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Trump’s CIA Pick is Oblivious to a Major National Security Threat

Mother Jones

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What does the CIA director have to do with climate change? A lot more than Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump’s pick for the agency’s top job, seems to appreciate.

During his Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing Thursday, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) examined the sitting Kansas congressman’s views on climate science. Quoting CIA Director John Brennan, who had a 25-year career at the agency, Harris noted that he cited climate change as one of the “deeper causes of rising instability.”

“Do you have any reason to doubt the assessment of these CIA analysts?” Harris asked.

“I haven’t had a chance to read those materials with respect to climate change,” Pompeo answered. “I do know the agency’s role there. Its role is to collect foreign intelligence, to understand threats to the world. That would certainly include threats from poor governance, regional instability, threats from all sources and to deliver that information to policymakers. To the extent that changes in climatic activity are part of that foreign intelligence collection task, we will deliver that information to you all and to the president.”

Harris pressed Pompeo on his past comments in which he questioned the scientific consensus on climate change.

He replied that most of his commentary “has been directed to ensuring that the policies that America puts in place actually achieve the objective of ensuring we don’t have catastrophic harm that result from a changing climate.” He then added that he didn’t see any reason why climate change should be his concern at the CIA.

“Frankly, as the director of CIA, I would prefer today not to get into the details of the climate debate and science,” he said. “My role is going to be so different and unique from that. It is going to be to work alongside warriors keeping Americans safe. And so, I stand by the things that I’ve said previously with respect to that issue.”

Since the George W. Bush administration, officials in intelligence and at the Pentagon have warned that climate change poses a real security threat. The Department of Defense has described climate change as a “threat multiplier” that exacerbates disease, hunger, and terrorism. The State Department under John Kerry readily acknowledged that “climate change is a threat to the security of the United States” and countries around the globe.

Pompeo promised Harris he’d take a closer look at NASA’s climate research but couldn’t comment on Thursday. “I haven’t spent enough time to look at NASA’s findings in particular. I can’t give you any judgment on that today,” he said.

But Pompeo has vowed to take a closer look at the science for at least five years. Asked by CSPAN in 2013 whether he believed global warming was a problem, Pompeo, who was then serving his second term in Congress, was equivocal, repeating the debunked claims that there’s a pause in global warming and that the climate is cooling:

“I think the science needs to continue to develop. I’m happy to continue to look at it. There are scientists who think lots of different things about climate change. 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.”

At another hearing on Wednesday, Trump’s pick for secretary of state, former CEO of Exxon Mobil Rex Tillerson, admitted, “I don’t see climate change as an imminent national security threat, but perhaps others do.” Tillerson, like Pompeo, might want to check in with the department he could soon lead.

For Harris’ part, the freshman senator is not sold on the next CIA director unless he is “willing to accept the overwhelming weight of evidence when presented, even if it turns out to be politically inconvenient or require you to change a previously held position.” Pompeo pledged he would look again at the facts, just as he’s been promising for years.

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Trump’s CIA Pick is Oblivious to a Major National Security Threat

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California’s drought causes a lot more pain than brown lawns and empty swimming pools.

The Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, released a report Tuesday morning that adds up the many ways in which the incoming Trump administration could enrich the world’s largest oil company.

The report comes a day before Rex Tillerson, Exxon’s former CEO, starts his nomination hearing to be President-elect Trump’s secretary of state.

In that role, Tillerson could do a lot for his former employer. The oil giant has massive holdings in foreign oil reserves and remains one of the biggest investors in the Canadian tar sands, with rights worth around $277 billion at current prices.

As it happens, the State Department is responsible for approving the fossil fuel infrastructure that could bring Canadian tar sands oil to the U.Smarket. Remember the Keystone XL pipeline? It could come back from the dead and get approved by Tillerson.

Tillerson could also undo sanctions on Russia that have blocked Exxon’s projects there, including a deal with Rosneft, the Russian state oil company, worth roughly $500 billion.

