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Climate change and energy

Think Rex Tillerson was bad on climate change? His successor’s likely to be worse.

March 13, 2018

The ousting of the US Secretary of state spells more bad news for the climate. 

The news: Donald Trump very publicly fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on March 13, delivering the news via Twitter. In the same tweet, the US president named CIA director Mike Pompeo as Tillerson’s proposed replacement, pending confirmation.

Climate skeptic: We’ll leave it to other publications to comment on Pompeo’s hawkish foreign policy stance, opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, and politicizing of intelligence matters. But his appointment also raises serious concerns regarding clean energy and climate change, since Pompeo has been an outspoken skeptic of global warming.

Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon, wasn’t exactly a cheerleader for clean energy. But in a blog post, Harvard economist Robert Stavins notes that whatever shortcomings Tillerson possessed, he is “at least an adult” on climate matters, who recognized the “scientific reality of human-induced climate change,” supported a carbon tax, and called the Paris climate deal “an important step forward.”

Pompeo, on the other hand, believes the Obama administration’s climate agenda was far too radical, characterizing the former president’s belief that climate change is a national security issue as “ignorant, dangerous, and absolutely unbelievable.”

What harm could Pompeo do? The Trump administration has already alienated much of the world on the subject of climate change, including close US allies. But a bellicose foreign policy could do even more damage to fragile relations and fledgling momentum on climate issues.

“Mr. Pompeo’s entry, assuming he is confirmed by the U.S. Senate, will constitute yet another sad chapter in the short history of the sorry state of governance under the presidency of Donald Trump,” Stavins wrote.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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