Trump's climate scepticism could be the biggest threat to US national security

One thing is clear from President Donald Trump’s budget proposal: he really does think climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese to slow America’s mighty economy. 

Nevermind that China, now dealing with the very real effects of heavy air pollution brought on by rapid, unregulated industrialisation, is at the forefront of global efforts to restrain climate change.

The budget blueprint released Thursday takes deep cuts to agencies and programs dedicated to researching and dealing with the causes and effects of climate change, while dramatically boosting spending on defence.

Trump’s defence secretary, General James Mattis, appears to be of a very different mind from his boss on the matter of climate, accepting the scientific consensus that man-made activities have accelerated global warming and the Pentagon’s assessment that climate change is itself a national security threat. 

“Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today,” Mattis wrote in unpublished testimony provided to the Senate Armed Services Committee after his January confirmation hearing.

It is “a challenge that requires a broader, whole-of-government response,” Mattis added. “If confirmed, I will ensure that the Department of Defence plays its appropriate role within such a response by addressing national security aspects.” 

In comes Trump’s proposed budget, which sharply increases funding to the military by $US54 billion by slashing money for other agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency.

The draft budget bill ratchets down EPA funds for the year to just $US5.7 billion, compared with $US8.3 billion in the prior fiscal year — a 31% reduction. Trump would also like to cut $US100 million for programs within the agency aimed specifically at climate change research. More than a fifth of the EPA’s 15,000 employees would lose their jobs under the plan.

Beyond the budget, Trump has threatened to pull out of the Paris Climate Accords that the scientific community sees as crucial to reducing the effects of man-made climate change on the planet. These moves would seem to go against the “whole-of-government” response described by Mattis.

What’s far from clear is why the president continues to actively ignore the heartfealt advice of the very experts he hired to help him govern.

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