The Slatest

New Internal Memos Show White House Tried to Downplay Climate Research

A demonstrator dressed as Donald Trump parades with other activists dressed as polar bears
A demonstrator dressed as Donald Trump parades with other activists dressed as polar bears during a protest on November 11, 2017 in Bonn, Germany. AFP Contributor/Getty Images

In another example of the Trump administration’s antagonism toward mainstream climate research, newly obtained internal memos have shown that the White House considered ways to minimize government climate studies last year, according to the Washington Post.

In the September memos, Michael Catanzaro, then the special assistant for domestic energy and environmental policy, raised the question of whether the White House should have a “coherent, fact-based message about climate science” and “whether, and to what extent, anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are affecting the climate system, and what level of concern that warrants.”


Scientists widely agree that anthropogenic, or human-caused, greenhouse gases are, in fact, “affecting the climate system” and are cause for concern.

But the most revealing part of the memo came in what was left out of the options for handling the study’s findings. Here are the options Catanzaro listed, according to the Post:


• Conduct a “red team/blue team” exercise to “highlight uncertainties in climate science;”
• Subject the findings to a formal review process; or
• “Ignore, and not seek to characterize or question, the science being conducted.”

None of the options involved embracing and publicizing the findings of government scientists.

As the Post noted, the discussion did not lead to a formal policy. However, Trump officials have often shown a reluctance to acknowledge findings that could upset industry players or threaten their public image, even as government-funded scientists continue to churn out studies reliably demonstrating the very real threats of human-caused climate change.