Science Policy & Funding News

Climate Efforts Will Continue Despite Rhetoric, Officials Say

Secretary of the Interior says that citizens can help hold the Trump administration accountable for what they want to see happen in terms of action on climate change.


President-elect Donald Trump, who has called climate change “a hoax,” may find it difficult to slow down the momentum for action in dealing with climate change domestically and internationally, according to two senior members of the Obama administration.

For the past 8 years, the administration has worked “to try to create a domestic regulatory architecture that takes into account climate, [and] that is not something that is just going to go away,” according to Brian Deese, senior adviser to the president. Deese, whose duties include overseeing climate, conservation, and energy policy, appeared with Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell at a 29 November forum at the Institute of Politics and Public Service at Georgetown University’s McCourt School in Washington, D. C., that was billed as an exit interview.

The regulatory architecture “is solid in lots of ways,” said Deese, citing the White House Climate Action Plan, its Clean Power Plan (CPP) to reduce carbon pollution from power plants, and administration efforts to improve fuel economy standards, among other measures. He added that market dynamics also have shifted with the growth of lower-cost renewable energy and the natural gas boom and that many businesses and other key stakeholders support efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.

“That’s an important piece of context to have as you think about and you digest [Trump’s] rhetoric and as we see where the rhetoric ends up in terms of concrete action.”

Trump, who has said that climate change is a hoax created by the Chinese, recently appeared to change his mind by telling the New York Times last month that he has “an open mind” about climate change. However, Trump’s likely chief of staff Reince Priebus later told Fox News that Trump’s default position about climate change is that “most of it is a bunch of bunk.” Also, Trump said in September that he would scrap the CPP.

Keeping the New Administration Accountable

Jewell, who will be speaking at the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting in San Francisco on 14 December, said that the administration’s regulatory reforms related to environmental protection took years to work their way through the bureaucratic process. “That can’t be undone easily,” she said, adding, “We don’t think about these decisions [about climate change] in the here and now. We are thinking about it generations forward: What are the right decisions that we can make today that can create a brighter future?”

(An opinion piece in Eos by Richard Rood of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, also discusses taking the long view on environmental issues during the incoming administration.)

Jewell offered advice to the public and to the incoming administration. “You are citizens and your voices are important,” she said at the forum. “It is going to be your job as it will be my job and Brian’s to hold this [Trump] administration accountable for what we want to see happen.”

With Republicans soon to control the White House and both chambers of Congress, Jewell urged them to review current fossil fuel tax credit incentives to better align with what she said are the nation’s overall economic interests. With a significant number of jobs and economic opportunity in renewable energy, “we have to take a hard look at what kind of certainty those companies need in order to make those investments,” she said. “It’s not just extractive industries jobs that help [the economy].”

International Momentum

On the international front, Deese said that the global political consensus on climate change “has shifted in a fundamental and irreversible way” with the Paris climate agreement, which came into force in November, continuing to be the “global driver of climate change action.” At this year’s climate conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, Deese said that 196 countries signed a declaration saying that the momentum behind efforts to fight climate change “is irreversible.”

Deese said that climate change policy has been a high priority for the Obama administration and that a key question for the next U.S. administration is “how do we best position our country so that our businesses [and] our consumers can benefit from these irreversible dynamics?” Deese also posed another question, related to the Paris agreement: “Is the United States going to be at the table to make sure that we are holding other countries accountable [to their national climate commitments] and that our businesses [and] our industries otherwise are protected against negative things that could come our way as well?”

—Randy Showstack, Staff Writer

Citation: Showstack, R. (2016), Climate efforts will continue despite rhetoric, officials say, Eos, 97, Published on 02 December 2016.
© 2016. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
  • tolo4zero

    Politics of climate change, the key words.

    The fact is there is no 97% scientific consensus on dangerous AGW.

    Its a redistribution of wealth by the totalitarianism UN

  • drseismo

    The current administration has everything to say about the politics of climate change and nothing to say about the evolving understanding of the science of climate change. After the Paris climate agreement entered into force on November 4, China can continue to build coal-fired power plants at the current rate of one new plant per month. Coal will be the dominant source of power for China for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, the current U.S. administration wants to eliminate coal-fired power plants and increase reliance on renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. The problem is that technology to store solar and wind energy in
    sufficient quantities to produce energy when the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow has not been invented. Conventional power plants must be on continuous standby to fill the gap.

