President Trump, We’re Watching You

Columbia’s Michael Gerrard weighs in on illegal attempts by the White House to limit climate projections to 2040.

May 29, 2019

The New York Times reports that the Trump administration is ordering scientific studies, such as the National Climate Assessment (NCA), to limit projections to 2040. This is a bad idea, and it’s illegal. The statute governing preparation of the NCA—Section 106(3) of the Global Change Research Act of 1990—requires a report that "analyzes current trends in global change, both human-induced and natural, and projects major tends for the subsequent 25 to 100 years."  

[For more information, see the Sabin Center’s Silencing Science Tracker, which monitors efforts by the Trump administration and some states to squelch or ignore science.]

Department of Justice lawyers whose job it is to defend the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal entities in court still have enough self-respect not to try to deny climate science in their court filings; they know that would run into a buzz saw of precedent and peer reviewed studies. But that’s not the case with many top Trump appointees (see our Climate Deregulation Tracker), who continue on the fool's errand of rejecting what every scientific society in the world has affirmed. 

There is one bit of good news here. As we have demonstrated in our analyses of lawsuits, The Trump administration has a losing record as it frequently—in fact, typically—disregards the required legal procedures.

Michael Gerrard is the Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice and Director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School. From 2015 to 2018, Gerrard chaired  the faculty of Columbia University’s Earth Institute. This column is editorially independent of Columbia News.