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Weather agency chief: I've never briefed Trump on warming

Posted at 8:45 AM, Dec 14, 2018

WASHINGTON (AP) — The head of the government agency that monitors climate change says that in nearly two years he has never discussed the issue with President Donald Trump.

Acting National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Adm. Timothy Gallaudet said in a press conference at a scientific meeting this week, "I personally have not briefed the president on climate change."

Gallaudet said he doesn't know if others had briefed the president. He did note that he was in the room when Trump signed a bill aimed at keeping plastic trash out of the ocean.

By contrast, Oregon State University marine ecologist Jane Lubchenco, who served as NOAA chief in the first four years of the Obama administration, said she talked with President Barack Obama about climate change every two to three months.

"I have been told by my various predecessors that most never met with the President, of if they did, it was only once or twice," Lubchenco said in an email Tuesday. "I think this says more about President Obama than it does about other NOAA Administrators."

Obama, she said, "consistently highlighted science as a key underpinning of his administration."

Obama's science adviser, John Holdren, estimates that over eight years he briefed the president about climate change more than 50 times.

Trump has dismissed his administration's warnings about the impact of climate change, including a recent government forecast that it could lead to economic losses of hundreds of billions of dollars a year by the end of the century.

"There is no sign that President Trump is interested in input from anybody on the scientific facts around climate change," said Holdren, now a professor of environmental policy at Harvard. "And his uninformed rejection of those facts — reflected in his administration's misguided policies on coal, offshore drilling, automotive fuel economy, clean-energy R&D, the Paris Agreement, and assistance to developing countries on climate-change mitigation and adaptation — is doing immense damage to the prospects for averting a wholly unmanageable degree of global climate change."

The White House Office of Science and Technology and Policy hasn't been briefing the president because it is waiting for its director to be confirmed by the Senate, according to a source familiar with the office who asked not to be identified so as not to conflict with White House messaging. Trump nominated University of Oklahoma meteorology professor Kelvin Droegemeier in July, 18 months after taking office.

Commerce Department spokeswoman Rebecca Glover, asked about whether Trump had been briefed, said in a statement that NOAA representatives meet "with the White House on a regular basis on a wide variety of topics that impact the U.S. and U.S. policy." She did not say whom at the White House was briefed.

The White House said the president gets energy and climate briefings from its own policy people, not specifically addressing briefings from scientists and on climate science.

Gallaudet acknowledged the lack of presidential briefings during a meeting this week of the American Geophysical Union.

"Climate change is real, and we are already suffering the serious consequences. Humans are the dominant cause and if we don't take urgent action it will only get worse. That's a conclusion based on real scientific data," said Chris McEntee, chief executive officer of the 100-year-old scientific society. "The president of the United States has access to some of the best scientific data and the brightest scientific minds in the world — in his own agencies and through reports like the recent National Climate Assessment. It is critical that he access that expertise and data to avoid further risk to the health and safety of the American public."

Pennsylvania State University ice scientist Richard Alley, a Republican most of his life, said: "Many scientists_dedicated, nonpartisan, knowledgeable — would happily provide administration officials with briefings or background information. The science is solid, and the full scholarship shows that making efficient use of our scientific knowledge will help the economy as well as the environment."