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Trump’s Pipeline of Bad Climate Information

Do you want climate policy to be based on sound science?

by Axios | 12.3.18

President Trump's status as one of the last holdouts on climate change has been decades in the making. And now the world is seeing the results.

What's happening: When the G20 leaders put out their statement Saturday reaffirming their commitment to the Paris climate accord, the United States was the only nation that didn't sign it. Trump has said he will withdraw from the deal, but he technically can’t until 2020 — in fact, the day after the presidential election. And Trump and his top aides have been disputing their own government’s report on climate change to a remarkable degree.

Why it matters: Trump's position has been years in the making.

  • A small but influential set of organizations and people have been pushing misinformation for years (see below) — and Trump has been listening.
  • Determining where inaccurate information comes from helps to correct the record, particularly on such a complex issue where the whole planet is at play.
  • Driving the news: This latest report, which the Trump administration released on Black Friday, is one in a string of new consequential reports reaffirming humans’ impact driving Earth’s temperature up, the consequences of that and how difficult it will be to reverse course.

Here is a snapshot of some notable influencers in the Trump era who push inaccurate information on climate change — including disputing that humans have a big role (we do) and dismissing Earth's temperature rise as a problem (it is).

Steve Milloy and Myron Ebell

Both men helped run Trump’s transition team at the Environmental Protection Agency, and their positions on climate change are among those that most dispute the scientific consensus.

  • Milloy runs the website junkscience.com and has had ties to the oil and tobacco industries.
  • Ebell is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.

For the record:

  • Ebell says he acknowledges human activity is the primary cause of Earth's temperature rise but doesn't think it's a problem.
  • Milloy said he disputes the characterization that he pushes misinformation on climate change.

The Heartland Institute

Certain conservative think tanks and advocacy groups, including Ebell’s group and the Heartland Institute, have been pushing misinformation about climate science for decades. This E&E News story from October showed the White House reached out to the Heartland Institute for insight, whose work has concluded climate change isn't a problem.

For the record: James Taylor, a senior fellow at the institute, said by phone: “I think your reporting is inaccurate.”

Bob Murray, CEO of coal producer Murray Energy

Murray, who operates the largest privately held coal producer in the U.S. and is close to Trump, says Democrats are pushing a false narrative for political purposes.

  • “You’re wrong about this scientific consensus,” Murray told me in an interview Thursday. “What you need to do is stimulate thinking among people who are knowledgeable.”

Oil companies

Some oil and gas companies, including ExxonMobil, have in the past funded organizations that push misinformation about climate change.

  • Most of that has stopped by now, but nonetheless the money has had an impact and is one of the reasons the Republican Party largely ignores or denies basic climate science.

For the record: A request for comment to Exxon wasn’t returned.

Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma

The Republican has been one of the most vocal politicians seeking to dispute climate science consensus. In a 2012 MSNBC interview, Inhofe said he initially thought climate change “must be true until I found out what it would cost.”

  • Inhofe’s former aides work across the Trump administration, including acting Environmental Protection Agency administrator Andrew Wheeler and several other officials working for Wheeler.

For the record: Inhofe said through a spokeswoman that he doesn't think the extent of humans' role is settled.

The facts:

  • Nearly all scientists agree Earth is warming, that it’s driven largely by human activity and that the repercussions will be more negative than positive.
  • Scientists have calculated that at least 92% of warming between 1951 to 2010 was due to human activities.
  • Uncertainty and scientific debate does, however, exist over the severity of impacts a warmer world is already bringing and is projected to bring.

The bottom line: On climate science, there aren't two reasonable sides. One is the scientific consensus, and the other is a small but vocal faction of people trying to fight it.

Go deeper:

Amy Harder

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Axios

Written by Axios

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Leave a comment
(31)
  • Robert
    12/03/2018
    ···

    How long will we, as a Nation, allow this “Denier-in-chief” to try and lead our Nation? Future generations, his own grandkids, will look back and regret their own grandfather was so deluded and profit driven.😩

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  • Ken
    Voted Yes
    12/03/2018
    ···

    The question was"do you want fact based information on climate change". Yes is the only correct answer. We have weather satellites circling our globe 24 7 giving us a good indication of the state of our planet. Going into my backyard to check if our dog's water is frozen is not global research. What the hell is wrong with doing everything we can to make our planet safe. Eventually this will affect all of us. But that may very well be too late.

