On Thursday, President-elect Donald Trump formally nominated Scott Pruitt to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a rather terrifying turn of events for anyone who accepts the scientific consensus on man-made climate change. Pruitt doesn’t just deny that science—he also has real-world legal experience trying to turn that denial into actual governmental policy.
Things on the climate front, however, may be even worse than they seem. Via the Washington Post:
The Trump transition team has issued a list of 74 questions for the Energy Department, asking officials there to identify which department employees and contractors have worked on forging an international climate pact as well as domestic efforts to cut the nation’s carbon output.
The questionnaire requests a list of those individuals who have taken part in international climate talks over the past five years and “which programs within DOE are essential to meeting the goals of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.”
While we obviously can’t know for sure why the Trump team is making that request, it raises the specter that they aren’t just looking to purge the federal government of political appointees who accept the realities of climate change, but also to do the same with the career civil servants who keep the departments running. “With some of these questions, it feels more like an inquisition than a question, in terms of going after career employees who have been here through Bush years to Clinton, and up to now,” one understandably concerned DOE employee told the Post. “All of a sudden you have questions that feel more like a congressional investigation than an actual probing of how the Department of Energy does its job.”
The questionnaire also hints at yet another way that the Trump administration may try to aid its friends in the fossil fuel industry. The transition team specifically requested details about how the Obama administration crafted its “social cost of carbon” metrics, which is what helps federal agencies weigh the costs to society of emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. If the Trump administration were to change how that cost is calculated—or simply refuse to calculate it at all—it would swing the cost-benefit analysis performed by federal regulators in favor of short-term economic gains at the expense of long-term environmental harm.