On Tuesday, Heartland convened some counter-programming to the COP25 negotiations in Madrid with a day-long, old-dudes-only denial-fest at a hotel conference room in the Spanish city.
There were zero women on the agenda, but one did end up speaking at the end: an 18 year-old, far-right German Youtuber Naomi Seibt, who got the final 6 minutes of the 5 and a half hour stream. After she concluded, Heartland’s James Taylor said that he could never invite her back to speak at a Heartland event, because “about ten times more people were taking your picture and videotaping you then they were during my talk.” (Seems Heartland’s found its anti-Greta…)
Beyond the surprise guest, the conference was mostly the same song and dance from the same set of old guys that have been wasting funders’ money on for years now and who have little to no impact on the actual negotiations or notice from the media.
But this year did offer at least one segment we figured was worth watching: former Trump science advisor William Happer, who since resigning has resumed working with his industry-funded CO2 Coalition, discussed his time in the administration. It wasn’t particularly shocking, but there were some gems in the 20-minute video we suffered through (because we hadn’t yet seen that Scott Waldman covered it in E&E so we could’ve just read that…)
For example, while Trump is clearly a true believer in denial, Happer said that a significant contingent of Trump’s administration has been “brainwashed” by the consensus. Happer called out the 97% consensus figure specifically as something that the lawyers and such in the administration have taken seriously. (If you’d like to express some thanks for the consensus paper, consider donating to the crowdfunding effort its lead author John Cook started for a new project in the works: a Cranky Uncle game to teach people how to debunk denial like Happer’s.)
When asked about the red team effort to review climate science, Happer again made it clear the issue was the optics, as team Trump felt like the effort would lose more votes than it would win. We’ll point out the recent reports on how Trump’s internal polling shows denial doesn’t play well, as reflected by his two-faced rhetoric claiming he cares about climate change.
In the “win” column, Happer says that Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement was the most important thing the president accomplished on this front--which is actually good to hear, because Trump can’t actually make the withdrawal happen unless he wins a second term.
If Trump does get reelected, Happer said the most important things the president should do is institute the red team challenge to climate science, and cut funding for research. Taken together, that’s a platform of “we’re not sure about climate change, and we don’t want to be!”
Happer also mentioned how the administration’s little ploy to release the National Climate Assessment during Thanksgiving last year backfired. Apparently Trump was “blindsided” by the release and ensuing coverage, with "several weeks of recriminations and mutual finger pointing" following the report release, which was framed as coming from the administration (and therefore functioned as an implicit endorsement of climate science).
Ultimately, though, Happer was not optimistic that the administration would conduct a red team review, much less take on the Endangerment Finding like Heartland asked about. Although Trump wouldn’t be constrained by reelection concerns in his second term, Happer was still skeptical, citing at one point that after Trump they’ll be thinking about winning the next election.
Turns out the consensus messaging persuasive enough to convince not just the general voting public about climate change, but even those willing to work in the Trump administration!
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