Here’s the report from the CWCB and DWR (Taryn Finnessey and Tracy Kosloff):
In response to persistent and prolonged drought conditions throughout the southern half of the state and along the western border, the Colorado Drought Mitigation and Response Plan was activated for the agricultural sector on May 2, 2018, additional counties in northwest Colorado were added in September and activation remains in effect; information can be found HERE.
Calendar year 2019 has brought with it beneficial moisture that has nearly eliminated all exceptional drought conditions in Colorado and increased snowpack to above normal conditions. As a result, streamflow forecasts have increased in some areas and water providers looking ahead to the 2019 demand season are cautiously optimistic given current conditions. However, much of the snow accumulation season remains and reservoir storage and soil moisture will take time to rebound to pre-drought levels.
■ As of February 19th, exceptional drought, D4, has been almost entirely removed from the state. Only a small sliver remains in Archuleta county, covering about a tenth of a percent of the state. Extreme drought, D3, has also decreased and now covers 10 percent of the state; severe drought 29 percent and 27 percent is classified as moderate drought. An additional quarter of the state is currently experiencing abnormally dry conditions (see image below).
■ El Niño conditions are now present, and may continue through spring (55 percent chance). This is a weak event and given the timing it is unclear the impact that it will have.
■ SNOTEL snow water equivalent statewide is 115 percent of average with all basins above average. The highest snowpack is in the Arkansas basin at 123 percent of median, while the lowest is the Rio Grande at 111 percent of median (see image below).
■ Reservoir storage, statewide is at 83 percent of normal, with the South Platte, Colorado, and Yampa-White, all above 90 percent of average as of February 1st. Storage in the Arkansas and Upper Rio Grande basins are at 89 and 79 percent of normal, respectively. The Southwest basins of the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas & San Juan, and Gunnison remain the lowest in the state at 57 and 61 percent of normal, respectively.
■ Individual reservoir storage levels are highly variable statewide, some reservoirs have strong storage while storage in other reservoirs remain at low levels for this time of year. Historically, reservoirs take a long time to refill following a drought event.
■ March through May is an important period for annual average precipitation in Colorado, many regions receive a large portion of total precipitation during these spring months.
■ Outlooks for the spring season do not show a clear direction. There is a slightly increased chance of above-normal precipitation for the spring across Colorado, and equal chances of above, below, and near-normal temperature.
The San Juan County commission voted two-to-one in favor of a resolution that rescinds the county’s previous opposition to the monument and condemns its reduction by Donald Trump.
The county commission of Utah’s San Juan County—home of Bears Ears National Monument, which President Donald Trump vastly reduced in 2017—has historically opposed the designation of the land as a national monument. But it has now changed its tune: On Tuesday, the commission voted two-to-one in favor of a resolution that rescinds the county’s previous opposition to the monument and condemns its reduction.
Specifically, the https://www.utah.gov/pmn/files/467927.pdf rescinds all prior resolutions opposing the establishment of the monument, or calling for the dissolution or reduction of it. Most notably, it also “condemn[s] the actions of President Donald Trump in violating the Antiquities Act of 1906 by unlawfully reducing the Bears Ears National Monument” in his December 4th, 2017, proclamation, and “call[s] upon the United States to fully restore” the monument.
The vote does not signal a change of heart, but rather reflects a major shift in the county commission’s make-up: Thanks to recent redistricting, it is now Utah’s first-ever majority-Navajo county commission. Previously, the county’s three districts were drawn such that most Native American voters were grouped into one district, but in 2016, a federal judge ruled that the voting districts were unconstitutional and ordered the county to redraw them. (According to the census, Navajos make up the majority of the county’s population by a small margin.) In response to the shift in representation, Utah state representative and former San Juan County commissioner Phil Lyman—notorious for the time he rode an ATV down a trail that was closed to motorized vehicles in protest of federal land control—has raised the possibility of splitting the county in two to bring power back to his white-majority hometown of Blanding.
Both of the Navajo members of the commission, Willie Grayeyes and Kenneth Maryboy, voted in favor of the Bears Ears resolution. The dissenting vote came from the commission’s white member, Bruce Adams. (When I was in San Juan County for then-Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s visit to Bears Ears during his monuments review in 2017, Adams greeted Zinke wearing a white “MAKE SAN JUAN COUNTY GREAT AGAIN” cowboy hat—and gave Zinke one too.)
Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:
Powerful, late-winter storms crossed the country, delivering periods of heavy precipitation in much of the West; significant snow across the North; and additional rain in the Ohio Valley and mid-South. Lowland flooding affected several river basins in the central and eastern Corn Belt, extending southward into the northern Mississippi Delta. Meanwhile, much of the North remained under a thick blanket of snow. Extremely heavy snow, totaling a foot or more, fell across portions of the upper Great Lakes region on February 12. The following day, snow spread into the Northeast. Later, snow returned across portions of the northern Plains and upper Midwest from February 14-16. Elsewhere, the average water content of the Sierra Nevada snowpack reached 30 inches by mid-February, according to the California Department of Water Resources. This was up from 17 inches at the beginning of the month—and exceeds the normal Sierra Nevada snow-water equivalency for an entire winter. California’s heaviest precipitation fell on February 13-14, resulting in flash flooding and debris flows. One of the most damaging mudslides struck in Sausalito, California, near San Francisco…
There was no change to the depiction of abnormal dryness (D0) in North Dakota, which remains covered by snow and in the midst of a long-running cold spell. Large sections of the Great Plains remain free of dryness and drought, although short-term dryness previously resulted in the development of some D0 in western Nebraska and eastern Colorado. Information on long-term drought, which covers much of Colorado, appears in the paragraph devoted to the West…
The West, in general, has experienced a cold, stormy February, leading to notable reductions in drought coverage and intensity. During the last several weeks, some degree of drought improvement has occurred in nearly all areas of the region. Some of the biggest improvements in snowpack and season-to-date precipitation have occurred in drought-affected areas stretching from the Pacific Northwest to the northern Rockies. River basin-average snowpack in the Cascades has mostly improved to 75 to 90% of average for this time of year, up from 50 to 75% a few weeks ago. Even greater improvements have occurred in central and southern Idaho, where current snowpack mostly ranges from 90 to 125% of average. Farther south, significant snow has also recently fallen across the core severe to exceptional drought (D2 to D4) areas in the Four Corners region, with more improvement noted in Colorado and Utah than areas farther south. In addition, New Mexico also continues to suffer from critically low reservoir levels; statewide storage on February 1 was just 41% of average, compared to 70% at the same time a year ago. Farther west, however, early- to mid-February precipitation pounded California, ensuring an above-average Sierra Nevada snowpack but triggering flash flooding and mudslides. Precipitation hit southern California especially hard on February 14, when Palomar Mountain reported its wettest 24-hour period on record (10.10 inches; previously, 9.58 inches on March 1, 1991). Palm Springs, California, received 3.69 inches on February 14, accounting for 64% of its normal annual precipitation…
Much of the South remains awash in precipitation. In fact, lowland flooding has been a problem in the mid-South, including the northern Mississippi Delta. Closer to the Gulf Coast, however, short-term dryness (D0) has developed in the last couple of weeks across portions of southern Louisiana and southern Mississippi. Since the beginning of the year, rainfall in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has totaled just 4.08 inches, or 44% of normal. Farther west, abnormal dryness (D0) and pockets of moderate drought (D1) have been on the increase in Texas, except in the eastern part of the state. The lower Rio Grande Valley and portions of West Texas and the northern panhandle have been especially dry in recent weeks. From December 1, 2018 – February 19, 2019, rainfall in McAllen, Texas, totaled just 1.75 inches (57% of normal). In addition, McAllen posted a high temperature of 94 F on February 15. Elsewhere in Texas, year-to-date precipitation through February 19 totaled less than one-quarter of an inch in Childress (0.19 inch, or 13% of normal), Amarillo (0.16 inch, or 14%), Borger (0.11 inch, or 11%), Dalhart (0.08 inch, or 10%), and Lubbock (0.02 inch, or 2%). According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 28% of the winter wheat in Texas was in very poor to poor condition on February 17. On the same date, 28% of Texas’ rangeland and pastures were categorized as very poor to poor, while statewide topsoil moisture was 43% very short to short. Soils in Texas were especially dry on the northern and southern high plains (moisture was 80 and 84% very short to short, respectively), as well as the Lower Valley (80% very short to short)…
A steady parade of storms will continue to traverse the country, delivering periods of rain and snow to the West; additional snowfall in the upper Midwest; and torrential rainfall across the interior Southeast, northward into the Ohio Valley. The largest storm during the next 5 days will emerge from the Southwest on February 22-23 and cross the upper Midwest on February 23-24. Five-day rainfall totals could reach 2 to 4 inches or more across the mid-South, while blizzard conditions could engulf the upper Midwest and neighboring regions, especially on February 23-24. In contrast, little or no precipitation will occur during the next 5 days in the lower Rio Grande Valley.
