Energy Department computer model simulation .
The Trump transition team sent an unusually detailed questionnaire to the Energy Department, attempting, among other datum, listings of people involved in climate change programs at one of the premier science bureaux in the world.
The questionnaire, which was first reported by Bloomberg News and obtained independently by Mashable , asks for “a list of Department employees or contractors” who attended the U.N. climate talks in the past five years.
This raises fears that such employees could be retaliated against in some way, perhaps by being reassigned, despite employee protections they have as civil servants.
Along similar lines, the document tries “a list of all Department of Energy employees or contractors who have attended any Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Carbon meetings.”
The transition team led by Thomas Pyle, the president of the free-market advocacy group American Energy Alliance that is heavily funded by the fossil fuel industry is also attempting all materials produced in anticipation of, during and as a result of those meetings.
The cost of carbon
The social cost of carbon is the estimated cost to society of emitting a specific amount of planet-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in this case, one ton.
The social cost of carbon is a calculation that is central to government policy inducing through cost-benefit analysis, since it situates a price for the damages caused by emitting global warming pollution.
By putting a per-ton social cost of carbon in place, the Obama administration decided that fossil fuel burning has many economic downsides. Previous administrations had either not explored the social cost of carbon or calculated it as lower than the Obama administration did.
The Obama administration use the social cost of carbon to justify the enactment of rules to restriction the burning of fossil fuels for energy, among other purposes. This computation is central to the Clean Power Plan, which is the EPA’s program to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants.
Scott Pruitt, the Trump administration’s nominee to lead the EPA, has vowed to dismantle that plan. The Energy Department transition team is clearly taking aim at this as well.
These are people who have been following government for a very long time and are taking advantage of Donald Trump to step in and try to dismantle what they see as a system of research that comes up with results that they wont accept, ” said Michael Halpern, the deputy director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, in an interview.
The questionnaire also asks about another extremely important, but largely obscure, computation, which again indicates that officials are holding fundamental changes to the department’s far-reaching climate change programs.
The document asks for the department’s “opinion on the proper equilibrium climate sensitivity, ” which is a measure of how much global warming would occur with a doubling of greenhouse gases in the ambiance. This is important since the agency utilizes that computation in its simulate projections of future climate change.
The Energy Department is one of the top simulate centers of climate change in the world, with climate change research existing alongside nuclear weapons-related work on many of the agency’s national laboratories.
The questionnaire also asks for a list of Energy Department programs that “are essential to meeting the goals of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.” That plan aims to cut domestic greenhouse gas emissions by up to 28 percentage below 2005 levels by 2020.
A coming administration hostile to climate science
The transition team’s questionnaire, which reads more like a subpoena, also mentions the possibility of a 10 percentage budget cut to the department starting in coming fiscal year 2018, and conveys skepticism about the Energy Information Administration’s computations about how much renewable energy is likely to be used in the coming years.
The people who are running the transition at some of the social sciences agencies are some of the people who have been most hostile to the missions of those agencies, ” Halpern said of the Trump administration transition effort.
He noted that the questionnaire is so intrusive that not all of the information requested is public, which entails government departments won’t be able to fully answer all of the questions. Halpern also said it’s possible that once an Energy Secretary is named and corroborated, climate science is likely to be spared from a full onslaught at the agency, but that is not a safe bet.
Curiously, in the section dealing with the Energy Department’s national laboratories, one question asks for a list of all websites “maintained by or contributed to by laboratory personnel during work hours for the past three years.”
It’s unclear what that question is for, but it creates the possibility that websites dedicated to climate change, including data sets from Oak Ridge and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, could be taken offline. This would stifle climate research at nongovernmental entities in the U.S. and abroad.
“Scientific information provided by the government is critical to the work of university researchers, state governments, and countless others, ” Halpern said.
“During the Bush Administration, government scientific websites were altered or disappeared wholly, ” he said.
He issued this warning based in part upon the questionnaire: “Anyone who relies on publicly available federal government the investigations and datum should take steps to ensure that they download what they need before the new administration steps in.”