Originally posted:\u00a003\/07\/2018 05:07 AM EST\r\n\r\nPresident Donald Trump is filling the upper ranks of his administration with appointees who share his disbelief in the scientific evidence for climate change \u2014 giving them an opportunity to impose their views on policies ranging from disaster planning to national security to housing standards.\r\n\r\nAt the Interior Department, decisions about Pacific island territories threatened by rising seas are in the hands of an assistant secretary who has criticized \u201cclimate alarmists\u201d for \u201conce again predicting the end of the world as we know it.\u201d Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue\u2019s top advisers include a former talk radio host who has dismissed much climate research as \u201cjunk science.\u201d Trump\u2019s nominee to head research and technology at the Department of Transportation claimed three years ago that global warming had \u201cstopped\u201d \u2014 a position at sharp odds with the findings of federal agencies like NASA.\r\n\r\nTrump has chosen at least 20 like-minded people to serve as agency leaders and advisers, according to a POLITICO review of his appointees' past statements on climate science. And they are already having an impact in abandoning former President Barack Obama\u2019s attempt to help unite the world against the threat of rising sea levels, worsening storms and spreading droughts.\r\n\r\nMost famously, the president and his team have\u00a0scrubbed\u00a0mentions of climate change from government websites, kicked scientists off\u00a0advisory boards, repudiated the Obama administration\u2019s greenhouse gas regulations and made the U.S. the only nation on Earth to reject the 2015 Paris agreement on global warming.\r\n\r\nMore quietly, Trump\u2019s White House excluded rising temperatures from the list of threats in its December national security\u00a0strategy, contradicting the approach of both the Obama and George W. Bush administrations. Last year, just before Hurricane Harvey drowned Houston, the White House\u00a0rescinded\u00a0requirements that projects built with federal dollars take into account the way warming temperatures might intensify extreme weather.\r\n\r\nPeople worried about the consequences of climate change say a government that denies the problem is courting danger.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nJUSTICE DEPARTMENT\r\nAttorney General Jeff Sessions\r\n\r\nCarbon dioxide \u201cis plant food\u201d that \u201cdoesn\u2019t harm anybody except that it might include temperature increases.\u201d\r\n\r\nWhat they said:\u00a0In a congressional hearing in March 2015, the then-senator from Alabama\u00a0asserted\u00a0that \u201ccarbon pollution is CO2, and that\u2019s really not a pollutant. It\u2019s a plant food, and it doesn\u2019t harm anybody except that it might include temperature increases.\u201d\r\n\r\nWhy it matters:\u00a0His lawyers at the Justice Department have vast power over the fate of Obama\u2019s regulations and Trump\u2019s regulatory rollbacks. Already they have sought to delay court decisions while agencies repeal and rewrite Obama-era rules facing attack from industry. And they will have the task of defending Trump\u2019s proposals against legal challenges filed by environmental groups and Democratic-leaning states.\r\n\u201cThe analogy could be if somebody\u2019s got a heart problem or high cholesterol, you take medicine that helps manage that so you can avoid a heart attack,\u201d said Ana Unruh Cohen, the government affairs director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. \u201cTrump taking that away, saying, \u2018Forget it, I don\u2019t believe I have high cholesterol,\u2019 is setting up the country for a heart attack.\u201d\r\nAparna Mathur, a resident scholar in economic policy at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, found the trend worrying as well.\r\n\r\nMany administration officials \u201cdon\u2019t seem to believe climate change is real, or if they believe climate change is real, there\u2019s this sort of attitude that there\u2019s not much to do about it or it\u2019s not caused by human actions,\u201d said Mathur, whose AEI colleagues also include people who question the extent of man-made climate change. As a result, she said, the U.S. is falling behind countries that are taking action on the problem.\r\n\r\nThe doubts are coming from both prominent and little-known Trump appointees, in ways both obscure and subtle.\r\n\r\nSome have expressed doubt that the Earth is warming at all, speculated that the trend might be good for humans, or said it\u2019s just impossible to know how much of a role humans and their pollution are playing. All these statements fly in the face of findings by the government\u2019s own research agencies and the vast majority of climate scientists.\r\n\r\n\u201cThere are scientists that think lots of different things about climate change,\u201d then-Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), now Trump\u2019s CIA director,\u00a0said on C-SPAN\u00a0in 2013. \u201cThere\u2019s some who think we\u2019re warming, there\u2019s some who think we\u2019re cooling, there\u2019s some who think that the last 16 years have shown a pretty stable climate environment.\u201d Pompeo dodged the issue in his confirmation hearing last year, saying he would \u201cprefer today not to get into the details of the climate debate and science.