House Science Committee Democrats ask Trump to stop swallowing climate hoaxes

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“Disseminating stories from dubious sources has been a recurring issue with your administration.”

Demonstrators march in front of the White House in Washington, April 29, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Democratic members of the House Science Committee, led by Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), sent a letter to President Donald Trump on Thursday, voicing their opposition to reports that his staff has been feeding him fake news on climate change — and noting that he still has yet to appoint a science adviser to his administration.

Earlier this week, Politico reported that K.T. McFarland, Trump’s deputy national security adviser, had given Trump print-outs of two Time magazine covers supposedly related to climate change; the problem is that one, warning of a coming ice age, is fake — part of an internet hoax that has been debunked numerous times.

“Disseminating stories from dubious sources has been a recurring issue with your administration,” the representatives wrote, citing Trump’s baseless claims that President Barack Obama wiretapped him and that millions of votes were cast against him illegally in the November election.

Trump has never acknowledged the scientific consensus that climate change is real, serious, and driven largely by human activity, instead calling it a “hoax” conjured up by the Chinese. Perhaps unsurprisingly, his administration is chock-full of individuals who misrepresent or reject established science. His Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Scott Pruitt, is currently under review by the agency’s scientific integrity watchdog for potentially violating EPA policy by falsely claiming in a CNBC interview that human activity is not the primary contributor to global warming. Climate scientist Kevin Trenberth told ThinkProgress in March that the Trump administration’s draft budget amounted to “an all-out assault on Earth.”

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In their letter to Trump, the House Science Committee Democrats also reiterated the importance of filling the vacancies in the Office of Science and Technology Policy, which remains without a director.

“Until the OSTP is adequately staffed and the director position filled by a qualified, objective scientist who understands the difference between alternative news peddled on alt-right websites and legitimate well-vetted scientific facts, we fear that you will continue to be vulnerable to misinformation and fake news,” the representatives wrote.

John Holdren, director of OSTP under Obama and the longest serving presidential science adviser in history told ThinkProgress in December why the role is so crucial. “The president needs a source of science and technology advice that’s independent of the agendas of individual departments and agencies,” Holdren said. “It’s very important that there be somebody close enough to the president to tell him or her scientific and technological insights that may not agree with the prior preferences of the president.”

Don Beyer wants to make the House Science Committee great again

Combating an administration so brazenly hostile to science-based policy and facts isn’t the only challenge for Democrats on the House Science Committee. Their own committee is chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), who has repeatedly rejected the scientific consensus on climate change and used his position to carry out what another committee member referred to as a “witch hunt” against NOAA scientists. Since last spring, Smith has been questioning states’ efforts to investigate whether Exxon misled shareholders regarding the risk of climate change; thus far, the attorneys general have rejected his subpoenas.

This year, much like the Trump administration, Smith has focused his ire on the Environmental Protection Agency — pushing bills and hearings that would restrict the agency’s ability to use sound science and enact regulations. In announcing his February hearing titled, “Making EPA Great Again,” Smith said in a release that “with the transition to a new administration, there is now an opportunity to right the ship at the EPA and steer the agency in the right direction.”

In December, the House Science Committee’s official Twitter account, which is maintained by the Republican majority, tweeted a false article from Breitbart News, based on faulty science regarding global temperatures. It was swiftly rebuked by actual climate scientists.

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In addition to Beyer, Thursday’s letter to Trump was signed by Democratic Reps. Suzanne Bonamici (OR), Mark Takano (CA), Bill Foster (IL), Jerry McNerney (CA), Zoe Lofgren (CA), and Jacky Rosen (NV).

House Science Committee Democrats ask Trump to stop swallowing climate hoaxes was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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