NBC News has a detailed report of a July 20 meeting between Donald Trump and his military advisors that clarifies why Tillerson, the secretary of state, allegedly disparaged the president behind his back. At the meeting, Trump reportedly astonished military leaders by saying he wanted to rebuild the nation’s nuclear stockpile to its peak level of the late 1960s—a tenfold increase that would violate international agreements the U.S. has adhered to since the 1980s. The New Republic.
Oddly enough this involves both climate change, which he denies because there’s one tin-hat wearing scientist somewhere or other who says it isn’t real, and his beloved shape-shifting wall.
When President Trump tweeted out a meme of his envisioned steel-slat wall with the words, “THE WALL IS COMING” over the weekend, many fans of “Game of Thrones” accused the president of never actually watching the hit HBO series.
Emperor Hadrian (whose walls inspired the author of the books “Game of Thrones” was based on) who ruled from A.D. 117 to A.D. 138, sounds like a guy Trump would have liked to play golf with. He was the first great wall builder in Western civilization — “no one built border walls to the extent Hadrian did,” Frye said. He built more than one great wall. He built other less impressive walls everywhere, on three continents, seeking to harden the Roman Empire’s borders rather than continue expanding them, as his predecessor, Trajan, had done.
In his 2018 book “Hadrian’s Wall,” British historian Adrian Goldsworthy described the emperor and his obsession with big-ticket construction like this: “The initial design for Hadrian’s Wall was grand, if not as grand as it would become, and this is an indication of the emperor’s personal involvement. Hadrian was obsessed with architecture and loved designing great buildings, a passion reflected in his rebuilding of the Pantheon in Rome, with its spectacular domed roof, and in his sprawling villa complex at Tivoli. The Wall was more functional, but it made up for this in sheer size.”
“Barriers built in the Rio Grande floodplain will either wash away during floods or become dams that worsen the flooding.”
The following includes information and short excerpts from the “Think Progress” article:
Record-breaking flooding events increased over the past 30 years according to the National Climate Assessment along the Texas/Mexico border and that extreme flooding events are only going to get worse. However the the 1970 “Treaty to Resolve Pending Boundary Differences and Maintain the Rio Grande and Colorado River as the International Boundary” was signed before climate change became an issue.
I doubt Trump has ever heard of the U.S.-Mexico International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) and knows that it “must approve construction of works proposed in either country” along the Rio Grande River. It explicitly prohibits the construction of projects “which, in the judgment of the commission, may cause deflection or obstruction of the normal flow of the river or of its flood flows.”
The Arizona Daily Star reported in 2008, a 5-mile border fence constructed along Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument’s southern border “became a dam” during a flash flood that year.
These images taken in 2008 from NASA’s Terra satellite show what happens when a barrier is built that has to withstand floods along the Rio Grande.
Sorry, President Trump, not only is it unwise and unnecessary to build a wall along the entire border, it is impossible.
President Donald Trump is wrong when he suggests global warming can’t be happening if it’s really cold outside.
He points to a “brutal and extended cold blast” in the Eastern U.S. during Thanksgiving week and wonders aloud to his Twitter followers, “Whatever happened to Global Warming?” In fact, he is confusing short-term weather patterns with longer-term climate change. A scientific report put out Friday by his own administration rejects as folly any notion that a particular plunge in temperatures can cast doubt on whether Earth is warming.
Explaining his decision not to punish Saudi Arabia for the killing of a U.S.-based journalist, Trump also exaggerates the value of Saudi investments in the U.S. and expresses thanks to the kingdom — then himself — for spurring a recent decline in oil prices. Those claims are off the mark.
A look at his recent rhetoric, also covering the courts, midterm elections and more.
TRUMP: “So great that oil prices are falling (thank you President T). Add that, which is like a big Tax Cut, to our other good Economic news. Inflation down (are you listening Fed)!” — tweet Sunday.
TRUMP: “Oil prices getting lower. Great! Like a big Tax Cut for America and the World. Enjoy! $54, was just $82. Thank you to Saudi Arabia, but let’s go lower!” — tweet Wednesday.
THE FACTS: Heaping praise on Saudi Arabia, then himself, for lower oil prices is a gross oversimplification. Oil prices, which peaked Oct. 3, have been falling on the realization that U.S. sanctions against Iran would not create a shortage and on fear that slower economic growth internationally will depress energy demand.
Although the U.S. is now the world’s biggest oil producer, Saudi Arabia remains the biggest exporter. As a so-called swing producer with the ability to adjust production up or down relatively quickly, it can indeed influence the price of crude. But the market is far more complex than Trump suggests. Canada is actually the leading source of U.S. oil imports, for example, with Saudi Arabia second.
TRUMP: “This is the coldest weather in the history of the Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC, and one of the coldest Thanksgivings on record!” — tweet Thursday.
TRUMP: “Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS – Whatever happened to Global Warming?” — tweet Wednesday.
THE FACTS: Trump is conflating weather and climate. Weather is like mood, which changes daily. Climate is like personality, which is long term.
The climate is warming, which still allows for record cold spells.
