Trump Assault on Climate Scientists Begins at Energy Department

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)
Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

UPDATE: Department of Energy officials have defied Trump and refused to answer the more intrusive questions on the questionnaire. Meanwhile, the president elect has selected former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to run the Energy Department. When Perry ran for president, he promised to eliminate three government agencies during a primary debate; he named two of them but could not remember the name of the Energy Department.

This whole year has just gotten stranger and stranger. I must be in a very surreal dream or a coma or hallucinating….or something.

With Donald Trump reportedly set to name the head of America’s largest oil company, Exxon Mobil, as the nation’s chief diplomat, the president elect’s “carbon today, carbon tomorrow, carbon forever” strategy is becoming ever clearer.

A man who believes climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese is filling his government with like-minded conspiracy buffs. It’s clear that it will be virtually impossible for the United States to address global climate change in any meaningful way over the next four to eight years.

Over at the Energy Department, Trump’s paranoid campaign has taken an interesting turn: the targeting of individual civil servants for doing their jobs.

Donald Trump’s transition team has issued a list of 74 questions for the Energy Department, asking agency officials to identify which employees and contractors have worked on forging an international climate pact as well as domestic efforts to cut the nation’s carbon output.

The questionnaire requests a list of those individuals who have taken part in international climate talks over the past five years and “which programs within DOE are essential to meeting the goals of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.”

Trump and his team have vowed to dismantle specific aspects of Obama’s climate policies, and Trump has questioned the reality of climate change. The questionnaire, which one Energy Department official described as unusually “intrusive” and a matter for departmental lawyers, has raised concern that the Trump transition team is trying to figure out how to target the people, including civil servants, who have helped implement policies under Obama.

Thousands of scientists have signed petitions calling on the president-elect and his team to respect scientific integrity and refrain from singling out individual researchers whose work might conflict with the new administration’s policy goals. This potential clash could prompt a major schism within the federal government, with many career officials waging a battle against incoming political appointees….

Michael Halpern, deputy director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Center for Science and Democracy, called the memo’s demand that Energy officials identify specific employees “alarming.”

“If the Trump administration is already singling out scientists for doing their jobs, the scientific community is right to be worried about what his administration will do in office. What’s next? Trump administration officials holding up lists of ‘known climatologists’ and urging the public to go after them?” Halpern asked.

This move has some major implications at NASA, which Trump advisors have accused of pursuing “politically correct” science on global warming. The administration wants to cut the space agency’s Earth science budget and transfer what is left to NOAA.

It may only be a matter of time before NASA officials get a similar list of questions targeting scientists, if they have not already received one.

This is a mistake. The evidence for human-created climate change is overwhelming; its consequences will be severe for the nation and the world; and a government that cherry picks what science to believe and not to believe based largely on ideology and conspiracy theories is leading its people down a path of rapid decline.