The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for February 26 – March 2 calls for the likelihood of near- or below-normal temperatures nationwide, except for warmer-than-normal weather across the lower Southeast. Temperatures will remain significantly below average across large sections of the northern, western, and central U.S. Meanwhile, near- or above-normal precipitation across most of the country should contrast with drier-than-normal conditions from southern California to the southern Plains and parts of the mid-South.
Facing financial headwinds, the directors of the Colorado River Water Conservation District are leaning toward asking voters in November for relief from the Gallagher Amendment, which limits residential property-tax revenue to the district.
During a five-hour “fiscal workshop” Friday in Glenwood Springs, the river district’s directors reviewed how Gallagher shifts the tax burden away from the growing residential sector to the commercial and industrial sectors, which ends up reducing property tax revenue for the district. And the district gets 97 percent of its revenue from property taxes.
For most of 2018 it looked like the river district was facing, under Gallagher’s provisions, a $370,000 hit to its $4.5 million budget. But a January estimate put the number at $77,000.
While that’s better news for the district’s 2020 budget than anticipated, the Gallagher Amendment, named for the state legislator, Dennis Gallagher, who drafted it in 1982, “will continue to negatively impact the district in the future,” according to a Feb. 11 memo to the district’s board from general manager Andy Mueller.
“We want to stress that there is not an immediate financial crisis in the district and that the district is currently in solid fiscal health,” Mueller also wrote. But he noted that “since 2012 the district general fund revenues have remained relatively flat while our expenses, have climbed at an average rate of approximately 3% per year.”
The river district was created by the state legislature in 1937 to protect and develop water supplies in 15 Western Slope counties, including Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield. County commissioners appoint its directors to three-year terms.
The organization works on shaping state and regional water policy, securing and using Western Slope water rights, operating two reservoirs, managing grants for irrigation efficiency measures, and other initiatives related to the Colorado River and its tributaries.
Mueller warned the district’s directors about potential “significant harm” to the river district’s revenue stream from the combined limitations of Gallagher and 1992’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR, which are made worse for the district by rising residential property values on the Front Range and a sagging energy sector on the Western Slope.
“The resultant effect of these caps has been and threatens to continue to be a diminishing of the district’s ability to provide services to our growing population and to our ability to successfully achieve our mission of developing and protecting our district’s water resource,” Mueller said in his memo.
At the end of Friday’s fiscal workshop the consensus among the directors was that asking voters in the district for relief from Gallagher in 2019 had the brightest short-term prospects, and they directed staff to proceed with developing a potential ballot question.
“Delaying this just makes this worse,” said Dave Merritt, who represents Garfield County on the river district board, which he also chairs. “We have an impending problem.”
Mueller said the staff needed more time to work with outside legal counsel on the nuances of both Gallagher and TABOR before bringing a specific question back to the board.
Martha Whitmore, who represents Ouray County on the river district board, said tax–related questions, especially for operations, can be hard to pass.
“I think we have to be really careful and pick the one that has the least resistance,” Whitmore said.
The river district in the past has asked voters for relief from the tax rate and revenue limitations of TABOR, but without success.
In 2002, ballot question 4A sought to increase the river district’s taxing rate, or mill levy, but it failed 66,946 to 53,745, or 55 percent to 45 percent.
In 2003, another ballot question, also named 4A, asked voters if the river district could keep revenue that surpassed the limits set by TABOR, but not increase its mill levy. That also failed, 51,840 to 40,141, or 56 percent to 44 percent.
Now the river district is exploring if it should follow in the shoes of Colorado Mountain College, which won voter approval to “de-Gallagherize” its district in November.
The college’s district includes Pitkin, Eagle, Garfield, Summit, Routt and Lake counties, and all of them but Lake County also are within the river district’s boundaries.
So, when CMC’s ballot question was approved 72 to 28 percent it did not go unnoticed by the river district.
The river district’s boundaries also include all of Mesa, Rio Blanco, Moffat, Gunnison, Delta, Grand and Ouray counties, and parts of Montrose, Saguache and Hinsdale counties.