On Friday, the White House produced the National Climate Assessment by scientists from 13 Trump administration agencies and outside scientists. It amounted to a slap in the face for those who question whether climate is changing.
“Climate change is transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us,” the report says. It details how global warming from the burning of coal, oil and gas is hurting each region of U.S. and different sectors of the economy. The report said the last few years have smashed U.S. records for damaging weather, already costing nearly $400 billion since 2015, and projects increased deaths and disease.
The White House report swept aside the idea, already discredited, that a particular plunge in temperatures can cast uncertainty on whether Earth is warming. It says more than 90 percent of current warming is caused by humans: “There are no credible alternative human or natural explanations supported by the observational evidence.”
“Over shorter timescales and smaller geographic regions, the influence of natural variability can be larger than the influence of human activity,” the report says. “Over climate timescales of multiple decades, however, global temperature continues to steadily increase.”
In other words, there are cold days in a warming climate.
TRUMP: “Justice Roberts can say what he wants, but the 9th Circuit is a complete & total disaster. It is out of control, has a horrible reputation, is overturned more than any Circuit in the Country, 79%, & is used to get an almost guaranteed result.” — tweet Thursday.
TRUMP: “It would be great if the 9th Circuit was indeed an “independent judiciary,” but if it is why … are so are so many opposing view (on Border and Safety) cases filed there, and why are a vast number of those cases overturned. Please study the numbers, they are shocking.” — tweets Wednesday.
THE FACTS: He’s incorrect in suggesting that rulings by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco are reversed by the Supreme Court more frequently than those of any other federal appeals court. His description of the “shocking” number of overturned cases in the 9th Circuit belies the nature of the appeals system.
When the Supreme Court hears a case, it is more likely to overturn it than not. It does so about two-thirds of the time.
In the last term, the Supreme Court overturned 100 percent of the decisions of the 1st Circuit in Boston, the 3rd Circuit in Philadelphia and the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati. For the 9th Circuit, 86 percent were overturned.
Over the past five years, the Supreme Court overturned a greater percentage of rulings from the 3rd Circuit (92.3 percent), the 6th Circuit (85.1 percent) and the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit (81.8 percent) than from the 9th (77.4 percent), according to The Associated Press’ analysis of statistics from the legal website Scotusblog.
The 9th is by far the largest of the 13 federal courts of appeals, covering Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. That means that in raw numbers, more cases are heard and reversed from the 9th year in and year out. But that does not make it the most frequently overturned.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar, who’d been nominated by Democratic President Barack Obama, temporarily barred the Trump administration from refusing asylum to immigrants who cross the southern border illegally. That set off Trump’s ire. Any appeal is likely to go to the 9th Circuit.
Trump’s tweets took issue with an unusual rebuke from the U.S. chief justice, John Roberts. Roberts spoke up for the independence of the judiciary after Trump branded Tigar an “Obama judge” and said “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges.”
TRUMP, on his impact on the midterm elections: “Look at Florida. I went down to Florida. Rick Scott won and he won by a lot. I don’t know what happened to all those votes that disappeared at the very end. And if I didn’t put a spotlight on that election before it got down to the 12,500 votes, he would’ve lost that election, OK? … They would have taken that election away from him.” — interview with “Fox News Sunday,” broadcast on Nov. 18.
THE FACTS: Trump is exaggerating the vote margin of Scott’s victory in Florida’s Senate race as being “a lot.” He’s also suggesting without evidence that his own efforts prevented Democrats from engaging in voter fraud.
Scott, Florida’s Republican governor, edged out Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in the closest Senate race in the nation in the midterm elections — by a margin of 10,033 votes, or 0.12 percentage points. It also was the closest Senate race in Florida since at least 1978, according to the Florida’s Division of Elections website. It required two recounts — by machine and by hand — as mandated by state law due to the razor-thin margins.
Trump asserts without evidence that the attention he brought to the Senate race prevented Democrats from “taking” that election from Scott, hinting at voter fraud by suggesting votes “disappeared at the very end.”
Despite Trump’s repeated claims after the Nov. 6 election of Florida races being potentially “stolen,” the state agencies charged with investigating potential fraud have said no credible allegations exist. It’s not uncommon for vote tallies to change in the days after Election Day as local officials process remaining mailed and provisional ballots. In Florida, Scott saw some of his lead dwindle after the Democratic strongholds of Palm Beach and Broward counties continued to count votes.
TRUMP: “After my heavily negotiated trip to Saudi Arabia last year, the Kingdom agreed to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States. This is a record amount of money. It will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, tremendous economic development, and much additional wealth for the United States. Of the $450 billion, $110 billion will be spent on the purchase of military equipment from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and many other great U.S. defense contractors. If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries — and very happy to acquire all of this newfound business.” — statement Tuesday.
THE FACTS: He’s greatly overstating the value of expected Saudi investments in the U.S.
The arms package, partly negotiated under the Obama administration, mixes old deals, some new business and prospective purchases that have not been worked out.
The Pentagon said last month that Saudi Arabia had signed “letters of offer and acceptance” for only $14.5 billion in military purchases and confirmed Tuesday that nothing further has reached that stage.
