In another totally unsurprising move, President Trump nominated a man who described climate science as “junk” to the Agriculture Department’s top science post. Sam Clovis, a former talk radio host and college professor, was nominated to be the Agricultural Department’s undersecretary for research, according to The Washington Post.
Clovis is not a scientist, nor does he possess a degree in anything related to agricultural or climate science. ProPublica noted that he was a tenured professor of business and public policy at Morningside College for 10 years. He does, however, have a degree in political science — but that’s about as far as his experience goes.
Despite his experience, or lack thereof, Clovis is also a climate change skeptic and a popular one on talk radio. In 2014 he told Iowa Public Radio that he was “extremely skeptical” of climate science and rejected the general consensus that climate change is related to human activity.
Iowa Public Radio published a transcript of Clovis’s interview, the full quote follows:
I am extremely skeptical. I have looked at the science and I have enough of a science background to know when I’m being boofed. And a lot of the science is junk science. It’s not proven; I don’t think there’s any substantive information available to me that doesn’t raise as many questions as it does answers. So I’m a skeptic.
The position he could fill, pending a Senate confirmation, manages $3 billion in research funding; $2 billion is allotted to research and $1 billion to education, according to The Post.
Despite the 2008 farm bill which stipulated the post should be someone “from among distinguished scientists with specialized training or significant experience in agricultural research, education, and economics,” it seems Trump nominated Clovis based on his military merits and business acumen.
Here’s what Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said of Clovis after her was nominated, per The Post:
“Dr. Clovis was one of the first people through the door at USDA in January and has become a trusted advisor and steady hand as we continue to work for the people of agriculture,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement Wednesday evening. “He looks at every problem with a critical eye, relying on sound science and data, and will be the facilitator and integrator we need. Dr. Clovis has served this nation proudly since he was a very young man, and I am happy he is continuing to serve.”
The White House statement on his nomination was particularly detailed about Clovis’s history in the military (maybe because he isn’t a scientist).
“He is also a graduate of both the Army and Air Force War Colleges. After graduating from the Academy, Mr. Clovis spent 25 years serving in the Air Force,” the announcement read. “He retired as the Inspector General of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and the United States Space Command and was a command pilot.”
For comparison, the last person to be the USDA undersecretary for research, Catherine Woteki, held a Ph.D in human nutrition and was also the dean of the school of agriculture at Iowa State University.
Her duties included overseeing the impact of severe drought and severe weather on agriculture. She also chaired the “Global Research Alliance to Reduce Agricultural Greenhouse Gasses,” a position I’m guessing Clovis won’t undertake. A National Academy of Sciences report described the USDA undersecretary as on of “the most critical” science and technology positions in the federal government.
In summary, Trump nominated someone with little to no experience in a field requiring the maximum amount of experience a candidate must possess to execute the job successfully. Sounds familiar.