Mesa County, home to Grand Junction, is the crux county for a potential river district ballot question, as it has the most active voters. In 2016, 107,000 of the 329,000 voters in the river district’s territory were in Mesa County. And of those, 41,460 were active Republican voters.
CMC’s well-crafted 2018 ballot question started with the phrase “without raising additional tax revenues in the year in which the mill levy is adjusted,” as opposed to an opening required phrase that tax-weary voters often search for, and reject, on ballots: “shall taxes be increased …”
The CMC ballot language also included a positive-sounding reference to maintaining “affordable college education” for firefighters, law enforcement officers, first responders, nurses and teachers.
With CMC’s recent success with voters in mind, the river district’s directors agreed Feb. 7 to hire the same expert attorney who worked on CMC’s ballot question.
And they approved a $30,000 survey of 500 active voters in the river district’s boundaries to see how a similar question might work for the river district.
The survey, conducted Feb. 7 to 11 online and on landlines and cellphones, sought reactions to a potential ballot question for the river district based on CMC’s winning question.
Like CMC’s question, the river district’s question started with the phrase “without raising additional tax revenues.”
But instead of mentioning firefighters and nurses, the river district’s potential question said it was for “continuing to legally fight to keep river water for use on the Western Slope” and “ensuring adequate supplies for farmers and ranchers in order to sustain local food production.”
The people polled liked what they heard, with 60 percent of people across the district saying they would vote for it, including in Mesa County. And those numbers went up to 72 percent when voters were informed again that the measure did not constitute a tax increase.
The Colorado River flows through the heart of Mesa County and its water makes the Grand Valley green. When the river drops due to drought, as it did in 2002, residents notice.
In late 2002, then Republican Congressman Scott McInnis, now a Mesa County commissioner, wrote a letter to editor of the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, supporting the river district’s ballot question seeking relief from TABOR.
“The good news is that the Colorado River District covers fifteen counties in Western Colorado, so a tiny increase in property taxes across the district raises sufficient investment to provide West Slope solutions to Western Colorado’s water supply problems,” McInnis wrote. “You all know that I am loathe to support tax increases of any kind; however, we survived this year’s drought on the investments of past generations, now we must each make a small investment to benefit the next generation.”
But river district staff members know that the wind can also blow upriver in Mesa County.
In a contentious December 2017 meeting Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese questioned the river district’s expenses and the size of its 24-member staff, which includes water attorneys, engineers and public affairs experts.
The river district got the message, and took steps this year to cut costs during its 2019 budget planning cycle.
For example, the district’s grant program was put on hold to save $150,000 to $250,000 a year, a retirement-incentive program was started to reduce staff by three or four people by 2020 and save $300,000 to $400,000, and a 15 percent across-the-board reduction in expenses was built in to the 2020 budget.
“These efforts are needed, but they do not present a long-term fix to the district’s financial issues,” Mueller said in his memo, adding that if the Gallagher and TABOR issues were not resolved, “the district will need to make additional significant cuts in personnel, programs and services in the future.”
Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism covers rivers and water in collaboration with The Aspen Times and other Swift Communications newspapers. The Times published this story on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2018. The Glenwood Springs Post Independent also published it on Feb. 19. The Summit Daily News published the story in its print edition on Feb. 20, 2019.
The Central Arizona Project canal stretches 336 miles, lifts the water more than 2,900 vertical feet and includes 14 pumping plants, one hydroelectric pump/generating plant at New Waddell Dam, Lake Pleasant storage reservoir, 39 radial gate structures to control the flow of water and more than 50 turnouts to deliver water.
State House and Senate Democrats say they plan to introduce a sweeping bill in coming weeks to redefine the mission of the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, which regulates the industry, placing a higher priority on public health and safety.
In addition, the measure is likely to seek to give local governments more control over incoming oil and gas permits rather than maintaining that oversight at the state level
“Local development and zoning are the bread and butter issues of local city councils and county commissions,” said Sen. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette. “Only oil and gas is exempt from that currently. They should have the same power [over that industry].”
Democrats have been talking about such legislation since the 2019 session opened, but their plans have been firming up lately.
The move most likely will be contained in just one bill rather than many, said House Speaker KC Becker, D-Boulder. A concerted effort is more likely to succeed, she said.
“That’s better than throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks,” Becker said.
