State Department intelligence analyst Rod Schoonover drafted a critical report on U.S. security issues, only to see half of that report cut away by officials from the Trump White House—the half of the report that dealt with threats caused by the climate crisis. In response to being asked to update Congress on national security, without discussing the biggest threat facing national security, Schoonover has resigned.
As The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, Schoonover consulted with experts across a wide range of fields to prepare his paper, and the science he used in evaluating the effects of the climate crisis came primarily from peer-reviewed scientific journals. What that information revealed is the range of threats that a warming planet presents including huge shifts in population with climate refugees creating a series of humanitarian crises, greater pressure on remaining resources, and widespread political instability.
White House officials cleared Schoonover to speak to the congressional panel, but only if he dropped not just his conclusions about the climate crisis, but avoided giving out any of the evidence and data on the topic. Rather than provide Congress with an incomplete and inaccurate picture, the analyst elected not to hand in a written statement. That provoked House Intelligence Committee chair, Adam Schiff, to send a letter to the State Department seeking Schoonover’s report.
He didn’t get it. Instead, a “senior White House official” accused the ten-year department veteran of being “a clear example of some within the behemoth of the U.S. bureaucracy running around thinking their way is the only way and desperately trying to undermine this president and the American democratic process.”
What the White House is claiming here is that Donald Trump doesn’t just get to have an opinion, he also gets to suppress any evidence that he is wrong. And that even attempting to bring up that evidence “undermines the democratic process.” That’s a position that creates a threat which goes far beyond the climate crisis.
Schiff replied that it is “The role of Intelligence Community is to speak truth to power.” After all, if the executive’s uninformed opinion must be upheld at all costs, including the cost of hiding looming threats to the nation, then there’s not much need for an intelligence service. And in fact on a whole range of issues, including the Iranian nuclear deal, the effect of tariffs, the tax bill, and immigration policy, the data and evidence has been either ignored or actively denied in favor of Trump’s “very good brain.”
A 2014 report prepared by the Defense Department flatly stated that the climate crisis is a major threat facing the nation. It will bring regional shortages of water and food, fuel the spread of parasites and pandemic disease, speed the destruction of natural resources, and drive refugee crises at a scale that dwarf those which have caused tumult in both Europe and America.