A Trump official added a dubious claim suggesting that climate change could be good to a scientific report
- The New York Times reported on Monday that Interior Department official Indur M. Goklany had pressed for discredited or misleading language about climate change to be included in several agency reports.
- The claims include an assertion that increased levels of carbon dioxide would have agricultural benefits, which is "extraordinarily misleading," an expert told The Times.
- The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned in 2019 that,"Food security will be increasingly affected by projected future climate change."
- Goklany's claims echo a discredited assessment that increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere - a leading cause of global warming - will actually be beneficial for plants and agriculture.
- For more, go to Business Insider's home page.
A Trump administration official pressured Interior Department scientists to add dubious information to at least nine government reports, according to the New York Times, including a discredited belief that an increase in carbon dioxide, which is amplifying the earth's greenhouse effect and contributing to global warming, was positive.
The Times reported on Monday that in one instance, Indur M. Goklany, who was appointed to the department's office of the deputy secretary in 2017, "instructed department scientists to add that rising carbon dioxide - the main force driving global warming - is beneficial because it 'may increase plant water use efficiency' and 'lengthen the agricultural growing season.'"
Goklany, who has a doctorate in electrical engineering, had worked for the department since the Reagan Administration but gained new prominence after Donald Trump took office, the Washington Post reported. Throughout his career, he has questioned whether climate change will have negative impacts on the planet, according to the Post.
The language Goklany tried to insert "takes very specific and isolated pieces of science, and tries to expand it in an extraordinarily misleading fashion," Samuel Myers of Harvard University's Center for the Environment told the Times.
In fact, the world's leading panel on climate change projects that climate change will have dangerous implications for the world's food supply.
Plants consume carbon dioxide to convert into energy. Research has shown that increased levels of carbon dioxide have contributed to greening around the world. But too much warming, driven by carbon dioxide emissions, is projected to have negative effects.
"The more CO2 you have, the less and less benefit you get," Frances Moore, assistant professor of environmental science and policy at the University of California, Davis, told Scientific American.
"While increased CO2 is projected to be beneficial for crop productivity at lower temperature increases, it is projected to lower nutritional quality," the IPCC writes. "Declines in yields and crop suitability are projected under higher temperatures, especially in tropical and semi-tropical regions."
The Interior Department defended Goklany's additions to climate change reports
"Mr. Goklany is a longstanding career civil servant whose service spans multiple decades and Administrations of both parties," the department said in a statement. "The Department is committed to following the law, using the best available science and relying on the expertise from our professional career staff. By acknowledging the full range of outcomes, we incorporate the most comprehensive analysis of climate in our decision making."
The idea that more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is good has caught hold in circles that seek to downplay the overwhelming scientific consensus that humans are having a negative impact on the climate.
In 2017, Joseph Bast, the former CEO of the libertarian think tank the Heartland Institute, wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that argued fossil fuels contribute "to the greening of the Earth." He also attempted to lobby this belief to the Trump administration in 2017, E&E News reported.
At 2020 Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC conference), Insider spotted "I heart CO2" pins on two attendees, and a group named the CO2 Coalition handed out pamphlets questioning the United Nation's conclusions that global warming will have catastrophic impacts on the planet.
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