And then there are the Trump administration’s domestic plans to lift every restriction on extracting oil from public lands and offshore. The CAP report also figures that Trump’s Department of Justice is unlikely to investigate Exxon’s effort to mislead the public about climate change. Tally all the benefits and you get nearly $1 trillion.

So who was the biggest winner of the November election? According to the CAP report, ExxonMobil.

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California’s drought causes a lot more pain than brown lawns and empty swimming pools.

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Trump might bring a Kennedy into his administration. Too bad it’s the nutty one.

Senate confirmation hearings began on Wednesday for Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil and Trump’s nominee for secretary of state. Tillerson was pressed on the issue of climate change by several senators, including Tennessee Republican Bob Corker, who asked Tillerson if he believes that human activity is the cause.

“The increase in greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is having an effect,” Tillerson said, demonstrating that he at least knows more about the issue than our future president. But, Tillerson added, “Our ability to predict that effect is very limited.” This is false.

Tillerson had less to say about allegations that Exxon, his employer for 40 years, knew about the effect of greenhouse gases on the atmosphere back in the ’70s and failed to disclose the risks to the public or shareholders. When asked about it by Virginia Democrat Tim Kaine, Tillerson punted and said he didn’t work there anymore: “You’ll have to ask them.”

The nominee did acknowledge that it’s important for the U.S. to stay involved in international climate negotiations and “maintain its seat at the table in the conversation.” As for what he would do at that table, he’s not saying. If he wanted to do anything constructive, first he’d have to convince his boss.

You can read more about the hearing here.

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Trump might bring a Kennedy into his administration. Too bad it’s the nutty one.

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Trump hates wind turbines even more than he hates women he deems unattractive.

No, it isn’t ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, named to serve as ambassador to China, is in favor of wind energy and policies that promote it. Like, really in favor.

“Our leadership in green energy not only makes us a leader in renewables but also powers job growth,” the Republican said in his 2016 Condition of the State address in Iowa. “Every wind turbine you see while driving across our state means income for farmers, revenue for local governments, and jobs for Iowa families.” As governor of the No. 2 wind state, he’s also in favor of federal incentives for wind energy like the production tax credit.

Branstad may experience some whiplash as he represents an administration that is particularly antagonistic to wind energy to a country that has invested billions of dollars in wind and solar.

On climate change, Branstad is not a denier but he buys into his party’s reasoning for not acting. “We need to recognize this climate change issue is a global issue,” he said in 2011. That’s the excuse many Republicans use to argue that the U.S. shouldn’t clean up its act until developing economies like China and India do.

But if he doesn’t know it already, Branstad will soon learn that China is doing plenty to fight climate change right now.

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Trump hates wind turbines even more than he hates women he deems unattractive.

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GOP Gov. Pat McCrory just signed a bill that limits his successor’s powers.

In his final press conference of 2016, President Obama — in his usual, staid tones — fielded question after question about Russia’s alleged election interference.

But Obama also reminded us that at the heart of Russia’s economic interests and relative power is its backward status as a petrostate.

“They are a smaller country; they are a weaker country; their economy doesn’t produce anything that anyone wants to buy except oil and gas and arms,” he said. “They don’t innovate. But, they can impact us if we lose track of who we are. They can impact us if we abandon our values.”

The Washington Post calls Trump’s relationship with Russia “the most obscure and disturbing aspect of his coming presidency.” Trump’s choice of Exxon’s Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State only underlines this: At Exxon, Tillerson had deals worth billions of dollars with Russia, some of which can only move forward if the U.S. lifts sanctions on the country.

These deals are only worth billions, though, if fossil fuels maintain their value. The idea that there is a “carbon bubble,” and fossil fuel companies are dangerously overvalued, is a threatening proposition to a petrostate. And, most likely, a Trump administration.

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GOP Gov. Pat McCrory just signed a bill that limits his successor’s powers.

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