Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Trump's suppression of facts about climate change will shape the future

Not quite. The future is going to happen. But suppression of what we know about the past and the present will limit what we can do about the future.

"And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ’controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’” - George Orwell’s 1984.

A former analyst at the Bureau of Intelligence and Research tells a scary story of what Trump doesn’t want you to know - and how the administration suppresses facts in favor of Trump’s own fiction: The White House Blocked My Report on Climate Change and National Security Politics intruded on science and intelligence. That’s why I quit my job as an analyst for the State Department writes Rod Schoonover in the NY Times.

White House suppresses climate science

Ten years ago, I left my job as a tenured university professor to work as an intelligence analyst for the federal government, primarily in the State Department but with an intervening tour at the National Intelligence Council. My focus was on the impact of environmental and climate change on national security, a growing concern of the military and intelligence communities. It was important work. Two words that national security professionals abhor are uncertainty and surprise, and there’s no question that the changing climate promises ample amounts of both.

I always appreciated the apolitical nature of the work. Our job in the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research was to generate intelligence analysis buttressed by the best information available, without regard to political considerations. And although I was uncomfortable with some policies of the Trump administration, no one had ever tried to influence my work or conclusions.

That changed last month, when the White House blocked the submission of my bureau’s written testimony on the national security implications of climate change to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The stated reason was that the scientific foundation of the analysis did not comport with the administration’s position on climate change.

After an extended exchange between officials at the White House and State Department, at the eleventh hour I was permitted to appear at the hearing and give a five-minute verbal summary of the 11-page testimony. However, Congress was deprived of the full analysis, including the scientific baseline from which it was drawn. Perhaps most important, this written testimony on a critical topic was never entered into the official record.

Trump does not believe climate change so WH makes the evidence go away

The bottom line of written testimony was this: “Climate change will have wide-ranging implications for U.S. national security over the next 20 years.” In developing this assessment, I drew from peer-reviewed scientific studies and findings of the government’s own scientists. This conclusion was hardly new. The intelligence community has repeatedly warned of the dangers that climate change poses to national security. Earlier this year, for instance, Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, warned in the annual “Worldwide Threat Assessment” that, “Global environmental and ecological degradation, as well as climate change, are likely to fuel competition for resources, economic distress, and social discontent through 2019 and beyond.” (On Sunday, President Trump announced that Mr. Coats would step down shortly, to be replaced by one of his biggest defenders, Representative John Ratcliffe, a Texas Republican.)

In blocking the submission of the written testimony, the White House trampled not only on the scientific integrity of the assessment but on the analytic independence of an arm of the intelligence community. That’s why I recently resigned from the job I considered a sacred duty, and the institution I loved.

A scary future - regardless of what Trump wants you to believe

Decades of scientific measurements have established that global temperatures are increasing and ocean waters are acidifying. These changes produce shifts in a vast number of Earth system processes: in the atmosphere, ocean, freshwater, soil, ice masses, permafrost and organisms comprising the biosphere. Some effects are well known, like increased frequency and intensity of heat waves and droughts and rising sea levels. Others are less familiar, like decreasing oceanic oxygen levels and the redistribution of species.

These events do not arise in isolation but combine with existing social and political conditions and can disrupt societies and nations. They harm people directly or degrade the social, political, economic, agricultural, ecological or infrastructural systems that support them.

With these environmental changes we should expect disruptions to global water and food security, reduced economic security and weakened livelihoods, worsened human and animal health, and risks to the global supply chain on which the United States and its partners depend. Political instability, heightened tensions over resources, climate-linked humanitarian crises and adverse effects to militaries in some places are likely to increase. Migration will probably increase both within and between nations, with sociopolitical and resource implications already becoming clear.

So, just thinking about our own nation, climate change is a very real threat to our national security. Suppressing scientific facts will not change that. Schoonover concludes:

… the decision to block the written testimony is another example of a well-established pattern in the Trump administration of undercutting evidence that contradicts its policy positions.

Beyond obstructing science, this action also undermined the analytic independence of a major element of the intelligence community. When a White House can shape or suppress intelligence analysis that it deems out of line with its political messaging, then the intelligence community has no true analytic independence. I believe such acts weaken our nation.

Rod Schoonover was, until recently, a senior analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the State Department. He also worked as director of environment and natural resources at the National Intelligence Council and was a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

Our Roving Reporter, Sherry Moreau, called our attention to this report.

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