Emails: Trump official pressed NASA on climate science

WASHINGTON (AP) — Once a skeptic about climate change, Jim Bridenstine came around to the prevailing view of scientists before he took over as NASA administrator.

That evolution did not sit well with a Trump environmental adviser, nor a think-tank analyst he was consulting, according to newly disclosed emails that illustrate how skepticism of global warming has found a beachhead in the Trump White House.

"Puzzling," says the May 2018 exchange between William Happer, now a member of President Donald Trump's National Security Council, and Thomas Wysmuller of the Heartland Institute, which disavows man-made climate change.

Their exchange calls scientifically established rises in sea levels and temperatures under climate change "part of the nonsense" and urges the NASA head – who was copied in – to "systematically sidestep it."

It cannot be discerned whether it was Happer or Wysmuller who put that pressure on the new NASA chief. Their exchange is included in emails from 2018 and 2019 that were obtained by the Environmental Defense Fund under the federal Freedom of Information Act and provided to The Associated Press.

But the emails show that Happer, who was then advising Trump's Environmental Protection Agency, kept up the pressure after he joined the National Security Council late last year.

In February, he emailed NASA deputy administrator James Morhard, relaying a complaint about NASA's websites from an unidentified rejecter of man-made climate change. "I'm concerned that many children are being indoctrinated by this bad science," said the email that Happer relayed. (Happer's own message was redacted from the records obtained by the environmental group.)

NASA does not appear to have buckled under such heat. Specific statements targeted in the email still appear on the space agency's website.

A NASA spokesman Thursday upheld the space agency's public statements on climate change.

"We provide the data that informs policymakers around the world," spokesman Bob Jacobs said. "Our science information continues to be published publicly as it always has."

Heartland Institute spokesman Jim Lakely said in an email that NASA's public characterization of climate change as man-made and a global threat "is a disservice to taxpayers and science that it is still pushed by NASA."

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