\u201d\r\n\r\nWhen he was running for president, HUD Secretary Ben Carson scoffed at the idea that strong evidence for human-caused climate change even exists. \u201cI know there are a lot of people who say \u2018overwhelming science,\u2019 but then when you ask them to show the overwhelming science they never can show it,\u201d he\u00a0told\u00a0the San Francisco Chronicle in 2015.\r\n\r\nFew have been as publicly outspoken on the issue as Trump, who more than once has dismissed human-caused climate change as a "hoax" and\u00a0claimed\u00a0in January that polar ice isn\u2019t melting.\r\n\r\nThe White House sought to strike a somewhat more moderate tone in a statement to POLITICO on Monday, which said that \u201cthe climate has changed and is always changing. The Administration supports rigorous scientific analysis and debate." The statement from principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah added that "the development of modern and efficient infrastructure ... will reduce emissions and enable us to address future risks, including climate related risks.\u201d\r\n\r\nSome of the administration's climate skeptics have already come and gone.\r\n\r\nFormer HHS Secretary Tom Price, who had criticized the \u201callegedly \u2018settled science\u2019 of global warming\u201d as a member of Congress, resigned in September amid criticism of his expensive travels on\u00a0government and private planes. Kathleen Hartnett White, Trump\u2019s pick to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality,\u00a0withdrew her nomination\u00a0earlier this year after she stirred criticism with a long list of\u00a0controversial statements, including calling the human role in climate change \u201cvery uncertain.\u201d\r\n\r\nAnother unsuccessful nominee, former talk radio host and political science professor Sam Clovis, had to pull out of the running to be USDA\u2019s chief scientist after critics noted that he has no science credentials \u2014 but he remains a top adviser to Perdue. Clovis\u00a0dismissed\u00a0much climate research as \u201cjunk science\u201d in a 2014 interview, adding that \u201ca lot of this global warming ... is really about income redistribution from rich nations that are industrialized to nations that are not.\u201d\r\n\r\nBrent Fewell, a conservative environmental lawyer who was an EPA water official under Bush, suggested that some of these officials may privately acknowledge that man-made climate change is real. But he added: \u201cA lot of people on the political right are uninformed about the issue. For whatever reason, it\u2019s a lot easier to simply agree with the prominent voices in the political party.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe upshot is the same, however: a 180-degree reversal from Obama\u2019s efforts to make the U.S. a leader in addressing the causes and consequences of a warming planet.\r\n\r\nThe EPA is leading the charge by withdrawing or weakening a host of climate regulations, including a 2015 rule that would have sped the electric power industry\u2019s shift away from coal-fired energy. Trump has also approved tariffs for solar panel imports, which will make it harder for green energy to compete with fossil fuels. Agencies have sought to cancel rules meant to limit the oil\u00a0and gas industry's methane pollution \u2014 another major greenhouse gas source \u2014 and are reconsidering tougher standards for vehicles, too.\r\n\r\nThe Energy Department has proposed regulatory changes to prop up coal plants that can\u2019t compete in the market, while the White House is seeking buyers for U.S. coal and gas exports.\r\n\r\nWhen Trump\u2019s critics seek to challenge these actions in court, the government\u2019s defense will be run by the Justice Department \u2014 an agency whose leader, Attorney General Jeff Sessions,\u00a0said during a 2015 Senate hearing that carbon dioxide is \u201creally not a pollutant.\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cIt's a plant food, and it doesn't harm anybody except that it might include temperature increases,\u201d Sessions said.\r\n\r\nSome agencies are still continuing to study climate change and factor their findings into their policy decisions. But even there, career staffers may not talk about their work as openly as they once did, and the agencies seldom showcase it the way they did during the Obama years.\r\nNATIONAL SECURITY\r\nCIA Director Mike Pompeo\r\n"There\u2019s some who think we\u2019re warming, there\u2019s some who think we\u2019re cooling.\u201d\r\nWhat they said:\u00a0Is the Earth even warming at all? Pompeo expressed uncertainty on that point in 2013,\u00a0saying on C-SPAN\u00a0that \u201cthere are scientists that think lots of different things about climate change. There\u2019s some who think we\u2019re warming, there\u2019s some who think we\u2019re cooling, there\u2019s some who think that the last 16 years have shown a pretty stable climate environment.\u201d\r\n\r\nWhy it matters:\u00a0A 2014 Pentagon report called climate change an\u00a0immediate threat\u00a0to national security, saying it increases risks from terrorism, infectious disease, global poverty and food shortages. Obama and President George W. Bush both acknowledged climate change as a security risk, but Trump\u2019s Pentagon\u00a0excluded\u00a0the issue from the 2018\u00a0National Defense Strategy.