
“I should be back at school on the other side of the ocean,” the teen from Sweden said. “Yet, you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”
Democrats responded to Trump’s barb throughout the day, criticizing him for taking aim at the teenager.
“What kind of president bullies a teenager?” tweeted former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading 2020 Democratic contender, adding that Trump “could learn a few things from Greta on what it means to be a leader.”
“Does the President really not have anything better to do today than attack a 16 year old?” tweeted Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.
Trump’s tweet even came up at Thursday’s House Judiciary Committee markup of the articles of impeachment against the president.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., mentioned Trump’s mocking of Thunberg while listing individuals who Trump has blasted.
“Are you here to defend that as well?” Jeffries asked Republicans of Trump’s post.
President Trump on Monday began the yearlong process of withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate accord.
The official announcement cements a promise Trump made in the White House Rose Garden in 2017 when he first announced his intention to withdraw from the global climate change agreement signed by every other country in the world.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the move in a statement.
“President Trump made the decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement because of the unfair economic burden imposed on American workers, businesses, and taxpayers by U.S. pledges made under the Agreement,” Pompeo said. “The United States has reduced all types of emissions, even as we grow our economy and ensure our citizens’ access to affordable energy.”
“The U.S. approach incorporates the reality of the global energy mix,” he added, arguing “innovation and open markets” will drive emissions reductions.
Trump’s views on the deal have been widely criticized by Democrats, environmentalists and even some Republicans, who say the U.S. is abdicating global leadership at a time when urgent action is required to stem the most dangerous impacts of climate change.
“It is shameful. It is cowardly when we need to be brave and act boldly. Long after the rest of us are gone, future generations will remember this president’s failure to lead on the greatest environmental challenge of our time,” said Sen. Tom Carper (Del.), the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
“By breaking America’s commitment to the Paris Accord, President Trump is reducing America’s standing in the world,” Carper added.
The president has repeatedly boasted about already withdrawing the U.S. from the deal, despite the rigid timelines required by the agreement for nations seeking to leave it.
The agreement allowed the U.S. to begin the process to withdraw on Monday and finalize the U.S. exit from the agreement on Nov. 4, 2020 — just one day after the presidential election.
The process will kick off just weeks ahead of a United Nations summit in Spain, where leaders will hammer out final details for complying with the agreement.
Democrats have already asked U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft to recuse herself from the withdrawal process, given her financial and personal ties to the fossil fuel industry. Craft’s husband, Joe Craft, is CEO of Alliance Resource Partners, one of the largest coal companies in the U.S.
Recommitting the U.S. to the Paris climate accord has become a box to tick for Democrats running for president in 2020, most of whom have said they would do so their very first day in office.
While some Republicans may have changed their rhetoric on the realities of climate change, many remain opposed to the deal, arguing the U.S. should not have to make efforts to curb emissions without more efforts from other countries first.
House Democrats have taken steps aimed at preventing Trump from leaving the climate pact, passing a resolution in May that would block the move.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) immediately said the bill “will go nowhere” in the Senate.
Climate experts have called the Paris deal the price of admission to the climate conversation, but warn that even the near-global effort may fall short of the action necessary to limit rising temperatures.
The landmark 2015 agreement signed by former President Obama requires the U.S. to reduce emissions about 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
The withdrawal kickoff earned harsh rebuke from environmental groups.
“Donald Trump is the worst president in history for our climate and our clean air and water. Long after Trump is out of office, his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement will be seen as a historic error. Trump has once again demonstrated that he is more interested in catering to the interests of the world’s worst polluters than he is in listening to the American people,” the Sierra Club said in a statement.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) called the move a “grave and reckless mistake.”
“Climate change won’t be solved without a global effort. It won’t happen without U.S. leadership. It won’t happen as long as the world’s second-largest climate polluter is backsliding on the climate pledge it has made to the rest of the world,” NRDC President Mitch Bernard said in a statement.
Just days after Gov. Gavin Newsom praised the federal government for its response to catastrophic wildfires and power outages affecting millions, President Donald Trump on Sunday slammed the California Democrat — and threatened to cut off future federal funding to the fire-battered state.
Trump, in a spate of postings on Twitter, lambasted what he called Newsom’s “terrible job” regarding the state’s forest management practices, saying the governor should stop listening to environmentalist “bosses” and “clean” the forest floors. He also slammed Newsom for state water-management practices, suggesting that California must open up what he called “ridiculously closed water lanes.”
Saying Newsom had repeatedly requested federal funds, Trump threatened to cut him off.
“Every year, as the fire’s rage & California burns, it is the same thing—and then he comes to the Federal Government for $$$ help. No more,” the president tweeted.
He then tweaked Newsom’s leadership: “Get your act together Governor.”
The governor responded a short time later.
“We’re successfully waging war against thousands of fires started across the state in the last few weeks due to extreme weather created by climate change while Trump is conducting a full on assault against the antidotes,” he told POLITICO in a statement.
His office also pushed back hard against Trump, noting that the governor’s fire prevention and management projects included an investment of $225.8 million to help streamline programs specifically aimed at “reducing fuels in the forest, increasing forest health, and defensible space around homes.’’ The governor’s office in addition said there are currently 35 priority projects in addition to the redeployment of National Guard personnel to assist the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection in controlling the fires.
Newsom in recent weeks has laid into PG&E, the investor-owned utility that has been blamed for sparking catastrophic fires because of its outdated equipment and failed infrastructure. He has said he may explore a takeover of the utility unless it emerges from bankruptcy with a solid plan to protect California homeowners and consumers and avoid widespread outages before the 2020 fire season.
Sunday was not the first time the president has vowed to withdraw federal funding from the state — though he has never made good on the threat. He did so in January, saying that “unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money.”
After that tweet, following the Paradise-based Camp Fire, which killed more than 80 people, Newsom responded that “disasters and recovery are no time for politics,’’ and said the state was working hard to “modernize and manage our forest and emergency responses.”
Scott McLean, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, cited the governor’s leadership in directing the agency to pursue 35 priority projects to reduce wildfire risk in vulnerable communities. That’s in addition to Cal Fire’s regularly scheduled prescribed burns and fuel reductions, he added.
“We are in a good place, and we’re very active,” McLean said.
He added that California experienced one of its “best winters in a long time,” meaning that state firefighters now had enough water access to combat blazes. McLean also noted that oversight of the state’s land was divided between local governments, Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service — meaning the Trump-controlled federal agency had some responsibility for the current situation, too.
Trump’s string of tweets on California kicked off Sunday with: “ The Governor of California, @GavinNewsom has done a terrible job of forest management. I told him from the first day we met that he must ‘clean’ his forest floors regardless of what his bosses, the environmentalists, DEMAND of him. Must also do burns and cut fire stoppers.”
He finished: “But our teams are working well together in….. … putting these massive, and many, fires out. Great firefighters! Also, open up the ridiculously closed water lanes coming down from the North. Don’t pour it out into the Pacific Ocean. Should be done immediately. California desperately needs water, and you can have it now!”