Working alongside Becker on the measure is Senate Majority Leader Sen. Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, who said the state hasn’t passed any substantial legislation on oil and gas regulation in six years and spoke optimistically of the incoming bill.
“It’s actually probably the most meaningful reform that Colorado will have ever seen in oil and gas,” Fenberg said.
The legislation could be introduced into the House as early as March, Fenberg said. He and Becker anticipate opposition from the oil and gas industry.
From The Center for Climate & Security (Caitlin Werrell and Francesco Femia):
A non-partisan group of senior retired military and national security leaders at the Council on Strategic Risks’ Center for Climate and Security (CCS) strongly criticized the White House’s politically-motivated draft Executive Order (EO) to establish a Presidential Climate Security Committee (PCSS). According to descriptions of the draft by the The Washington Post, the PCSS would be chaired by a vocal climate skeptic that reports to the President. CCS also learned that the committee would allegedly provide “adversarial” peer review to reports coming from the intelligence, defense, science and other agencies. The group centered its criticism on these two elements which render the PCSS neither rigorous nor independent.
“This is the equivalent of setting up a committee on nuclear weapons proliferation and having someone lead it who doesn’t think nuclear weapons exist,” said Francesco Femia, Chief Executive Officer of the Council on Strategic Risks and Co-Founder of the Center for Climate and Security in an interview with The Washington Post. “It’s honestly a blunt force political tool designed to shut the national security community up on climate change.”
“Looks like someone at the White House doesn’t like the fact that our defense and intelligence agencies are concerned about the security implications of climate change,” said John Conger, Director of the Center for Climate and Security and former Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and Environment. “So they want to set up a politically-led panel to undermine the credibility of military and security experts. They don’t seem to understand that to the military and to the broader security community, this is an issue of risk, readiness, and resilience, not politics. The military doesn’t have the luxury of deciding to ignore certain threats because a politician doesn’t find them convenient.”
“For over 7 decades, our Nation has been the instrument of change in establishing world order in the face of fascism, communism and terrorism. The human toll from these “isms” has been catastrophic and those of us who have served in public office and in uniform can be rightfully proud for taking decisive action to right those wrongs. But to deny the trajectory of the global climate defies America’s bias for action as a catalyst for change among world leaders.” – Admiral Paul Zukunft, U.S. Coast Guard (Ret), Senior Member of the Advisory Board at the Center for Climate and Security and former Commandant of the Coast Guard
“Our intelligence, defense and science agencies stretching back across many Administrations, both Republican and Democrat – including the Trump Administration itself are closely aligned. The science and facts on climate change are well-established and do not need an administration influenced review by an NSC headed panel. What we do need are practical and pragmatic policy choices today to fix the problem. Americans are affected everyday by climate change and will see through any thinly-veiled political attempt to say they are not. An NSC-headed panel to address solutions is what we need.” – General Ron Keys, US Air Force (Ret), Senior Member of the Advisory Board at the Center for Climate and Security and former Commander of Air Combat Command
“This is not a real peer review committee – it’s a political review committee,” said Rear Admiral David Titley, US Navy (Ret), Senior Member of the Advisory Board at the Center for Climate and Security and former Oceanographer of the Navy. “It’s designed to try to scare our intelligence, defense and science professionals into doing and saying nothing about this pressing threat. I don’t think it will succeed. In fact, I think it would be an embarrassment, like other panels before it.”
“It’s hard to stop good people from doing good work – especially those in the defense, intelligence and science agencies of our government,” said Sherri Goodman, Senior Strategist with the Center for Climate and Security and former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense (Environmental Security). “One way to try to stop them is through bullying. This proposed ‘adversarial’ committee is a bully committee. And whether it succeeds or not, it will hurt our national security. Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail.”
“With VERY few exceptions, national security experts and earth scientists know that climate change is real, and it is a real threat to national security – now and in the future. This is well documented and well-publicized. There is probably more disagreement in the national security community about the existence of UFOs than there is about this.” – Rear Admiral Jonathan White, USN (Ret), Senior Member of the Advisory Board at the Center for Climate and Security and former Oceanographer of the Navy
“The proposed committee appears to be a politically-motivated attempt to discourage our intelligence, defense and science agencies from doing their jobs,” said Captain Steve Brock, USN (Ret), Senior Advisor, the Council on Strategic Risks and the Center for Climate and Security. “If realized, this committee could force a blind spot onto those whose job it is to defend this country, and that could have dangerous national security repercussions. I hope the White House reconsiders, and dumps this bad idea.”
