WASHINGTON — For the first time since he took office, President Trump has a science adviser. Kelvin Droegemeier is a meteorologist and, by all accounts, a thorough, well-respected scientist. But he doesn't appear to be the climate-change savior scientists hoped he’d be.
Droegemeier, 60, became director of the White House Office of Science and Technology in January. And there was little on the record about his specific views on climate change. But given his stellar reputation, scientists might expect him to act as a corrective to a president who regularly uses winter storms to mock climate change and erroneously suggests that global warming isn’t real.
So when the news came in late February that the White House was putting together a panel to see if climate change is really a threat, even though the Defense Department has already said it is, and that this panel would be run by renowned physicist William Happer —who thinks carbon dioxide is “a benefit to the world” — it felt like an opportunity to delve a little deeper.
But in an interview in his brand-new office next to the White House, Droegemeier evaded questions about his own views. He told VICE News he has no opinion on the president’s winter-storm tweets and has no plans to talk to him about them.
“The main thing for me is to provide the president with the best science advice possible,” he said.
Droegemeier said he does believe climate change is occurring, and that humans play a “significant” role in it. But he ultimately landed on a standard refrain often heard within the Republican Party, arguing that humans aren’t the main culprit. “If you say humans are the cause of climate change, that's incorrect because climate change is due to humans and natural variability,” he said.
As for the man running the panel, Droegemeier attempted to explain Happer’s comments on carbon dioxide by referencing plants. “Well, obviously plants, you know, in their respiratory processes, take up carbon,” he said. When we noted that's not what scientists typically mean when they talk about carbon emissions, he agreed but said we'd have to talk to Happer about that.
Asked if he, like Happer, thinks carbon emissions are good for the planet, he said, “I don’t really have any view on Will’s opinions. My goal is to gather all the best science evidence I can, and present it to the president.”
This segment originally aired February 28, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.