Climate scientists concerned Trump will restrict Nasa climate data “with frightening speed”
Donald Trump’s administration could end access to data for climate research “with frightening speed”, scientists have warned
The comments come from leading climate scientists who are among 100 academics who have urged Theresa May to use the “special relationship” with the US to press Trump to acknowledge and act on climate change.
The experts have written to the Prime Minister warning damage inflicted by Trump’s administration on US-funded climate-change research would have an impact around the world, including in the UK.
The UK experts raised concerns over statements by the president-elect that he does not fully accept the scientific evidence of climate change while nominees for key posts in his administration have rejected the evidence for global-warming risks.
They also warned of reports that the incoming administration may severely weaken climate change research by federal organisations in the US, such as Nasa.
But last week it was warned that pulling out of agreements could lead to mass suing of the US government by environmental groups.
Trump has previously described climate change as a hoax invented by the Chinese to undermine US manufacturing and pledged to withdraw from the world’s first comprehensive treaty to tackle greenhouse gases, the Paris Agreement.
He has also pledged to back coal power and abandon President Obama’s efforts to tackle US climate emissions through the Clean Power Plan.
However, professor Myles Allen, from the University of Oxford, said statements made so far by Trump and members of his team showed “they accept a great deal more of the human influence on climate than they are prepared to let on”.
“As far as I can tell based on statements so far, they already accept more than enough evidence on human influence on climate change to justify continuing with the relatively modest goals of the Paris Agreement and the Clean Power Plan,” he said.
Questioned on how easy it would be to stop Nasa’s work observing the Earth, he warned it would be possible to “end access to data with frightening speed, that’s the most alarming prospect, of them just making it difficult to access and analyse data from existing satellites”.
He called for greater scrutiny of the administration’s views on climate change.
Professor Corinne Le Quere, from the University of East Anglia, said Trump was pragmatic rather than an idealist.
“Trump has a pragmatic approach to addressing issues that he has in front of him, and if he can be convinced or at least nudged or pressured to acknowledge climate change and to push the business economy that will produce energy without carbon, we could go further than the previous administration.”
There were huge opportunities to provide jobs and employment in the US through building clean energy, more efficient buildings, low-carbon infrastructure and intelligent energy networks, she said.
With many people on the right of the political spectrum sceptical about climate science, the scientists also acknowledged a need to change the way global warming was discussed.
Prof Le Quere said: “It’s key to understand where people are coming from in terms of climate change.
“If people are coming from poor parts of the UK and they’re worried about their jobs tomorrow, it is important to address what their worry is about, and what is it going to mean for the labour force in the UK, the labour force in the US, to have a transformation towards a green economy.”
Prof Allen added: “Better science is probably not the crucial thing here, it’s the realisation that the people being affected are primarily the poor, and the people benefiting are primarily the extremely wealthy.”