“We would welcome a rigorous and independent panel of credible climate and national security experts to study the security implications of climate change” said Francesco Femia, Chief Executive Officer of the Council on Strategic Risks and Co-Founder of the Center for Climate and Security. “However, this is not that. The proposed committee is intended to provide an ‘adversarial’ review of already rigorously-reviewed reports from the intelligence, defense, science and presumably other agencies, and will be chaired by a vocal climate skeptic that reports to the President. Therefore, it will be neither independent nor rigorous.”
“This effort meets the definition of insanity—doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. No matter who is the President, our national security agencies have uniformly recognized the security threat from climate change. That question has been answered. Now is the time for action to address the risks.” – Alice Hill, Senior Member of the Advisory Board at the Center for Climate and Security and former Senior Director for Resilience Policy on the National Security Council
“It’s important to note the person behind this attempt to chill our defense agencies from understanding and managing climate risk is Dr. Will Happer. Dr. Happer testified before Congress in December 2015 that the world has too little Carbon Dioxide and is too cold – an extreme, fringe view even for the tiny number of scientists who call themselves climate skeptics. This is a clumsy attempt to force the entire federal government to conform to a bizarre view thoroughly rejected by the vast majority of scientists.” – Rear Admiral David Titley, US Navy (Ret), Senior Member of the Advisory Board at the Center for Climate and Security and former Oceanographer of the Navy
“Even if this committee is successful for a year or two suppressing the acknowledgment of a changing climate as a security risk, the risks will continue to accelerate. The climate does not care what the White House thinks or what Executive Orders are signed – it only responds to the laws of physics. The temperatures will continue to warm, the ice will continue to melt and the seas will continue to rise. And our county will be less secure if we prevent our very own federal agencies from responding to this threat.” – Rear Admiral David Titley, US Navy (Ret), Senior Member of the Advisory Board at the Center for Climate and Security and former Oceanographer of the Navy
The Trump Administration alone has issued three Worldwide Threat Assessments that acknowledge the security risks of climate change, three Department of Defense reports on climate change, three GAO reports on climate and security, and a USAID report on global fragility and climate risks. All have been produced through comprehensive processes with rigorous reviews. President Trump also signed into law a 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that stated: Changing climate is a “direct threat” to U.S. national security. Further, at least twenty-one senior defense officials during the current Administration have publicly highlighted the security risks of climate change, including the former Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The proposed committee would therefore pit the White House against the intelligence, defense and science agencies it’s supposed to be leading.
FromThe Washington Post (Juliet Eilperin and Missy Ryan):
The White House is working to assemble a panel to assess whether climate change poses a national security threat, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post, a conclusion that federal intelligence agencies have affirmed several times since President Trump took office.
The proposed Presidential Committee on Climate Security, which would be established by executive order, is being spearheaded by William Happer, a National Security Council senior director. Happer, an emeritus professor of physics at Princeton University, has said that carbon emissions linked to climate change should be viewed as an asset rather than a pollutant.
The initiative represents the Trump administration’s most recent attempt to question the findings of federal scientists and experts on climate change and comes less than three weeks after Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats delivered a worldwide threat assessment that identified it as a significant security risk.
In late November, Trump dismissed a government report finding that global warming is intensifying and poses a major threat the U.S. economy, saying, “I don’t see it.” Last month, his nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, acting administrator Andrew Wheeler, testified that he did not see climate change as one of the world’s pressing challenges.
According to the NSC discussion paper, the order would create a federal advisory committee “to advise the President on scientific understanding of today’s climate, how the climate might change in the future under natural and human influences, and how a changing climate could affect the security of the United States.”
The document notes that the government has issued several major reports under Trump identifying climate change as a serious threat. “However, these scientific and national security judgments have not undergone a rigorous independent and adversarial scientific peer review to examine the certainties and uncertainties of climate science, as well as implications for national security,” it said.
Francesco Femia, chief executive of the Council on Strategic Risks and co-founder of the Center for Climate and Security, said in an interview that the plan appeared to be an effort to undermine the consensus within the national intelligence community that climate change needs to be addressed to avert serious consequences.
“This is the equivalent of setting up a committee on nuclear-weapons proliferation and having someone lead it who doesn’t think nuclear weapons exist,” he said. “It’s honestly a blunt-force political tool designed to shut the national security community up on climate change.”