A Running List of Climate Change Deniers Joining the Trump Administration

This can’t be good.

Artist's rendering of Donald Trump's EPA, c. 2019Nastco/iStock

Donald Trump is a global warming denier. He wants to “cancel” the Paris climate agreement and repeal the Clean Power Plan—the twin pillars of President Barack Obama’s efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions. He’s even promised to revive the coal industry, against all odds.

But Trump won’t be able to do these things all by himself. To fulfill his campaign promises and reverse the steps of his predecessor in the fight against warming, he’s going to need an entire administration of like-minded people. Environmental officials who reject climate science. National security officials who dismiss concerns that climate change will destabilize the world. Diplomats who oppose international climate agreements. Department heads who want to drill, baby, drill.

Here’s a list of Trump appointees and possible appointees who deny climate change or who oppose or want to roll back efforts to deal with it. We’ll update the list as the Trump transition continues. Be afraid.

Donald Trump

Position: President

Previously: Steak salesman

Views on climate change:

  • We’re going to rescind all the job-destroying Obama executive actions including the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the US rule.
  • We’re going to save the coal industry and other industries threatened by Hillary Clinton’s extremist agenda.
  • I’m going to ask Trans Canada to renew its permit application for the Keystone Pipeline.
  • We’re going to lift moratoriums on energy production in federal areas
  • We’re going to revoke policies that impose unwarranted restrictions on new drilling technologies. These technologies create millions of jobs with a smaller footprint than ever before.
  • We’re going to cancel the Paris Climate Agreement and stop all payments of US tax dollars to UN global warming programs. [Trump campaign website, accessed 11/16/16]

Mike Pence

Position: Vice president

Currently: Indiana Governor

Views on climate change: “Donald Trump and I have a plan to get this economy moving again…by lowering taxes across the board for working families, small businesses and family farms, ending the war on coal that is hurting jobs and hurting this economy even here in Virginia, repealing Obamacare lock, stock, and barrel, and repealing all of the executive orders that Barack Obama has signed that are stifling economic growth in this economy.” [Vice Presidential debate, 10/5/16]

Stephen Bannon

Position: Chief strategist and senior counselor

Previously: Trump campaign CEO; chairman of Breitbart News

Views on climate change: “Do you agree with the pope and President Obama that [climate change] is absolutely a path to global suicide, if specific deals are not cut in Paris [at the international climate negotiations], versus focusing on radical Islam?” [Breitbart News Daily via the Washington Post, 12/1/15]

“The pope…has kind of fallen into this hysteria…Here you have the pope saying the world’s near suicide if something doesn’t happen in Paris.” [Breitbart News Daily via Media Matters for America, 12/2/15]

Ken Blackwell

Position: Head of transition team for domestic issues

Previously: Ohio secretary of state

Views on climate change: “Another false environmentalist narrative is the global warming hoax. A few decades back, environmentalist “scientists” started devising computer models that predicted man-made calamity—Manhattan submerged by rising Atlantic waters—within 10 or 15 years ago. It turns out the models were rigged, the data were falsified and, in fact, there has been no measurable warming for nearly 20 years. Most troubling of all, the lying scientists colluded to ruin the careers of honest scientists who tried to tell the truth.” [Washington Times, 4/30/15]

Ben Carson

Position: Secretary of Housing and Urban Development nominee

Previously: Surgeon

Views on climate change: Under the Obama administration, HUD has worked to incorporate climate change adaptation into its work. As the department noted in a 2014 report, “The risk posed by climate change on HUD’s programs and operations, the built environment HUD funds, and populations HUD serves is high.” Carson’s views on global warming are a bit confusing. As a presidential candidate, he called for a dramatic increase in clean energy, but he also told the San Francisco Chronicle, “There is no overwhelming science that the things that are going on are man-caused and not naturally caused.”

Myron Ebell

Position: Head of EPA transition team

Currently: Director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a DC think tank that promotes “limited government, free enterprise, and individual liberty.”

Views on climate change: Ebell, a high-profile climate skeptic, has accused climate scientists of “manipulating and falsifying the data.” The New York Times describes Ebell as “one of the most vocal opponents” of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

Michael Flynn

Position: National security adviser

Previously: Army lieutenant general and director of the Defense Intelligence Agency

Views on climate change: “And here we have the President of the United States up in Canada talking about climate change. I mean, God, we just had the largest attack…on our own soil in Orlando. Why aren’t we talking about that? Who is talking about that? I mean, Fort Hood, Chattanooga, Boston, people forget about 9/11!” [Fox News, 6/29/16]

Gov. Nikki Haley (S.C.)