Those letters, issued after the U.S. government approves a proposed arms sale, specify its terms. Much of that $14.5 billion involves a missile defense system, a contract that appears to have advanced more than other significant investments but not been completed.
Moreover, the State Department estimated last year that if the full $110 billion in prospective arms business is fulfilled, it could end up “potentially supporting tens of thousands of new jobs in the United States.” That’s a far cry from the 500,000 to 600,000 jobs that Trump has said the arms deal is worth.
Details of the package have been sketchy, with no public breakdown of exactly what was being offered for sale and for how much. The government’s Congressional Research Service has described the package as a combination of sales that were proposed by President Barack Obama and discussed with Congress and new sales still being developed.
Meanwhile, there has been no verification from either country that “the Kingdom agreed to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States,” as Trump put it in his statement. White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters did not respond to a request to explain the figure.
TRUMP: “Saudi Arabia would gladly withdraw from Yemen if the Iranians would agree to leave. They would immediately provide desperately needed humanitarian assistance.” — statement Tuesday.
THE FACTS: This seemingly benign view of Saudi intentions in Yemen does not square with reality on the ground. A Saudi-led blockade is at least partly responsible for widespread starvation in a country where three quarters of the population needs life-saving assistance. It’s the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The U.S. has scaled back support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting Iranian-backed rebels and is pressing for a cease-fire.
The international aid group Save the Children estimated Wednesday that 85,000 Yemeni children younger than 5 have died of hunger and disease since civil war broke out in 2015. The United Nations says more than 1.3 million Yemeni children have suffered from severe acute malnutrition since the coalition went to war against Houthi rebels.
TRUMP: “Of course we should have captured Osama Bin Laden long before we did. I pointed him out in my book just BEFORE the attack on the World Trade Center. President Clinton famously missed his shot. We paid Pakistan Billions of Dollars & they never told us he was living there. Fools!” — tweet Nov. 19.
THE FACTS: There was nothing original or clairvoyant in the reference to bin Laden in Trump’s 2000 book. As part of his criticism of what he considered Bill Clinton’s haphazard approach to U.S. security as president, his book stated: “One day we’re told that a shadowy figure with no fixed address named Osama bin Laden is public enemy Number One, and U.S. jetfighters lay waste to his camp in Afghanistan. He escapes back under some rock, and a few news cycles later it’s on to a new enemy and new crisis.”
Trump’s book did not call for further U.S. action against bin Laden or al-Qaida to follow up on attacks Clinton ordered in 1998 in Afghanistan and Sudan after al-Qaida bombed the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The U.S. attacks were meant to disrupt bin Laden’s network and destroy some of al-Qaida’s infrastructure, such as a factory in Sudan associated with the production of a nerve gas ingredient. They “missed” in the sense that bin Laden was not killed in them, and al-Qaida was able to pull off 9/11 three years later.
In passages on terrorism, Trump’s book correctly predicted that the U.S. was at risk of a terrorist attack that would make the 1993 World Trade Center bombing pale by comparison. That was a widespread concern at the time, as Trump suggested in stating “no sensible analyst rejects this possibility.” Trump did not explicitly tie that threat to al-Qaida and thought an attack might come through the use of a miniaturized weapon of mass destruction, like a nuclear device in a suitcase or anthrax.
Associated Press writers Seth Borenstein, Robert Burns and Josh Boak in Washington, Jill Colvin in Palm Beach, Fla., and David Koenig in Dallas contributed to this report.
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President Donald Trump removed climate change from the list of worldwide threats menacing the United States on Monday, a shift that underscores the long-term ramifications of the “America first” world view he laid out in his new National Security Strategy.
The document depicts Russia and China as combative rivals in perpetual competition with the U.S. But it makes no mention of what scientists say are the dangers posed by a warming climate, including more extreme weather events that could spark humanitarian crises, mass migrations, and conflict.
It’s a significant departure from the Obama administration, which had described climate change as an “urgent and growing threat to our national security.” And it demonstrates how Trump, despite struggling to push his own agenda through a Republican-controlled Congress, has been able to unilaterally dismantle one of his predecessor’s signature efforts.
As far back as 2003, during George W. Bush’s presidency, a report commissioned by the Defense Department said abrupt climate change threatened “disruption and conflict,” refugee crises, border tensions and more military conflicts.
Trump’s national security report, required annually by Congress, emphasizes that economic security is national security for the U.S. It makes clear the United States will unilaterally defend its sovereignty, even if that means risking existing agreements with other countries.
The new document doesn’t eliminate references to the environment entirely. It “recognizes the importance of environmental stewardship” and says that “climate policies will continue to shape the global energy system.”
“The United States will remain a global leader in reducing traditional pollution, as well as greenhouse gases, while expanding our economy,” it reads.
But Trump, in a speech about the report, blamed past administrations for putting “American energy under lock and key” and said his approach “embraces a future of American energy dominance and self-sufficiency.”
“Our nation must take advantage of our wealth in domestic resources and energy efficiency to promote competitiveness across our industries,” he said.
That thinking represents a reversal, not just from previous Democratic administrations, but from Republican as well, said Geoffrey Dabelko, director of environmental studies at Ohio University.
