White House Censors State Department Official’s Congressional Testimony on Climate Change

State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research Office of Geography and Global Affairs Senior Analyst Dr. Rod Schoonover.
Photo: Andrew Harnik (AP)

The Trump administration’s assault on science and its refusal to take climate change seriously continue with an effort to censor a government intelligence analyst to prevent his testimony about climate change from entering into the congressional record.

The White House tried to alter testimony about the perilous effects of climate change by Rod Schoonover, a senior analyst at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, delivered this week to the House Intelligence Committee. The State Department did not modify that testimony per the White House’s request, but according to The New York Times, White House officials refused to approve Schoonover’s testimony for entry into the permanent Congressional Record. The newspaper called this “a highly unusual move.”

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Schoonover wrote that he had prepared the testimony to “provide clear, objective, and independent analysis to policymakers to advance U.S. national security objectives.” The bottom line, he said, is that the “[f]undamental characteristics of the global climate are moving outside the bounds experienced in human history and there is uncertainty on how some aspects of the climate will evolve.”

He added that climate change “will have wide-ranging implications for U.S. national security over the next 20 years through global perturbations, increased risk of political instability, heightened tensions between countries for resources, a growing number of climate-linked humanitarian crises, emergent geostrategic competitive domains, and adverse effects on militaries.”

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Emails reviewed by the Times showed that the analysis—prepared by an actual scientist and professor in chemistry and biochemistry—was not in line with the Trump administration’s policy objectives.

“I have never heard of basic facts being deleted from or blocked from testimony,” American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Norman Ornstein told the Times. It’s worth highlighting that the American Enterprise Institute is a staunchly conservative think tank.

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The Washington Post, which first reported on the White House’s attempt to censor Schoonover’s testimony, said the White House’s Office of Legislative Affairs, Office of Management and Budget, and National Security Council all took issue with parts of the analyst’s report. Specifically, the Post said, White House officials had a problem with the testimony’s citations, which included such radical agencies as NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

One of the officials who disputed Schoonover’s conclusions is William Happer, a National Security Council senior director. Happer is an outspoken climate change denier who once compared warnings about the dangers of carbon dioxide emissions to “the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler.” As Splinter’s Sophie Weiner previously pointed out, much of the retired Princeton professor’s research has been funded by oil companies.

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Of course officials like Happer had a problem with the science. Per the Post:

The document sounds the alarms on several fronts, outlining two dozen different ways that “climate-linked stresses” could affect human society. It identifies nine tipping points that could transform the Earth’s system, including “rapid melting in West Antarctic or Greenland ice masses” along with “rapid die-offs of many critically important species, such as coral or insects” and a “massive release of carbon” from methane that is now frozen in the earth. It warns that since scientists have not been able to calculate the likelihood of these thresholds being reached, “crossing them is possible over any future timeframe.”

The prepared testimony also notes that 18 of the past 20 years have ranked as the warmest on record, according to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, “and the last five years have been the warmest five.”

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In an interview this week with Piers Morgan, after speaking at length with Prince Charles, Trump likened climate change to a simple matter of the weather. “I believe that there’s a change in weather and I think it changes both ways,” Trump said. “Don’t forget it used to be called global warming. That wasn’t working. Then it was called climate change. Now it’s actually called extreme weather, because with extreme weather, you can’t miss.”

Earlier, he claimed that the U.S. is “among the cleanest climates there are, based on all statistics.” As the Post noted, the U.S. is the second-largest emitter of carbon dioxide, behind China.

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