In 2017, President Trump promoted known climate change denier Indur Goklany within the Interior Department. He became responsible for reviewing climate policies, even though the task didn't fit his background as an electrical engineer. Now, The New York Times has reported that Goklany slipped language suggesting climate change is good into official reports. It's just one more incident in a long history of the Trump administration's science-denying game.
The New York Times found that there are at least nine official government reports containing misleading language. Some of those reports deal with environmental studies and impact statements on major watersheds — portions of land that funnel water from one source to another. The documents "could be used to justify allocating increasingly scarce water to farmers at the expense of wildlife conservation and fisheries," the Times explained. This is telling, given that the Trump administration has worked to roll back Obama-era water regulations.
Internally, Goklany's statements became known as the "Goks uncertainty language," taking from his nickname. In emails reviewed by the Times, Goklany told department scientists that carbon dioxide levels rising is actually good because it "may increase plant water use efficiency" and "lengthen the agricultural growing season."
These statements may seem absurd, especially coming from someone who holds a fairly high position within the government agency tasked with "[using] sound science to manage and sustain America's lands, water, wildlife, and energy resources," per its own website. But the Trump administration has a long history of not only denying climate change, but science overall.
Last March, Andrew Wheeler, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency went so far as to say that he believed most threats from climate change were at least 50 years away. The environmental organization Sierra Club sued the EPA to produce proof of Wheeler's claims, but the agency couldn't come up with anything.
In addition, the Trump administration has proposed regulations that would undermine scientific research, do away with EPA protections on coal plants intended to limit their pollution, and more. Last month, California found itself having to sue the federal government after Trump signed an executive order diverting water to California farmers. On the surface, sending water to farmers seems reasonable — but it actually puts endangered species at increased risk.
The administration's steady attacks on environmental protections aren't surprising given who is at the head. Trump himself has promoted climate change denial repeatedly, and you don't have to look much further than his Twitter account to see this denial in action.
Last February, Trump tweeted about Amy Klobuchar's announcement of her (now suspended) presidential campaign. When mentioning Klobuchar's intentions of fighting global warming, Trump pointed out it was snowing while she talked, implying that the existence of snow disproves climate change. Nevermind the fact that "global warming" does not literally only mean the Earth is getting hotter, but rather that weather is becoming more extreme.
That wasn't the first time Trump tried to use blizzards as proof that climate change doesn't exist. After the Department of Defense released its own report on climate change, Trump responded with a tweet referencing a huge winter storm across the U.S.
"Large parts of the country are suffering from tremendous amounts of snow and near recording setting cold," Trump wrote. "Wouldn't be bad to have a little of that good old fashioned global warming right now!"
Outside of Twitter, Trump's made his position clear with actions like pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement or mocking Greta Thunberg, the teenaged climate activist. The danger Trump poses with his misinformation is so serious that a bipartisan report warned Trump's climate change denial is causing a science "crisis." Rather than focus on protecting people, it seems the government is more than willing to undermine science as long as there is something to be gained politically.
It would be one thing if Trump's climate denial was his own personal issue. But as president, Trump is able to cause a lot of damage — not only through his own policies and executive orders but also via the people he appoints to the top of government agencies.