“Proscribing more fossil fuels rather than seeing that as a fundamental source of vulnerability that undercuts resilience … that is definitely a departure, in some ways turning the argument on its head,” he said.
The last national strategy document, prepared by President Barack Obama in 2015, identified climate change as a national security risk alongside threats like the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and catastrophic attacks on the U.S. homeland.
Climate change, that document warned, was contributing to “increased natural disasters, refugee flows and conflicts over basic resources like food and water” and was already being felt “from the Arctic to the Midwest,” with rising sea levels and storm surges threatening coastal regions, infrastructure and property.
Jamil N. Jaffer, founder of the National Security Institute at George Mason University’s law school, sees the broader new strategy as a shift “that reasserts America’s role in the world as a nation willing to assert its power and influence in its own interest, and as a nation ready and willing to engage in competition–and win–in areas ranging from economics to diplomacy.”
But Rosina Bierbaum, a University of Michigan environmental policy scientist, said, “Not including climate change in a document about security threats is putting our head in the sand.”
Climate change is “absolutely a security threat,” posing risks to U.S. coastal infrastructure, expanding the ranges of pests and pathogens, and fueling more powerful storms and wildfires, she said. Around the world, the changing climate threatens food and drinking water shortages that will boost mass migration and heighten international tension, said Bierbaum, a former associate director of the White House Office of Science and Technology during the Clinton administration who helped write the initial congressionally mandated national climate assessment.
Michael Oppenheimer, a climate scientist at Princeton University, said, “There’s a big element of cutting off our nose to spite our face just because the administration doesn’t like the words ‘climate change.’”
Since taking office, Trump has worked to roll back regulations on planet-warming carbon emissions. He announced his intention to withdraw from what he described as “the very expensive and unfair” Paris climate agreement signed by nearly 200 nations, approved the Keystone XL pipeline, and worked to scrap Obama-era initiatives meant to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, among a long list of measures.
Trump has personally expressed skepticism about the reality of climate change, describing it on Twitter as an “expensive hoax” that was “created by and for the Chinese” to hurt U.S. manufacturing.
However, members of the Trump administration, including Defense Secretary James Mattis, have made clear they believe a changing climate should be taken into account by the U.S. military.
Trump himself signed a defense spending bill this month that orders the Pentagon to assess the “vulnerabilities to military installations and combatant commander requirements resulting from climate change over the next 20 years.”
“Trump is not just ignoring science and public opinion about the dangers of the climate crisis, he’s ignoring American generals and the Pentagon about what it takes to keep our military and our country safe,” Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said in a statement.
But David Titley, a retired rear admiral and the director of the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk at Penn State, said he was pleased to see at least some reference to greenhouse gases and pollution in the document, although he said it was unlikely to have much impact on day-to-day actions by the Department of Defense.
“The facts on the ground are the earth is continuing to heat up. The sea level continues to rise. So whether or not this administration talks about climate risk, the DoD is going to have to deal with it,” he said.
Associated Press writers John Flesher in Traverse City, Michigan, and Bradley Klapper, Catherine Lucey, Matthew Lee, Jonathan Lemire, Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.
Does he or doesn’t he? Believe in climate change, that is.
You’d think that would be an easy enough question the day after President Donald Trump announced he was pulling the U.S. out of the landmark global accord aimed at combatting global warming.
But don’t bother asking at the White House.
“I have not had an opportunity to have that discussion” with the president, responded Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Friday.
“You should ask him that,” offered White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway.
Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt dodged the question, too.
The president also ignored it during an unrelated bill-signing.
It’s quite a reversal for Trump, who spent years publicly bashing the idea of global warming as a “hoax” and “total con job” in books, interviews and tweets. He openly challenged the scientific consensus that the climate is changing and man-made carbon emissions are largely to blame.
“Global warming is an expensive hoax!” he tweeted in 2014.
But Trump has been largely silent on the issue since his election last fall. On Thursday, he made scarce mention of it in his lengthy remarks announcing America’s exit from the Paris accord. Instead, he framed his decision as based on economics.
Here’s what he’s said before:
The president’s twitter feed once was filled with references to “so-called” global warming being a “total con job” based on “faulty science and manipulated data.”
An Associated Press search of his twitter archives revealed at least 90 instances in which he has referred to “global warming” and “climate change” since 2011. In nearly every instance, he expressed skepticism or mockery.
“This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bulls— has got to stop,” he wrote in January 2014, spelling out the vulgarity.
Often the president has pointed to cold weather as evidence the climate scientists are wrong.
“It’s 46 (really cold) and snowing in New York on Memorial Day — tell the so-called “scientists” that we want global warming right now!” he wrote in May 2013 — one of several instances in which he said that warming would be welcome.
“Where the hell is global warming when you need it?” he asked in January 2015.
The same message was echoed in the president’s books.
In “Great Again: How to Fix Our Crippled America,” Trump made a reference to “the mistaken belief that global climate change is being caused by carbon emissions.”
“If you don’t buy that — and I don’t — then what we have is really just an expensive way of making the tree-huggers feel good about themselves,” he wrote.