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  • Timothy
    Voted Yes
    12/03/2018
    ···

    Get real. I’m so sick of the future of our habitable planet being abdicated to giant corporations. Start defending the little guy! Protect the place where we live, so that we can continue to live here! Do it for the next generation, too! Protect America! Start taking human-induced climate change seriously. Start leading the world again!

    Like (6)
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  • ConservativeGuy
    12/04/2018
    ···

    I would like for policy to be based on realistic expectations. Solar and wind cannot meet our needs. Jus sayin.

    Like (2)
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  • Chris-Breseman
    Voted Yes
    12/03/2018
    ···

    Climate policy on sound, verifiable science is the only good climate policy. Before you say we don’t have that yet, may I draw your attention to the THOUSANDS of climate studies already done? Particularly the most recent one done by the Trump Administration confirming that billions of dollars of economic loss are at stake.

    Like (4)
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  • Andy1
    Voted Yes
    12/03/2018
    ···

    Worst president of all time. Should be buried at sea like bin laden, hopefully sooner rather than later.

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  • Paul
    Voted Yes
    12/03/2018
    ···

    This should never have been a real question. Your need to ask it demonstrates how sick our society has become under the Fascist in Chief.

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  • Brian
    Voted Yes
    12/03/2018
    ···

    Scientists base their work on evidence and fact, unlike politicians. We cannot afford to allow politicians to make bad decisions based on their own impulses, voter demand, or religion. We only have one chance to get this right and stop climate change from causing devastation that will affect our children and grandchildren. Stop politicizing and listen to the overwhelming evidence from scientists around the planet.

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  • Lavonia
    Voted Yes
    12/03/2018
    ···

    It should always have- our govt no longer serves nor takes care of us

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  • Joseph
    Voted Yes
    12/03/2018
    ···

    I want it to be based on sound science not this globalist agenda. America first. 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

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  • Beth
    Voted Yes
    12/03/2018
    ···

    Scientists base their work on evidence and fact, unlike politicians. We cannot afford to allow politicians to make bad decisions based on their own impulses, voter demand, or religion. We only have one chance to get this right and stop climate change from causing devastation that will affect our children and grandchildren. Stop politicizing and listen to the overwhelming evidence from scientists around the planet.

    Like (1)
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  • Maribeth
    Voted Yes
    12/04/2018
    ···

    Yes, based on science. Not hocus-pocus or a crystal ball. To read that a substantial number of elected GOP officials (acolytes) are supporting his nonsense is shocking. Never realized there were so many sycophants and ignoramuses strutting and boasting poppycock around the halls of D.C. Makes one ill.

    Like (1)
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  • Bernie
    Voted Yes
    12/03/2018
    ···

    The IPCC is NOT sound science. It is political “science”. There is no global warming.

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  • Laurie
    Voted Yes
    12/03/2018
    ···

    Every person wanting to run for office should have to show 5 years of tax returns and take a test covering basic econ and real science. Religious zealots and greedy a**holes willing to lie to receive bribes from oil and coal companies need not apply

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  • Joe
    Voted Yes
    12/04/2018
    ···

    This is a stupid question.

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  • Frank
    Voted Yes
    12/03/2018
    ···

    Climate is my number one vote priority. I am a true swing voter. If you want my vote you better have a solid green platform.

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  • Sean
    Voted Yes
    12/05/2018
    ···

    Trump has correct info on climate Trump doesn’t care ! Trump gets paid millions-by big industry to ignore facts

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  • A
    Voted Yes
    12/05/2018
    ···

    More scientists say climate change is real and it’s caused by humans than almost any other major scientific theory. It is willful ignorance that is going to lead this country not only to economy detestation but death of many from rising sea waters, devastating weather events, and poor water and air qualities. It’s not in generations. It’s your kids who will have to deal with your terrible legislative actions!

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  • OliverDaRion
    Voted Yes
    12/04/2018
    ···

    Trump won’t sign it because he doesn’t know what it says! The reason he watches so much tv news is because he can’t read. He’s running the country according to Fox News!! No wonder he calls it “fake” news.

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  • Curtis
    Voted Yes
    12/03/2018
    ···

    The fact that the US is the biggest consumer and producer of garbage and pollution says it all. Our president ignores facts in order to benefit our economy. Unfortunately, in the long run this plan will end up killing our planet.

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