    Caltech’s Nate Lewis, Argyros Professor of Chemistry, whose work is at the leading edge of research on solar power, has said publicly that “solar is … far and away the most expensive way we have of making electricity today, with costs ranging from 25 to 50 cents per kilowatt-hour for photovoltaic systems, that is to say solar panels. Solar thermal systems, … run 10 to 15 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is still too expensive. Nobody is going to pay that much for a substitution product, when they can get the original one for four cents a

    Trillions of dollars are likely to be spent to mitigate a possible non-issue, out-of-control global warming. John Christy, Alabama Climatologist, testified to Congress earlier this year that out of 102 simulations of global
    temperature, only the Russian model was even close to actual temperatures. More than 99 percent of the models greatly overestimated temperatures. The Russian model probably included the influence of predicted global cooling due to reduced sunspot activity. John Fyfe, a Canadian climate modelling research scientist, publicly acknowledged that “there is this mismatch between what the climate models are producing and what the observations are showing. We can’t ignore it.” Numerical analyses of the actual data clearly indicate a near-term decreasing trend in the rate of increase of the global mean surface temperature, and that trend could become negative during the next decade.

    If the models do not fit the data, the models must be wrong. The only issue settled about climate science is that current climate models and databases are not adequate to guide policy decisions. There is no great urgency to rush headlong in the wrong direction to convert to renewable energy sources that are not ready for commercial use. The cost of energy would rise precipitously to cover the cost of solar and wind projects
    that would undoubtedly fail. Three notable recent heavily government subsidized failures are the $500 million Ivanpah and $500 million Solyndra solar projects in California and the $400 million Abound Solar project
    in Colorado.

    Climate scientists are no longer so sure about how much human activities impact global temperatures. Regarding the often-reported statement that 97 percent of scientists support the concept of human-caused global warming, Legates et al. reported that in only 0.5 percent of nearly 12000 scientific papers published between 1991 and 2011 did authors express an opinion that more than half of global warming was caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases.

    The United Nations climate change policy is nothing more than an excuse to redistribute the wealth of the developed nations to the manufacturers of solar panels, windmills, banks, investment firms and the usual connected politicians. The message should be to get the science right first before wasting trillions of dollars of the nation’s wealth.

    A Trump administration should not find making a change to science-based climate change policies too difficult. A recommendation to Congress to authorize and fund a third-party, science-based audit of the entire EPA climate change program that would surely lead to a return to unbiased, science-based environmental policies with real Congressional oversight might be a good first step. The EPA is duty bound to identify and define the problem, the uncertainties and alternative solutions with thorough, science-based analyses and to not be a political tool of policy makers.

  • davidlaing

    Before we continue on our “irreversible” path toward the control of “demon carbon,” we should take careful note that the fundamental theory underlying anthropogenic global warming (AGW), that CO2 and other “greenhouse gases” cause warming has not been supported by hard-data tests. In fact, the two such tests that have actually been done, Knut Angstrom’s in 1900 and mine in 2015, have both shown this assumption to be false.

    Currently underlying this assumption is a rather poor correlation between steadily rising CO2 and very erratically rising global temperature (correlation is not causation; otherwise it could be said that the DJIA causes global warming, because both are rising), very well-developed and very logical, but still unproven theory, and very sophisticated computer modeling based on this unproven theory.

    When science is properly done, any theory, no matter how reasonable it seems, must be proven valid by hard data. In the case of AGW, this simply hasn’t ben done. Before we proceed on our “irreversible path,” it should be.

  • Henry Dick

    What is done by a president can be undone by a president – the administration should have worked harder with less over reach to obtain a workable compromise on climate policy with the Republicans when they were in the driver’s seat. Now that the white house belongs to the Republicans, climate policy is in the hands of those who were largely excluded from policy formulation through executive action rather than working with congress. The birds come home to roost. If you wish to move the country, you must create a consensus, which neither the Democrats or the White House did with both climate policy and health care. Hopefully, new administration will seek a more permanent policy path that includes consideration from both parties. It may be possible, Trump seems to like to say things to stir the pot, but then the businessman takes over, and more realistic things may likely happen.