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Pompeo Changes Tune on Climate After Green Groups Oppose Top Diplomat Nomination

Politics
Gage Skidmore

When Mike Pompeo was director of the CIA, there were concerns that his climate change waffling would prevent him from taking it seriously as a national security threat.

A Politico analysis of the Trump team's climate views, reported on by EcoWatch in March, pointed out that the Pentagon had excluded climate change from the 2018 National Defense Strategy, and quoted a 2013 interview in which Pompeo hedged on climate science.


"There's some who think we're warming, there's some who think we're cooling, there's some who think that the last 16 years have shown a pretty stable climate environment," he had said.

But now that Pompeo is seeking Senate confirmation to replace Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, a role for which an accurate assessment of national security risks is also essential, he is changing his climate tune somewhat.

"[I] believe that the climate is changing, that there's a warming taking place. I'm happy to concede there is likely a human component to that," Pompeo said during his confirmation hearing Thursday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Quartz reported.

He also said that the State Department should work to meet climate-based security threats.

"You're heading in the right direction," Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), who he had been addressing, said, according to Quartz.

But an Associated Press live-update of the proceedings printed in the Washington Post reported that Democrats found his remarks "insufficient."

During his 2017 Senate hearing to be named CIA director, Pompeo had refused to "get into the details of climate debate and science," Quartz reported.

His most climate-accurate remarks to date come two days after more than 200 environmental groups sent a letter to senators asking them to reject Pompeo for the secretary of state position due to his history of climate change denial, The HIll reported.

"Any Senator who votes in support of his nomination to the important position of Secretary of State is complicit in advancing the Trump/Pompeo pro-fossil fuel, anti-climate agenda," The HIll reported the letter read, in part.

Tillerson, who Pompeo would replace if confirmed, ended up being one of the more climate-friendly members of the Trump administration, despite his former role as CEO of ExxonMobil. He supported staying in the Paris agreement, though he also cut the position of U.S. climate envoy.

Pompeo's updated views on climate might not be enough to win him Tillerson's old gig. Since Republican Senator Rand Paul has already said he would not recommend Pompeo for secretary of state, if the two Democratic senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee join him, Pompeo would not get a favorable recommendation overall. Republicans could still bring Pompeo's nomination to a Senate vote without the recommendation of the committee, but it would be an unusual move, CNN reported Thursday.

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