Position: UN ambassador nominee

Currently: South Carolina governor

Views on climate change: “‘[The Clean Power Plan] is exactly what we don’t need,’ the governor said after addressing a gathering of the SC Electric Cooperatives at Wild Dunes Resort on the Isle of Palms. ‘This is exactly what hurts us. You can’t mandate utility companies which, in turn, raises the cost of power. That’s what’s going to keep jobs away. That’s what’s going to keep companies away.’ She added that officials in Washington ‘stay out of the way.’…’We need to be able to do our jobs and continue to recruit companies and recruit jobs without additional mandates,’ Haley said.” [The Post and Courier, 6/3/14]

Mike Pompeo

Position: CIA director nominee

Currently: Congressional representative from Kansas

Views on climate change: “President Obama has called climate change the biggest national security threat of our lifetime, but he is horribly wrong. His unwillingness to acknowledge the true threat posed by Islamic extremism will get Americans killed. His perverse fixation on achieving his economically harmful environmental agenda instead of defeating the true threats facing the world shows just how out of sync his priorities are with Kansans and the American people.” [Pompeo press release, 11/30/15]

Rick Perry

Position: Secretary of Energy nominee

Previously: Governor of Texas

Views on climate change: “I do believe that the issue of global warming has been politicized. I think that there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. And I think we are seeing almost weekly, or even daily, scientists who are coming forward and questioning the original idea that manmade global warming is what is causing the climate to change…The cost to the country and to the world of implementing these anti-carbon programs is in the billions, if not trillions, of dollars at the end of the day. And I don’t think, from my perspective, that I want America to be engaged in spending that much money on still a scientific theory that has not been proven and, from my perspective, is more and more being put into question.” [Perry campaign speech via CBS News, 8/17/11]

Reince Priebus

Position: Chief of staff

Currently: Republican National Committee chairman

Views on climate change: “Democrats tell us they understand the world, but then they call climate change, not radical Islamic terrorism, the greatest threat to national security. Look, I think we all care about our planet, but melting icebergs aren’t beheading Christians in the Middle East.” [CPAC speech, 2/27/15]

Scott Pruitt

Position: EPA administrator nominee

Currently: Oklahoma attorney general

Views on climate change: “The EPA does not possess the authority under the Clean Air Act to accomplish what it proposes in the unlawful Clean Power Plan. The EPA is ignoring the authority granted by Congress to states to regulate power plant emissions at their source. The Clean Power Plan is an unlawful attempt to expand federal bureaucrats’ authority over states’ energy economies in order to shutter coal-fired power plants and eventually other sources of fossil-fuel generated electricity.” [Pruitt press release, 7/1/15]

“Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind. That debate should be encouraged—in classrooms, public forums, and the halls of Congress.” [Pruitt National Review op-ed, 5/17/16]

Thomas Pyle

Position: Head of Energy department transition team

Currently: President of the Institute for Energy Research and the American Energy Alliance, related groups that have received fossil fuel industry funding

Previously: Koch Industries lobbyist

Views on climate change: As described by the Los Angeles Times, “For years, Pyle has led a coordinated national assault on renewable power…Pyle’s groups…reject the findings of most mainstream scientists regarding climate change. They specifically dismiss as overblown the warnings from scores of published academics that a global temperature rise of more than 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 Fahrenheit, would be devastating. Preventing a rise in temperatures of that scale is at the root of the global climate agreement the United States and 195 other countries signed last year in Paris. Pyle’s groups are pushing for Trump to make good on his vow to scrap that deal.” As Bloomberg first revealed, Trump’s transition team recently asked the Energy Department “to list employees and contractors who attended United Nations climate meetings, along with those who helped develop the Obama administration’s social cost of carbon metrics, used to estimate and justify the climate benefits of new rules.” According to Bloomberg, sources at the agency said staffers were “unsettled” by the request. (The department has since declined to produce the list of names.)

Jeff Sessions

Position: Attorney general nominee

Currently: US senator representing Alabama

Views on climate change: “The balloon and satellite data track each other almost exactly, and it shows almost no warming. So what we’re talking about is: The predictions aren’t coming true.” [Washington Watch via Right Wing Watch, 11/30/15]

Rex Tillerson

Possible positions: Secretary of State nominee

Currently: Exxon Mobil CEO

Views on climate change: As we previously noted, “Tillerson, whose consideration for the role only became public in recent days, has long had a contentious relationship with climate change. His company, for which he has worked for his entire career, has been accused of covering up research and misleading the public about climate change since the 1970s, according to two groundbreaking investigations by InsideClimateNews and the Los Angeles Times. The investigation led several attorneys general to launch a fraud inquiry into the company. Tillerson recently acknowledged that climate change has ‘real’ and ‘serious’ risks but has previously downplayed its effects.

