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Trump poised to challenge idea that climate crisis is a security threat

Trump's own team has told him the climate crisis will create new national security risks. Now he's looking for an excuse to ignore his team.
A man throws an earth balloon into the air as people fill 58th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue before a global warming march in New York Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. (Photo by Mel Evans/AP)
A man throws an Earth balloon into the air as people fill 58th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue before a global warming march in New York Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014.

In recent weeks, Donald Trump's national security team has contradicted the president on a wide variety of fronts, including Iran, North Korea, Russia, border security, and the nature of the ISIS threat. It comes against a backdrop in which U.S. intelligence officials have alerted the public to the fact that the president is hostile toward any information that challenges his preconceived ideas.

And then, of course, there's the climate crisis.

About a month ago, the Pentagon issued a report, making clear that climate change is a global security threat. Soon after, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats went quite a bit further, and went into even more detail.

"Climate hazards such as extreme weather, higher temperatures, droughts, floods, wildfires, storms, sea level rise, soil degradation, and acidifying oceans are intensifying, threatening infrastructure, health, and water and food security," Coats explained in the annual "Worldwide Threat Assessment" report. He added, "Extreme weather events, many worsened by accelerating sea level rise, will particularly affect urban coastal areas in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Western Hemisphere. Damage to communication, energy, and transportation infrastructure could affect low-lying military bases, inflict economic costs, and cause human displacement and loss of life."

Not surprisingly, Donald Trump, who has suggested the climate science is a hoax concocted by the Chinese, has no use for these findings. What is surprising is what the Republican president intends to do with the information. The Washington Post reported today:

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.

As Trump World moves go, this one is especially indefensible.

If the reporting is correct, the president is assembling a committee to, in effect, tell him what to think about his own administration's findings on a pressing global threat.

Trump's defense and intelligence chiefs have already concluded -- over the course of several years -- that the climate crisis is, in fact, a national security threat, but he nevertheless feels the need to create a panel to assess whether the Trump administration is trustworthy on the subject.

And while the proposed Presidential Committee on Climate Security hasn't yet done any work, it's hardly a stretch to predict what its members are going to conclude. After all, William Happer is a prominent climate denier.

What Trump wants, in other words, is some kind of fig leaf to hide behind, as the climate crisis and its associated national security implications intensify.