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Could New White House Climate Panel ‘Shut the National Security Community Up on Climate Change’?
The White House is assembling a climate change panel to be headed by a known climate denier who once took money from a coal company to testify at a hearing and who has compared criticism of carbon dioxide to Hitler's demonization of the Jews.
William Happer, a Princeton physicist who has never trained as a climate scientist, joined the Trump administration in September 2018 as senior director for emerging technologies at the National Security Council (NSC).
"The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler," Happer said on CNBC in 2014, as CNN reported. "Carbon dioxide is actually a benefit to the world, and so were the Jews."
Happer would head a panel to assess whether climate change poses a national security threat, a claim most recently made by a Pentagon report released in January. The proposed Presidential Committee on Climate Security would be formed by executive order, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post and reported Wednesday.
"This is the equivalent of setting up a committee on nuclear-weapons proliferation and having someone lead it who doesn't think nuclear weapons exist," Chief Executive of the Council on Strategic Risks and co-founder of the Center for Climate and Security Francesco Femia told The Washington Post. "It's honestly a blunt-force political tool designed to shut the national security community up on climate change."
The panel represents the latest attempt by the Trump administration to cast doubt on climate risk assessments produced by its own government, like the Pentagon report and volume II of the Fourth National Climate Assessment released in November 2018. The NSC discussion paper describing the panel obtained by the Washington Post acknowledges these reports only to undermine them.
"[T]hese scientific and national security judgments have not undergone a rigorous independent and adversarial scientific peer review to examine the certainties and uncertainties of climate science, as well as implications for national security," it reads.
It is not clear how much support the panel has within the administration, however. No major agency agreed to comment, and the deputies of various agencies have been summoned to discuss the matter Friday.Happer, who also worked for the Energy Department during the first Bush administration, has never published a peer-reviewed paper on climate science, according to Media Matters. He has served on the board of CO2 Coalition and the George C. Marshall Institute, two groups that question the threat posed by climate change. In March 2018, he admitted to receiving $10,000 to $15,000 from Peabody Coal to testify at a hearing of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission hearing, The Washington Post reported.
- Scientist who thinks more CO₂ is great joins National Security ... ›
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"The rapid pace of labour-saving technology brings into focus the possibility of a shorter working week for all, if deployed properly," Autonomy Director Will Stronge said, The Guardian reported. "However, while automation shows that less work is technically possible, the urgent pressures on the environment and on our available carbon budget show that reducing the working week is in fact necessary."
The report found that if the economies of Germany, Sweden and the UK maintain their current levels of carbon intensity and productivity, they would need to switch to a six, 12 and nine hour work week respectively if they wanted keep the rise in global temperatures to the below two degrees Celsius promised by the Paris agreement, The Independent reported.
The study based its conclusions on data from the UN and the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) on greenhouse gas emissions per industry in all three countries.
The report comes as the group Momentum called on the UK's Labour Party to endorse a four-day work week.
"We welcome this attempt by Autonomy to grapple with the very real changes society will need to make in order to live within the limits of the planet," Emma Williams of the Four Day Week campaign said in a statement reported by The Independent. "In addition to improved well-being, enhanced gender equality and increased productivity, addressing climate change is another compelling reason we should all be working less."
Supporters of the idea linked it to calls in the U.S. and Europe for a Green New Deal that would decarbonize the economy while promoting equality and well-being.
"This new paper from Autonomy is a thought experiment that should give policymakers, activists and campaigners more ballast to make the case that a Green New Deal is absolutely necessary," Common Wealth think tank Director Mat Lawrence told The Independent. "The link between working time and GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions has been proved by a number of studies. Using OECD data and relating it to our carbon budget, Autonomy have taken the step to show what that link means in terms of our working weeks."
Stronge also linked his report to calls for a Green New Deal.
"Becoming a green, sustainable society will require a number of strategies – a shorter working week being just one of them," he said, according to The Guardian. "This paper and the other nascent research in the field should give us plenty of food for thought when we consider how urgent a Green New Deal is and what it should look like."
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- Needed: A shorter work week – People's World ›