Ryan Zinke

Position: Secretary of Interior nominee

Currently: Congressman representing Montana

Views on climate change: “‘[Climate change is] not a hoax, but it’s not proven science either,’ Zinke said. ‘But you don’t dismantle America’s power and energy on a maybe. We need to be energy independent first. We need to do it better, which we can, but it is not a settled science.'” [Billings Gazette, 10/4/14]

Other Possible appointments


Eric Bolling, Fox News host

Possible position: “A position…in the Department of Commerce,” according to Politico. Among other things, Commerce oversees the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is one of the country’s most important bodies for researching climate science.

Views on climate change: Bolling, a former crude oil trader on the New York Mercantile Exchange, pointed out last year that “there’s a great tweet that’s going around the internet: When Al Gore was born, there were 130,000 glaciers, and now there are only 130,000 glaciers.” Here’s how he explained his views on climate science in 2014: “I have two questions for you. Number one: If a…meteorologist can’t tell us if it’s going to rain tomorrow or be, you know, 20 degrees or or 50 degrees, how can they tell us what it’s going to be 2,100 years from now—that this whole global warming thing, what we’re doing now, is going to affect then? And the other thing is: Even if some of the carbon we’re emitting…is manmade, how much is it? And is it really the reason why the globe is increasing in temperature—if it is—every so slightly? I mean, there’s so many questions. The hoax is that if a meteorologist were to say, or a weather scientist were to say, that ‘yeah, this is normal—it’s weather, it’s cold, it’s hot, it’s normal,’ then they wouldn’t get funded. All these big projects wouldn’t be funded.”

John Bolton, former UN ambassador

Possible position: Deputy Secretary of State

Views on climate change: “Obama can achieve his climate change legacy only through delicate negotiations with Congress. His poor relations with the House and Senate, especially on foreign policy, appear to render success unlikely. Obama may rely on his unilateral authority to join a world climate pact [in Paris], but without Congress his most important promises will be empty ones whose fate will be left to his successor.” [Los Angeles Times, 12/1/15]

Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas)

Possible positions: US Supreme Court justice

Views on climate change: “If you are a…liberal politician who wants government power, if that is your driving urge—government power over the American citizenry—then climate change is the perfect pseudoscientific theory. Why is that? Because it can never be disproven…The climate is always changing. It has been changing from the beginning of time.” [Cruz campaign event via the Washington Post, 2/3/16]

Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the house

Possible position: “I want to be the senior planner for the entire federal government, and I want a letter from you that says Newt Gingrich is authorized to go to any program in any department, examine it and report directly to the president.” [Hill, 7/20/16]

Views on climate change: Gingrich used to be in favor of taking action on climate change, even appearing in an ad on the subject with Nancy Pelosi and voicing support for a cap-and-trade carbon pricing system. He later called his participation in the ad “dumb” and opposed the cap-and-trade bill backed by Obama in 2009. Last year, Politico reported that Gingrich “said it should not be a given for politicians to assume that climate change is man-made. ‘I don’t think it should be a given. The truth is, I think we don’t know. There’s a difference between political science and science,’ he said.”

Laura Ingraham, radio host

Possible positions: Press secretary

Views on climate change: “This entire effort [the Paris climate negotiations] is about setting up global rules of governance. Rules that will, if instituted—which we know they won’t be—but if ever instituted would mean that we have less control over our own destiny as a country than we do today. Because Congress will have limited ability to change any treaty. Again, I don’t think it’s going to happen. But if these rules should go into place, we should expect the same compliance from countries like China that we get from China in deals like the World Trade Organization and the World Trade Organization Treaty. So, if people want less sovereignty in the United States, less independence, less oversight, our congressional authority to be meaningful, then we should all be excited about what’s going on with 150 leaders in Paris. But this has nothing to do with terrorism. It has everything to do with bringing America’s economy down, hurting the fossil fuel industry, etc., etc.—one of the few sectors that’s actually growing jobs and still paying people decent wages in the United States. So forgive me if I’m not all hot and bothered by the Paris events.” [Fox News via Media Matters, 12/1/15]

This article will be updated throughout the transition period.

More Mother Jones reporting on Climate Desk


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We have about a $170,000 funding gap and less than a week to go in our hugely important First $500,000 fundraising campaign that ends Saturday. We urgently need your help, and a lot of help, so we can pay for the one-of-a-kind journalism you get from us.

Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” where we lay out this wild moment and how we can keep charging hard for you. And please help if you can: $5, $50, or $500—every gift from every person truly matters right now.

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