\r\n\r\nMuch of the alarm among Trump\u2019s critics focuses on EPA, which has replaced dozens of scientists on its key advisory boards with industry or state representatives, and has found other ways to keep researchers from contradicting the administration\u2019s message. Last fall, the agency canceled an appearance by three EPA scientists scheduled to speak about climate change at a Narragansett Bay\u00a0conference. Both EPA and the Energy Department have given extra scrutiny to grant proposals with the words \u201cclimate change,\u201d and in the case of EPA, it has put a political appointee in charge of signing off on them, The Washington Post has reported.\r\n\r\nAll this is in line with the public statements of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who has suggested that global warming\u00a0might be a good thing\u00a0and has spoken about holding a public debate on whether climate change is real.\r\n\r\n\u201cRight out of the gate \u2026 the administration took any and all mention of climate change off of the White House website,\u201d said Jacob Carter, a research scientist who has been tracking the administration's treatment of science for the Union of Concerned Scientists. \u201cIt seems like the administration is really trying to undo a lot of the scientific process as a whole and get experts out of the way.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, which has studied the purging and rewording of climate-related documents on government websites,\u00a0reported\u00a0at the end of 2017 that it had found a \u201csignificant loss of public access to information about climate change.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe State Department\u2019s website took down links related to the Paris climate agreement, EPA removed a student\u2019s guide to climate change, and the Energy Department got rid of the words \u201cclean energy\u201d on a page with information for investors and businesses looking for projects with national laboratories.\r\n\r\nThe Interior Department\u2019s Bureau of Land Management, which oversees energy development on federal land, cut text about the effects of climate change. Some of the resources are still technically available in archives or in new locations, but they are harder to find because the government sites don\u2019t directly link to them, the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative says.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s not alarming the public because it\u2019s very hard to see each incremental thing,\u201d said Andrew Bergman, a co-author of the report.\r\n\r\nSome Trump appointees have downplayed the idea that agency leaders\u2019 personal views about climate change are critical to making policy, suggesting they can still respond to global warming\u2019s effects without addressing why it\u2019s happening.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe continue to take seriously climate change \u2014 not the cause of it, but the things that we observe,\u201d Tom Bossert, the president\u2019s homeland security adviser, told reporters after last year\u2019s spree of catastrophic hurricanes\u00a0that ravaged Houston, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.\r\n\r\nSarah Hunt, who works in energy policy at the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, said that \u201cpolicymaker views on climate science needn\u2019t have any bearing on their support for conservative clean energy policies that spur the innovation we need to reduce emissions and promote environmental stewardship while we grow our economy.\u201d\r\n\r\nBut Trump\u2019s actions have reflected his views on the science. For example, one of his early executive orders\u00a0in March 2017 eliminated a number of ways agencies had been required to consider climate change, including in environmental reviews for infrastructure projects.\r\n\r\nBecause so many of his appointees have questioned the conclusions of climate scientists, they are jettisoning climate change from routine processes. Those include EPA\u2019s\u00a0refusal\u00a0to consider the global monetary benefits of curbing rising temperatures when it rolled back Obama-era rules for the power sector.\r\n\r\nStill, some agencies have continued to issue major reports that warn that climate change is a real and growing problem \u2014 even as the president's staffers push the message that the science is uncertain.\r\n\r\nIn November, the government\u2019s 13-agency National Climate Assessment concluded that humans have pushed global temperatures to their highest level in modern times.\u00a0In January, NASA published data showing that last year was the second-warmest on record, and noted that temperature rises are \u201cdriven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere.\u201d\r\n\r\nTrump\u2019s nominee to run the space agency, Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), criticized\u00a0\u201cclimate change alarmists\u201d\u00a0on the House floor in 2013 and claimed that \u201cglobal temperatures stopped rising 10 years ago.\u201d (In fact, they haven\u2019t.) At his confirmation hearing last year, he acknowledged that humans are a cause of climate change but wouldn\u2019t call them the main cause.\r\n\r\n\u201cThat is a question that I do not have an answer to,\u201d he said.