For those wondering why the White House needs an independent climate panel, supporters recommend starting with the Fourth National Climate Assessment.
The federal report released in November was hailed as evidence that President Trump’s own scientists were on board with dire climate disaster forecasts, even though the document was prepared with the help of leading activists and a former Obama administration climate official.
“The panel is absolutely necessary because what happens is, the federal government puts out these biased pieces of propaganda, and then the environmental left trumpets it and says, ‘Even the Trump administration says this,’ ” said James Taylor, senior fellow for energy and the environment for the free-market think tank Heartland Institute.
“Well, it’s not the Trump administration,” he said. “It’s the deep state that says this.”
His organization this week joined 140 groups and individuals in a letter urging Mr. Trump to approve the President’s Commission on Climate Security, an effort spearheaded by Princeton physicist William Happer now under consideration at the White House.
“In our view, an independent review of these reports is long overdue,” the letter reads. “Serious problems and shortcomings have been raised repeatedly in the past by highly-qualified scientists only to be ignored or dismissed by the federal agencies in charge of producing the reports.”
Among the signers are right-of-center advocacy groups like the Competitive Enterprise Institute, FreedomWorks, CFACT and Heritage Action for America, as well as skeptical climate scientists such as Tim Ball, Joe Bastardi, Willie Soon and Roy Spencer.
The letter comes in reaction to furious pushback on the left, with Mr. Happer — who holds a doctorate in physics — bearing the brunt of the outrage, including having his scientific credentials questioned, and being called a “denialist” by The New York Times and a “denier” by top House Democrats.
Mr. Happer, who serves as a National Security Council senior director, took another hit Wednesday from Penn State atmospheric sciences professor Michael E. Mann, who referred to him as a propagandist and the proposed panel as “disastrous.”
“Americans should not be fooled by the Stalinist tactics being used by the White House to try to discredit the findings of mainstream climate scientists,” Mr. Mann, who has a doctorate in geology and geophysics, said in an op-ed for The Guardian newspaper in Britain.
The article was co-written with Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the London School of Economics’ Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, and accused the administration of seeking to “promote an alternative official explanation for climate change.”
The Democratic chairs of four House committees blasted the effort in a Feb. 28 letter as “yet another action by your Administration in a line of many that run counter to the overwhelming scientific consensus on the causes and impacts of climate change.”
Two Obama Cabinet secretaries, John F. Kerry and Chuck Hagel, said they are “deeply concerned about reports that National Security Council officials are considering forming a committee to dispute and undermine military and intelligence judgments on the threat posed by climate change.”
“This includes second-guessing the scientific sources used to assess the threat, such as the rigorously peer-reviewed National Climate Assessment, and applying that to national security policy,” said the March 5 letter, which was signed by 58 military and national security figures.
The panel’s backers argue that an independent review body comprised of scientists with a range of viewpoints would improve the federal government’s climate findings by applying another level of scrutiny.
Mr. Spencer, principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, took issue with claims that the panel would be focused on undermining legitimate research.
“Instead, the committee will address the uncertainties, the exaggerations, and the misrepresentations of what is known and isn’t known about human-caused climate change, issues the public is generally unaware of,” said Mr. Spencer, who holds a doctorate in meteorology.
“If the science really is settled, people should not be afraid of a review,” he said.
Myron Ebell, director of the CEI’s Center for Energy and Environment, ticked off what he sees as problems with federal climate analyses, citing outdated climate-sensitivity models, unrealistically dire scenarios and adjustments to surface temperature data that inevitably show more warming.
“Recent research suggests that climate sensitivity is at the low end, and of course what gets put into these reports is always the high end,” said Mr. Ebell, a member of the Trump transition team.
One reason, said Mr. Taylor, is that the federal workforce is replete with climate-catastrophe advocates left over from previous administrations, meaning “the deck is stacked even before they put these reports together.”
Mr. Trump has come under fire on the left for announcing he would pull out of the 2015 Paris climate agreement and his skeptical attitude toward predictions of global catastrophe, providing a stark contrast to congressional Democrats, who have held more than a dozen climate-related hearings this year.
“Given the previous statements you have made that fly in the face of explicit scientific evidence and the findings of your own DoD and Director of National Intelligence, we have serious concerns about any effort to construct a secret committee to question the basic scientific fact of climate change,” said the House Democratic chairs’ letter.
The White House has not publicly acknowledged the existence of the proposed panel, and there is no timeline for a decision, although speculation is that a decision could come within the month.
Mr. Ebell said the president should bear in mind a key distinction between those who support the panel’s formation and those who don’t.
“There’s a really a big difference between our letter and those letters that are opposed,” Mr. Ebell said. “And that is that our letter was written by people who support his agenda.”