CANDIDATE AND SKEPTIC:
“I’m not a believer in man-made global warming,” Trump told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt in September 2015, after launching his bid for the White House. He bemoaned the fact that the U.S. was investing money and doing things “to solve a problem that I don’t think in any major fashion exists.”
“I am not a believer,” he added, “Unless somebody can prove something to me … I am not a believer and we have much bigger problems.”
By March 2016, the president appeared to allow that the climate was changing — but continued to doubt humans were to blame.
“I think there’s a change in weather. I am not a great believer in man-made climate change. I’m not a great believer,” he told The Washington Post. “There is certainly a change in weather,” he said.
Then-campaign manager, Conway explained Trump’s view this way: “He believes that global warming is naturally occurring. That there are shifts naturally occurring.”
In an interview with The New York Times in November, after the election, Trump was asked repeatedly whether he intended to leave the Paris accord and appeared to have a new open-mindedness.
“I’m looking at it very closely,” Trump told the newspaper. “I have an open mind to it. We’re going to look very carefully.”
He went on to say that he thought “there is some connectivity” between human activity and the changing climate, but that, “It depends on how much.”
Asked about the comment several days later, Trump’s now-chief of staff Reince Priebus told Fox News that Trump “has his default position, which is that most of it is a bunch of bunk.”
“But he’ll have an open mind and listen to people,” he said.
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President Donald Trump will announce his decision on whether to pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord during a Rose Garden event Thursday afternoon.
Trump promoted his announcement Wednesday night on Twitter, after a day in which U.S. allies around the world sounded alarms about the likely consequences of a U.S. withdrawal. Trump himself kept everyone in suspense, saying he was still listening to “a lot of people both ways.”
The White House signaled that Trump was likely to decide on exiting the global pact — fulfilling one of his principal campaign pledges — though top aides were divided. And the final decision may not be entirely clear-cut: Aides were still deliberating on “caveats in the language,” one official said.
Everyone cautioned that no decision was final until Trump announced it. The president has been known to change his thinking on major decisions and tends to seek counsel from both inside and outside advisers, many with differing agendas, until the last minute.
Abandoning the pact would isolate the U.S. from a raft of international allies who spent years negotiating the 2015 agreement to fight global warming and pollution by reducing carbon emissions in nearly 200 nations. While traveling abroad last week, Trump was repeatedly pressed to stay in the deal by European leaders and the Vatican. Withdrawing would leave the United States aligned only with Russia among the world’s industrialized economies.
American corporate leaders have also appealed to the businessman-turned-president to stay. They include Apple, Google and Walmart. Even fossil fuel companies such as Exxon Mobil, BP and Shell say the United States should abide by the deal.
In a Berlin speech, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said that fighting climate change is a “global consensus” and an “international responsibility.”
“China in recent years has stayed true to its commitment,” said Li, speaking in Berlin Wednesday.
Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, enacted the deal without U.S. Senate ratification. A formal withdrawal would take years, experts say, a situation that led the president of the European Commission to speak dismissively of Trump on Wednesday.
Trump doesn’t “comprehensively understand” the terms of the accord, though European leaders tried to explain the process for withdrawing to him “in clear, simple sentences” during summit meetings last week, Jean-Claude Juncker said in Berlin. “It looks like that attempt failed,” Juncker said. “This notion, ‘I am Trump, I am American, America first and I am getting out,’ that is not going to happen.”
Some of Trump’s aides have been searching for a middle ground — perhaps by renegotiating the terms of the agreement — in an effort to thread the needle between his base of supporters who oppose the deal and those warning that a U.S. exit would deal a blow to the fight against global warming as well as to worldwide U.S. leadership.
That fight has played out within Trump’s administration.
Trump met Wednesday with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has favored remaining in the agreement. Chief strategist Steve Bannon supports an exit, as does Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt.
Trump’s chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, has discussed the possibility of changing the U.S. carbon reduction targets instead of pulling out of the deal completely. Senior adviser Jared Kushner generally thinks the deal is bad but still would like to see if emissions targets can be changed.
Trump’s influential daughter Ivanka Trump’s preference is to stay, but she has made it a priority to establish a review process so her father would hear from all sides, said a senior administration official. Like the other officials, that person was not authorized to describe the private discussions by name and spoke only on condition of anonymity.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Wednesday in Alaska that he had “yet to read what the actual Paris Agreement is,” and would have to read it before weighing in.
Scientists say Earth is likely to reach more dangerous levels of warming sooner if the U.S. retreats from its pledge because America contributes so much to rising temperatures. Calculations suggest withdrawal could result in emissions of up to 3 billion tons of additional carbon dioxide in the air a year — enough to melt ice sheets faster, raise seas higher and trigger more extreme weather.
Associated Press writers Catherine Lucy, Michael Biesecker and Seth Borenstein in Washington and Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed to this report.
The Trump administration would slash programs aimed at slowing climate change and improving water safety and air quality, while eliminating thousands of jobs, according to a draft of the Environmental Protection Agency budget proposal obtained by The Associated Press.
