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Trump’s Interior Department Says ‘There Is Not a Climate Crisis’

Jennifer A. Dlouhy

(Bloomberg) -- The Trump administration brushed aside concerns about climate change as it sought to justify plans for oil drilling in the Arctic refuge, even going so far as to suggest that a little extra warmth would do the planet good.

“There is not a climate crisis,” the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management asserted in its environmental analysis of the coming sale of drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s Coastal Plain released earlier this month. Congress mandated the sales two years ago as part of the tax overhaul but a thorough environmental assessment is a legal requirement for holding the auctions.

“The BLM does not agree that the proposed development is inconsistent with maintaining a livable planet,” the agency said. “The planet was much warmer within the past 1,000 years, prior to the Little Ice Age, based on extensive archaeological evidence (such as farming in Greenland and vineyards in England). This warmth did not make the planet unlivable; rather, it was a time when societies prospered.”

The idea that the world is emerging from a “Little Ice Age” -- and was warmer before it -- is a common talking point for climate change skeptics, who cite the period between the 16th and 19th centuries as evidence that the climate has changed dramatically without any help from humans.

They argue the current warming trend is a natural phenomenon -- a recovery from those colder times. But scientists who study climate change have disputed the idea, saying empirical evidence, modeling and years of study do not support the idea the world is simply recovering from the Little Ice Age.

The assertion was contained in an environmental analysis federal regulators posted online Sept. 12, though it gained attention Wednesday once it was discovered by activists and after a notice about the document appeared in the government’s Federal Register.

It was reported earlier Wednesday by Gizmodo.

The bureau made its comment several times in response to concerns raised by the Trustees for Alaska, which opposes Arctic refuge drilling it says “will only intensify the impacts we’re experiencing.”

John Noel, a senior climate campaigner with Greenpeace USA, called the statement “vintage climate denial.”

“This argument looks like BLM googled ‘climate hoax’ and took fringe blog talking points,” instead of consulting the U.S. government’s own climate assessment, he said.

The U.S. National Climate Assessment from 2018 devotes an entire chapter to Alaska, which is warming faster than any other state and already experiencing melting permafrost, retreating sea ice and increased storm surge as a result.

Representatives of the Interior Department did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Kate Kelly, public lands director with the Center for American Progress, said the BLM’s statement also undermines the integrity of its environmental analysis, which is meant to be the legal underpinning of the Arctic lease sale. “The conclusion puts Interior’s lawyers in the terrible position of having to defend a severely deficient analysis,” she said by email.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jennifer A. Dlouhy in Washington at jdlouhy1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at jmorgan97@bloomberg.net, John Harney

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