The Cost of Lies: White House Revives “Team B” Plan for Climate Science

May 28, 2019

The idea of a “Team B” to produce intelligence more politically palatable to a Republican administration is not new.

In the 80s, hard-liners not satisfied with intelligence community expert estimates of Soviet capabilities, formed a “Team B” group to provide more threatening and dire assessments to the President. The group was promoted by Donald Rumsfeld, and included Paul Wolfowitz, both later architects of the war in Iraq.
Also in the lead up to that war, Vice President Dick Cheney famously oversaw the manipulation of intelligence to deceive both the executive branch and the American people about the need for an invasion.

The Atlantic:

(1) During the several months preceding the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, and thereafter, the vice president became aware that no certain evidence existed of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, a fact articulated in several official documents, including: (a) A report by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency, concluding that “there is no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons, or where Iraq has–or will–establish its chemical warfare agent production facilities.” (b) A National Intelligence Estimate, compiled by the nation’s intelligence agencies, admitting to “little specific information” about chemical weapons in Iraq. (c) A later section of the same NIE, admitting “low confidence” that Saddam Hussein “would engage in clandestine attacks against the U.S. Homeland,” and equally “low confidence” that he would “share chemical or biological weapons with al-Qa’ida.” (d) An addendum by the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, asserting that Hussein’s quest for yellowcake uranium in Africa was “highly dubious” and that his acquisition of certain machine parts, considered by some to be evidence of a nuclear program, were “not clearly linked to a nuclear end use.” (e) A report by the United States Department of Energy, stating that the machinery in question was “poorly suited” for nuclear use.

(2) Despite these questions and uncertainties, and having full awareness of them, the vice president nevertheless proceeded to misrepresent the facts in his public statements, claiming that there was no doubt about the existence of chemical and biological weapons in Iraq and that a full-scale nuclear program was known to exist, including: (a) March 17, 2002: “We know they have biological and chemical weapons.” (b) March 19, 2002: “We know they are pursuing nuclear weapons.” (c) March 24, 2002: “He is actively pursuing nuclear weapons.” (d) May 19, 2002: “We know he’s got chemical and biological…we know he’s working on nuclear.” (e) August 26, 2002: “We now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons… Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.” (f) March 16, 2003: “We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.

Now the Trump administration has renewed its intention to produce similarly skewed pseudo-scientific assessments of global climate change.

What could go wrong?

New York Times:

President Trump has rolled back environmental regulations, pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord, brushed aside dire predictions about the effects of climate change, and turned the term “global warming” into a punch line rather than a prognosis.

Now, after two years spent unraveling the policies of his predecessors, Mr. Trump and his political appointees are launching a new assault.
In the next few months, the White House will complete the rollback of the most significant federal effort to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, initiated during the Obama administration. It will expand its efforts to impose Mr. Trump’s hard-line views on other nations, building on his retreat from the Paris accord and his recent refusal to sign a communiqué to protect the rapidly melting Arctic region unless it was stripped of any references to climate change.
And, in what could be Mr. Trump’s most consequential action yet, his administration will seek to undermine the very science on which climate change policy rests.

“What we have here is a pretty blatant attempt to politicize the science — to push the science in a direction that’s consistent with their politics,” said Philip B. Duffy, the president of the Woods Hole Research Center, who served on a National Academy of Sciences panel that reviewed the government’s most recent National Climate Assessment. “It reminds me of the Soviet Union.”


In an email, James Hewitt, a spokesman for the Environmental Protection Agency, defended the proposed changes.
“The previous use of inaccurate modeling that focuses on worst-case emissions scenarios, that does not reflect real-world conditions, needs to be thoroughly re-examined and tested if such information is going to serve as the scientific foundation of nationwide decision-making now and in the future,” Mr. Hewitt said.
However, the goal of political appointees in the Trump administration is not just to change the climate assessment’s methodology, which has broad scientific consensus, but also to question its conclusions by creating a new climate review panel. That effort is led by a 79-year-old physicist who had a respected career at Princeton but has become better known in recent years for attacking the science of man-made climate change and for defending the virtues of carbon dioxide — sometimes to an awkward degree.

Mr. Happer’s proposed panel is backed by John R. Bolton, the president’s national security adviser, who brought Mr. Happer into the N.S.C. after an earlier effort to recruit him during the transition.
Mr. Happer and Mr. Bolton are both beneficiaries of Robert and Rebekah Mercer, the far-right billionaire and his daughter who have funded efforts to debunk climate science. The Mercers gave money to a super PAC affiliated with Mr. Bolton before he entered government and to an advocacy group headed by Mr. Happer.
Climate scientists are dismissive of Mr. Happer; his former colleagues at Princeton are chagrined. And several White House officials — including Larry Kudlow, the president’s chief economic adviser — have urged Mr. Trump not to adopt Mr. Happer’s proposal, on the grounds that it would be perceived as a White House attack on science.
Even Stephen K. Bannon, the former White House strategist who views Mr. Happer as “the climate hustler’s worst nightmare — a world-class physicist from the nation’s leading institution of advanced learning, who does not suffer fools gladly,” is apprehensive about what Mr. Happer is trying to do.
“The very idea will start a holy war on cable before 2020,” he said. “Better to win now and introduce the study in the second inaugural address.”
But at a White House meeting on May 1, at which the skeptical advisers made their case, Mr. Trump appeared unpersuaded, people familiar with the meeting said. Mr. Happer, they said, is optimistic that the panel will go forward.


Of course, the most blatant and recent example of a Republican overruling experts in his own administration was President Trump’s all too explicable groveling to Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, where he threw the best intel agencies in the world under the bus in favor of an oil-and-blood soaked dictator.

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2 Responses to “The Cost of Lies: White House Revives “Team B” Plan for Climate Science”

  1. jimbills Says:

    Speaking of the Soviet Union, there was a little film a few years ago with a bizarre, but largely true, scene in it:

    Stalin has a stroke and collapses. He had ordered his guards never to disturb him, so they don’t. The Soviet ministers arrive and argue for hours over what to do. They’ve killed most of the doctors in Moscow, and it should really be a committee decision as to whether or not one should be called. Ego plays back and forth between them, and absolutely nothing gets done.

    Stalin later recovers, largely on his own, but later dies.

  2. Keith McClary Says:

    As I have mentioned before, Wikipedia has this List of scientists who disagree with the scientific consensus on global warming. If you pick out Americans with some sort of relevant qualifications you get the usual suspects: Curry, Davis, D’Aleo, Dyson, Koonin, Lindzen, Loehle, Pielke, Tsonis, Easterbrook, Happer, Lupo, Shaviv, Singer, Soon, Spencer, Christy and 3 Idso’s. These are mostly emeritus/retired/former and/or in the pay of FF. I guess the “red team” will be ~6 of these who do not disagree too much with each other.


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