Under the tentative plan from the Office of Management and Budget, the agency’s funding would be reduced by roughly 25 percent and about 3,000 jobs would be cut, about 19 percent of the agency’s staff.
President Donald Trump has said he plans to pay for billions of dollars more for the military by cutting spending on domestic agencies and departments. Trump plans to submit his budget to Congress the week of March 13.
A spokeswoman for the EPA declined to comment, but a top official said in an internal memo that EPA leaders “will do everything in our power to protect our ability to support the mission of the agency in protecting human health and the environment.” A copy of the memo from Acting Assistant Administrator Donna Vizian was obtained by the AP.
Vizian said she could not verify news media accounts, but said any proposed cuts were just the start of a lengthy budget process. A final plan is subject to congressional approval, which likely is months away at the earliest.
The White House also declined to comment.
The EPA is now under the leadership of Scott Pruitt, a former state attorney general for Oklahoma, who has questioned the scientific consensus that human activities are contributing to global warming and joined lawsuits against the agency’s emission curbs.
The Trump administration also would cut funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration by 17 percent, The Washington Post reported Friday, citing a four-page memo from OMB that the newspaper obtained. The scientific agency, which is part of the Commerce Department, studies changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts.
The draft proposal for the EPA would cut its annual budget from about $8.2 billion to $6.1 billion. Proposed cuts include reducing the climate protection budget by nearly 70 percent to $29 million, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative by 97 percent to $10 million and environmental justice programs by 79 percent to $1.5 million.
Also targeted for steep spending rollbacks are the agency’s monitoring and enforcement of compliance with environmental laws, as well as regional projects intended to benefit degraded areas such as the Chesapeake Bay, Puget Sound and the Gulf of Mexico. A program dealing with San Francisco Bay that received $4.8 million last year would be eliminated, as would initiatives for reducing diesel emissions and beach water quality testing.
Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy called the proposed budget “a fantasy” that ignores the EPA’s mission to protect public health.
“It shows the Trump administration doesn’t hold the same American values for clean air, clean water and healthy land as the vast majority of its citizens,” McCarthy said in a statement. “Our health comes before the special interests of multibillion-dollar industries.”
Environmental groups said the proposed cuts would threaten thousands of jobs and could harm health and safety protections for millions of Americans. The proposals would especially affect programs to address climate change and enforce clean air and water laws, they said.
“Instead of working to protect American families, President Trump’s plans put the interest of big-money special interests over people,” said Nat Mund, legislative director of the Southern Environmental Law Center, a Virginia-based advocacy group.
But the Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank, said the proposal didn’t go far enough.
“If Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt are serious about ending the national scandal that is EPA, they will accept nothing less than a 20 percent cut this year and make this year’s cut the first step in a five-year plan to replace the organization,” said Joseph Bast, the group’s president.
The proposal would all but eliminate funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a wide-ranging cleanup of the world’s largest surface freshwater system that has deep bipartisan support across the eight states adjacent to the lakes, from Minnesota to New York. The program has received around $300 million annually from the federal budget during former President Barack Obama’s tenure — more than $2.2 billion in all. Under the Trump proposal, it would get only $10 million.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., described the proposed cut as “outrageous.”
“This initiative has been critical to cleaning up our Great Lakes and waterways, restoring fish and wildlife habitats, and fighting invasive species, like Asian carp,” Stabenow said. “I call on President Trump to reverse course on these harmful decisions.”
Congress in December authorized continuing the program through 2021 at $300 million a year, although separate annual votes are needed to provide the money. In a Feb. 8 letter to Trump, the 20-member Congressional Great Lakes Task Force called for maintaining current funding. Among House members signing it were Republicans Bill Huizenga of Michigan, Sean Duffy of Wisconsin and David Joyce of Ohio.
EPA staffers are upset about the budget. A Thursday all-hands meeting, organized to calm staff about the budget cuts, only created more anxiety.
Flesher reported from Traverse City, Michigan. Lisa Lerer in Washington contributed to this report.
Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke says he would never sell, give away or transfer public lands, a crucial stance in his home state of Montana and the West where access to hunting and fishing is considered sacrosanct.
Zinke feels so strongly that he resigned as a delegate to the Republican National Convention last summer because of the GOP’s position in favor of land transfers to state or private groups. But Zinke’s commitment to public lands has come into question in recent weeks and is likely to be a point of contention Tuesday as the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee considers his nomination to be interior secretary under President-elect Donald Trump.
Zinke, 55, a former Navy SEAL who just won his second term in Congress, was an early Trump supporter and, like his prospective boss, has expressed skepticism about the urgency of climate change.
A self-described “Teddy Roosevelt Republican,” Zinke has supported legislation to boost land and water conservation and recreation on public lands. Zinke has also advocated for increased oil and gas drilling and coal-mining on Western lands.
The Interior Department and other U.S. agencies control almost a third of land in the West and even more of the underground “mineral estate” that holds vast amounts of coal, oil and natural gas.
Zinke’s position on public lands came under fire after he voted in favor of a measure from House Republicans that would allow federal land transfers to be considered cost-free and budget-neutral, making it easier for drilling and development.
