Here is where Trump’s cabinet nominees stand on climate change

Environmental Protection Agency: Scott Pruitt

The Oklahoma attorney general has been a longtime adversary of the EPA and a close friend to the fossil fuels industry. He helped lead a lawsuit from 28 states against the agency’s clean power plan, an Obama administration initiative to cut carbon pollution from coal power plants.

He has also accepted more than $250,000 in donations from the oil and gas industry over the course of four campaigns for attorney general, lieutenant governor and state senator. In a joint op-ed in the National Review, Pruitt wrote that the debate on climate change is “far from settled”, adding: “Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.” In fact, the overwhelming majority of scientists agree climate change is happening and caused by humans.

Department of the Interior: Ryan Zinke

Zinke is a Montana congressman, former Navy Seal commander and Iraq war veteran who has consistently voted in favor of oil and gas drilling projects on federal lands. As interior secretary he will have oversight over the use of federal lands and controversial pipeline and drilling projects.

Zinke supports the Keystone XL pipeline and supported measures to remove protections of endangered species, while opposing legislation to regulate fracking. The League of Conservation Voters gave him a lifetime voting scorecard of 3%. While previously acknowledging the science behind climate change, Zinke said in 2014 that it “is not proven”.

Department of Energy: Rick Perry

The former Texas governor will be nominated to take over the agency he famously wanted to abolish but could not name during his presidential bid in 2012. In 2011, Perry said that global warming was an unproven scientific theory.

Department of State: Rex Tillerson

The former chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil was nominated to be the country’s top diplomat. Much has been made of his ties to Russia and how that may affect his role, while Tillerson’s position on climate change has been less of a focus.

On the surface, Tillerson acknowledges the science of human-caused climate change and supported a carbon tax in 2009; ExxonMobil issued a statement of support for the Paris agreement while he was at the helm. However, Exxon is currently under investigation by New York’s attorney general for misleading investors on the risks of climate change. The company has also consistently lobbied against climate change proposals. Exxon has also pushed to open the Arctic up for drilling.

Department of Defense: James N Mattis

Mattis would be taking over a defense department that has identified climate change as a national security “threat multiplier”. He has made few public statements on climate change, but according to a 2010 report on the military’s energy policy the former Marine general asked to “unleash us from the tether of fuel” during the drive into Baghdad. His longtime colleague, retired Marine Corps Brig Gen Stephen Cheney, told Climate Change News that Mattis “gets climate change”.

Department of Housing and Urban Development: Ben Carson

Carson has said that he is not convinced by the science behind human-caused climate change. “I know there are a lot of people who say ‘overwhelming science’, but then when you ask them to show the overwhelming science they never can show it,” Carson told the San Francisco Chronicle.

In multiple exchanges, he acknowledged that the climate was changing before asserting that the climate has always changed, but “when things stop changing, then we’re dead”. He told a crowd at a campaign event in New Hampshire last year that he believes in taking care of the environment but does not think the issue should be politicized.

CIA: Mike Pompeo

Pompeo is among the most the outspoken critics of climate change legislation. He has expressed skepticism over the science that climate change is caused by humans, saying in 2013: “Look, I think the science needs to continue to develop. There are scientists who think lots of different things about climate change. There’s some who think we’re warming, there’s some who think we’re cooling, there’s some who think that the last 16 years have shown a pretty stable climate environment.” He derided Barack Obama last year for describing climate change as a national security threat. Pompeo referred to the Paris agreement as a “radical climate change deal”.

National security adviser: Michael Flynn

The former general does not view climate change as a priority. He slammed President Obama on Fox News for discussing climate change after a terrorist attack. Speaking on Fox News in June, he said: “Here we have the president of the United States up in Canada talking about climate change. I mean, God, we just had the largest attack, as you just said, on our own soil in Orlando. Why are we talking about that? Who is talking about that? You know, I mean, Fort Hood, Chattanooga, Boston. People forget about 9/11.”

Attorney general: Jeff Sessions

Throughout his time in the US Senate, Sessions has consistently voted against climate action, with the League of Conservation Voters giving him a scorecard of 7%. He said on the Senate floor in 2003: “I believe there are legitimate disputes about the validity and extent of global warming … Carbon dioxide does not hurt you. We have to have it in the atmosphere. It is what plants breathe. In fact, the more carbon dioxide that exists, the faster plants grow.” Sessions reportedly said last year that the fight against climate change hurts poor people. In 2015, he reiterated his claim that increased carbon dioxide was not bad for you: “Carbon pollution is CO2, and that’s really not a pollutant; that’s a plant food, and it doesn’t harm anybody except that it might include temperature increases.”

Department of Homeland Security: John F Kelly

Kelly has made few public statements on climate change but told the Senate committee on homeland security and governmental affairs: “As with the campaign today to raise awareness of climate change – whether one agrees or disagrees with the cause-and-effect claims – all are at least fully aware of the issue. Even those who reject the science have reduced their energy consumption and know it is good for the environment.”

Department of Health and Human Services: Tom Price

Tom Price is a noted climate change skeptic. In a statement supporting a bill to fight EPA regulations on carbon dioxide, Price said: “This decision goes against all common sense, especially considering the many recent revelations of errors and obfuscation in the allegedly ‘settled science’ of global warming.” He has consistently voted against incentivizing renewable energy sources with tax credits and in favor of increased oil exploration. He signed a pledge created by Americans for Prosperity, a conservative thinktank funded by the Koch brothers, to oppose climate legislation.

Department of Commerce: Wilbur Ross

The commerce department encompasses the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which has a key role in monitoring the effects of climate change. Ross’s views on the issue are not clear. In his career of buying distressed companies, he has invested hundreds of millions into oil and gas businesses.

Department of the Treasury: Steven Mnuchin

Trump’s financier during this campaign and a former Goldman Sachs executive, Mnuchin has made little public comment on climate change. Having never held public office, his views on the issue have not been interrogated.

Department of Education: Betsy DeVos

DeVos is the chairman of the Windquest Group, an investment company she founded with her husband in 1989 that invests in clean energy technology. She may have the most measured views on climate change in the administration.

Department of Transportation: Elaine Chao

Chao was previously a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative thinktank that opposes policies to fight climate change. “Chao’s connection to institutions that manufacture climate denial, like the Heritage Foundation, requires the public demand she prioritize both public health and the impacts of climate change when managing our transportation infrastructure,” said Greenpeace USA spokeswoman Cassady Craighill. She wrote a blogpost in 2009 for the foundation in which she derided a proposed cap-and-trade system, a market-based approach to reducing pollution by providing incentives to reduce emissions.

December 18, 2016

Forum Reference: November 17th, 2016, West Hawaii Forum on “Hawaii’s Climate Change Challenge”
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