Meet Myron Ebell, the Climate Contrarian Leading Trump’s EPA Transition

November 14, 2016
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by Priyanka Boghani Digital Reporter

Myron Ebell, a leading contrarian of the scientific consensus on global warming, will lead Donald Trump's transition team at the EPA.

President Barack Obama has called climate change a threat to national security and to future generations. As president, he championed the Paris climate agreement, which aims to tackle global warming by committing more than 190 nations to reducing heat-trapping emissions over the coming decades. In September, Obama warned that if “the current trend lines on a warming planet continue, it is certainly going to be enormously disruptive worldwide.”

But as Obama’s presidency draws to a close, the United States now looks to how Donald Trump will address the issue as president.

Trump has called climate change a hoax as recently as December 2015, and in March, he told the editorial board of The Washington Post, “I think there’s a change in weather,” but added, “I am not a great believer in man-made climate change.”

On the campaign trail, Trump signaled a radical shift from Obama’s policies, vowing to end America’s participation in the Paris agreement and dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency.

As Trump now begins the process of staffing his administration, his pick to head the transition team at the EPA, Myron Ebell, offers more insight into the future of U.S. climate policy.

Ebell, a leading contrarian of the scientific consensus on global warming, leads environmental and energy policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian advocacy group financed in part by the fossil fuel industry. Ebell also helps chair the Cooler Heads Coalition, a group which describes its mission as “dispelling the myths of global warming.” He’s been described as “enemy #1” to the climate change community, and his own bio highlights how he has been named a “climate criminal” by Greenpeace.

Ebell has been instrumental in crafting a national strategy challenging research showing that global warming is both man-made and real. The action plan, drawn up in 1998, said victory would be achieved when the public recognized “uncertainties in climate science.” As head of the EPA transition, Ebell will play a leading role in choosing personnel and shaping the future of government agencies that deal with environmental and climate policy.

When FRONTLINE spoke with Ebell for the 2012 documentary Climate of Doubt, his strategy had already helped propel a shift in the political debate around climate change, contributing to the collapse of cap-and-trade legislation in Congress in 2009.

“There are holdouts among the urban bicoastal elite,” Ebell told FRONTLINE, “but I think we’ve won the debate with the American people in the heartland, the people who get their hands dirty, people who dig stuff up, grow stuff and make stuff for a living, people who have a closer relationship to tangible reality, to stuff.” He added, “We need to keep banging away on the science.”

“What we’re fighting is the expansion of government,” Ebell tells FRONTLINE in the below scene from Climate of Doubt, and climate change policy, he says, is just one of “many pretexts for expanding government.”

Ebell’s appointment comes as the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization announced on Monday that 2016 will “very likely” be the hottest year in recorded history. Despite such evidence pointing to a warming planet, Ebell has described the consensus around global warming as “phony” and “not based on science.” If he’s wrong, he told FRONTLINE, “Then I’ll have to say I’m sorry and I wish we could speed up our efforts to reverse the policies that we have supported here at CEI.”

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