Zinke “says he’s against transfer of federal lands, but there’s a big gap between what he says and what he does in that regard,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, the nation’s oldest and largest environmental group.
“You’d think the congressman would be on his best behavior going into a job interview, but instead he’s taking steps to once again jeopardize the future of Montana’s outdoor economy,” Nancy Keenan, executive director of the Montana Democratic Party, said after the Jan. 3 vote.
Zinke’s spokeswoman said the congressman maintains his position against the sale or transfer of federal lands.
Supporters calls the dispute overblown and say Zinke’s vote was on a much larger package that sets House rules in the new Congress.
Indeed, his support for public lands was a crucial reason why Zinke was chosen by Trump. The president-elect and his son, Donald Trump Jr., both oppose sale of federal lands. The younger Trump, an avid hunter, has taken a keen interest in Interior issues and played a key role in Zinke’s selection.
Coal is likely to be another focus on Tuesday. Montana boasts the largest coal reserves in the nation, and Zinke has warned environmentalists and the Obama administration that to take coal out of the energy mix would be “a disaster.”
“I don’t agree with keeping it in the ground,” he said during his re-election campaign.
Eric Washburn, a lobbyist and former aide to Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle, said Zinke will likely be asked to “defend federal ownership over federal lands” and detail how he would balance energy development with the need to conserve fish and wildlife habitats.
Zinke “appears to be a straight shooter, someone that energy and conservation interests can both work with,” Washburn said.
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership endorsed Zinke, calling him “a leader on many issues important to America’s hunters and anglers.”
Brune, of the Sierra Club, scoffed at the comparison to Roosevelt, saying the only way to connect the men is “to describe the ways Zinke wants to undo TR’s legacy” of conservation.
Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington state, the top Democrat on the energy panel, said she is eager to ask Zinke about modernizing the federal coal program “to make sure American taxpayers aren’t short-changed for the benefit of corporate interests.” Cantwell also said wants reassurances that Zinke will protect the interests of American consumers and native tribes — “not just the coal and mining companies.”
Zinke spent 23 years as a Navy SEAL, serving in Kosovo and Iraq, where he was awarded two Bronze Stars for combat missions. He currently serves on the House Natural Resources and Armed Services committees.
He made an unsuccessful 2012 run for Montana lieutenant governor before shifting his ambitions to Congress in 2014. Before his selection for Interior, Zinke had been considered a likely challenger to Democratic Sen. Jon Tester in 2018.
President Barack Obama is opening a two-day environmental tour aimed at showcasing conservation efforts before traveling to Asia, where climate change is high on the agenda for his final trip to the region.
In Nevada on Wednesday, Obama plans to visit Lake Tahoe and speak at a summit dedicated to the iconic lake’s preservation. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who like Obama is in his final year in office, has hosted the summit for 20 years and asked Obama to attend. The president planned to hail federal and local collaboration on environmental protection while announcing modest new steps on clean energy and climate resilience.
After his brief stop in the desert, the president will head to lusher terrain in Honolulu, where he plans a speech to a gathering of leaders of island nations in the Pacific Ocean. The setting provides Obama a chance to emphasize a theme he’s returned to frequently in his climate campaign: that remote areas like small islands are the most vulnerable to rising sea levels and should help lead the fight to slow global warming.
To that end, Obama on Thursday planned an unusual presidential visit to Midway Atoll, a speck of land halfway between Asia and North America. Part of the U.S. Minor Outlying Islands, Midway played a key role for the U.S. military in World War II and was the site of a pivotal battle with Japan. Midway sits inside the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, which President George W. Bush created and Obama expanded ahead of his trip to make it the world’s largest protected stretch of ocean.
During an afternoon on the island, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Obama planned to get briefed on the environmental characteristics on the island. The White House said he also would “interact directly with the wildlife.” More than 7,000 species can be found there, including many that exist only in that region.
Obama’s conservation tour comes at the start of a busy trip to Asia, Obama’s final as president and one of his last opportunities to lock in his administration’s seven-year effort to expand U.S. engagement with Asia, including trade ties and cooperation on climate.
In China to attend the Group of 20 major economies summit, Obama planned to hold a formal meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has become Obama’s unlikely partner in pushing for global action on climate. Environmental groups have been pushing Obama and Xi to use the visit to formally enter their nations into the sweeping global climate deal struck in Paris last year.
Before returning to Washington, Obama also was to become the first sitting president to visit Laos, where he’ll meet with the country’s leaders and attend a pair of regional summits.
Reach Josh Lederman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP
Answering a question this week about climate change during a campaign stop in New Hampshire, Ted Cruz was worlds apart from the scientific consensus that sees a world that is warming because of human activity.
Some of the GOP presidential candidate’s claims and how they compare with the facts:
CRUZ: “The satellites that actually measure the temperature, that we’ve launched into the air to measure the temperature, they have recorded no significant warming whatsoever for the last 18 years.”
THE FACTS: Scientists, including those who work with the very satellite measuring system that Cruz refers to, say he’s misusing the satellite data. They do show warming, albeit relatively little over the period Cruz cites, says Carl Mears, senior scientist for Remote Sensing Systems, which produces the data that Cruz refers to.
