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Documents Show White House Tried To Stop Climate Science Testimony

Dr. Rod Schoonover, Office of Geography and Global Affairs, State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research testifying Wednesday, June 5, 2019 at the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence which convened an open hearing about the national security implications of climate change. (Photo: YouTube)
Dr. Rod Schoonover, Office of Geography and Global Affairs, State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research testifying Wednesday, June 5, 2019 at the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence which convened an open hearing about the national security implications of climate change. (Photo: YouTube)

“This is like assembling a panel of ‘gravity skeptics’ who insist it’s safe to jump off tall buildings, except in this case they want to take us all with them.”

The White House tried to block a State Department senior intelligence official from testifying about the dangers of climate change to the House Intelligence Committee last week, according to emails uncovered by the Washington Post and New York Times.

The state department official, Dr. Rod Schoonover, was ultimately allowed to appear before the committee but was forbidden from providing written testimony for the record, a move critics described as highly unusual and alarming.

“I have never heard of basic facts being deleted from or blocked from testimony,” Norman J. Ornstein, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, told the NYT.

Trump administration officials rejected Dr. Schoonover’s testimony because the science it provided did not “jibe” with the White House’s views, according to a source interviewed by the Washington Post. The National Security Council wrote disparaging comments on the state department official’s testimony, and the Office of Legislative Affairs urged Schoonover to remove five pages of science in the report. Although the testimony’s scientific foundation came from peer-reviewed research by top government scientists, the Trump officials said, “a consensus of peer-reviewed literature has nothing to do with the truth.”

William Happer, a Trump administration National Security Council senior director who once said the “demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the Jews under Hitler,” wrote the notes on Dr. Schoonover’s testimony, according to the New York Times. Happer is also the driving force behind an effort to establish a White House panel aimed at disputing climate science, which has been condemned by national security officials.

“It is dangerous to have national security analysis conform to politics,” said a letter signed by 58 former national security officials in opposition to Happer’s White House panel. “Our officials’ job is to ensure that we are prepared for current threats and future contingencies. We cannot do that if the scientific studies that inform our threat assessments are undermined.”

Other climate scientists, such as NASA’s Kate Marvel, slammed Happer’s attempt to overturn thousands of scientific studies. “This is like assembling a panel of ‘gravity skeptics’ who insist it’s safe to jump off tall buildings, except in this case they want to take us all with them,” Marvel told Axios.

President Trump was most recently asked about his climate change position after Prince Charles urged the president to reconsider his stance during his visit to the U.K. Later, Trump spoke to Good Morning Britain’s Piers Morgan about his conversation with the prince.

“What he really wants and what he really feels warmly about is the future,” Trump said of Prince Charles. “He wants to make sure future generations have climate that is good climate, as opposed to a disaster. And I agree.”

Morgan asked directly: “Do you believe in climate change?”

“I believe that there’s a change in weather, and I think it changes both ways,” Trump said. “Don’t forget, it used to be called global warming, that wasn’t working, then it was called climate change. Now it’s actually called extreme weather, because with extreme weather you can’t miss.”

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Peter Castagno

Peter Castagno is a freelance writer with a Master’s degree in International Conflict Resolution. He has traveled throughout the Middle East and Latin America to gain firsthand insight in some of the world’s most troubled areas, and he plans on publishing his first book in 2019.

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