But by starting his comparison period in 1997, Cruz has selected a time when temperatures spiked because of an El Nino weather pattern. Starting at an artificially high point minimizes the rate of increase since then, Mears said, adding, “If you start riding your bike at the top of a big hill, you always go downhill, at least for a while.”
More important is what’s measured at the Earth’s surface, where people live, Mears said. Those ground-based systems show a greater degree of warming.
The long-term trend that Mears’ satellites show is about 0.7-degree warming since 1979, when satellites started measuring temperature. Ground-based monitors show a warming of about 1 degree during the same period. And 1979 was not among the top five hottest or coldest years in the 36 years of records.
CRUZ: “John Kerry said in 2009 the polar ice caps will be entirely melted by 2013. … Has anyone noticed the polar ice caps are still there? In fact, there was an expedition that went down to Antarctica to prove that the polar ice caps were melting … (the ship) got stuck in the ice because in fact the polar ice caps have increased. They are larger than they were. So not only was Kerry incorrect, he was spectacularly absolutely opposite the facts.”
THE FACTS: Kerry was talking about the ice cap at the North Pole, and it’s true that it hasn’t melted as he predicted. But in pointing that out, Cruz distorts the facts by referring to a ship that got stuck in Antarctic ice a world away near the South Pole.
Scientists do say it’s only a matter of decades before the sea ice around the North Pole will be melted during the summer months, and some countries’ navies are already exploring the area for quicker sea routes. Scientific measurements in Antarctica â where thick ice sheets sit atop land, not floating on the ocean as in the Arctic â show the ice sheets are diminishing on one side while growing on the other. But the fact that a ship got stuck in ice in the Antarctica doesn’t tell us anything about the phenomenon.
CRUZ: “If you’re a big-government politician, if you want more power, climate change is the perfect pseudo-scientific theory … because it can never, ever, ever be disproven.”
THE FACTS: Far from being pseudo-science, climate change is the consensus view among real scientists.
“The climate is terribly complicated, but it is now remarkably well understood because so many people have made such great efforts at developing sensors and deploying sensors and making sense of what the sensors say,” says Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society, and a former Democratic congressman. “It’s not just a few fanciful models on a computer, there are real data now. This is a highly developed science.”
CRUZ: “Thirty, 40 years ago a whole bunch of liberal politicians, a bunch of scientists, were advocating, they said we were facing global cooling. We’re going to have another ice age. And their solution to this was massive government control of the economy, the energy sector and every aspect of our lives. But then the facts and science stood in the way. It turned out the Earth wasn’t cooling.”
THE FACTS: Actually, global warming was more of a concern than cooling back in that time. From 1965 to 1979, 44 peer-reviewed scientific studies found the world was warming, 20 found no trend and only seven found cooling, according to a review of literature published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society in 2008.
With world leaders back home, it’s time for the hardcore climate negotiators to work on the more mundane guts of a deal.
Generally climate negotiations follow a certain rhythm, veteran negotiators and observers say. Wednesday is the middle of the nitty-gritty time when the building blocks of a deal start to form.
“It’s like seeing an action movie,” said former U.S. climate negotiator Nigel Purvis, who is now president of Climate Advisers. “There’s generally a plot, bad guys come to threaten the world. Eventually humanity rallies together and overcomes. That’s the kind of thing that happens here.”
For the next two days negotiators will be working to get the less controversial subjects finished and explore possible compromises on the bigger sticking points, all before work gets kicked up to higher levels. The lower-level negotiators have a Thursday night deadline to come up with language for a new text of a deal that narrows the options to something the big guns start with, according to negotiations experts.
“It’s a pretty important day to make progress where they can make progress,” said Alden Meyer, strategy and policy director at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “In some ways it’s really the guts of the regime. It’s really the key building blocks you have to have to make it work. It’s not necessarily the headline-grabbing elements.”
Jennifer Morgan, global climate program director for World Resources Institute, said the thousands of lower-level negotiators are in smaller groups where they have to narrow options on each issue from, say, six to two for the higher-level officials to peruse. Negotiators talk formally and informally, including on the bus rides back to the hotel.
“It’s pretty clear that if this level doesn’t deliver something that’s much more streamlined, it just makes it much more hard for the ministers to negotiate,” Morgan said.
The language negotiators are now using is “wonky and acronym laden” Meyer said. “But it’s important; without it you couldn’t get the ingredient.”
While it is tense, Morgan said it’s not time for yelling — yet. That comes later in the higher negotiations, Purvis said.
“It does get worse before it gets better,” Purvis said. He said experienced negotiators know there will be some kind of “crisis” where all appears lost, and then a solution is found.
“It may seem like there’s a breakdown on the outside of the negotiations, but there’s usually a lot of patience and perseverance on the inside,” Purvis said.
Out in public, there may be theatrics, but at times it is just for show, Purvis said. Other times an impasse can be solved in an unusual way. Purvis gave an example in 2008 of an issue that boiled into public worries, but was solved by the insertion of a single comma — “a magic comma” — in the language of the deal.
“Once this magic comma was inserted, then peace ruled and we were able to move forward,” Purvis said.