‘Reversed and scrubbed.’ How a second Trump term could gut climate research.

By Scott Waldman | 02/02/2024 06:19 AM EST

A proposed executive order would reject federal science tied to the National Climate Assessment.

Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event.

Former President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event in Las Vegas on Jan. 27. David Becker/Getty Images

Former President Donald Trump’s second term could begin with a clear direction on climate policy: Trash it.

Dozens of conservative organizations have banded together to provide Trump a road map — known as Project 2025 — if he prevails in November. It outlines a series of steps that the former president could take to reverse the climate actions taken by the Biden administration.

Trump has already said that boosting fossil fuels would be one of his top priorities. A proposed executive order in Project 2025 offers him a path for that goal, laying out a total restructuring of the U.S. Global Change Research Program to diminish its role across more than a dozen federal agencies.


Project 2025 also calls for replacing the White House climate adviser with an “energy/environment” adviser who would pivot to serving the needs of the fossil fuel industry.

“The Biden Administration’s climate fanaticism will need a whole-of-government unwinding,” the plan states. “As with other federal departments and agencies, the Biden Administration’s leveraging of the federal government’s resources to further the woke agenda should be reversed and scrubbed from all policy manuals, guidance documents, and agendas.”

The Washington-based Heritage Foundation worked with conservative organizations to produce Project 2025, which offers 920 pages of policy prescriptions to ensure the chaos of Trump’s first term is not repeated if he gets a second. The think tank did not respond to a request for comment.

But Tom Pyle, a Project 2025 contributor and president of the American Energy Alliance, said Heritage is now recruiting Trump loyalists ready to implement the agenda on Day One. Installing personnel who can carry out such executive orders will be the key step in determining if they are followed, he said.

“Project 2025 has the potential to be an essential tool for President Trump should he be elected for a second term,” Pyle said. “But a plan is only as good as the people who implement it, so getting competent and committed conservative personnel into the administration will be more critical.”

The Trump campaign declined to provide comment to E&E News but has stated in the past that the former president will determine his own policy priorities, regardless of outside pressure.

Trump’sclimate record suggests that the proposed executive order would be in line with his energy agenda.

In recent months, he has repeatedly promised to be a “dictator for a day” to ramp up oil and gas drilling. And allies expect that he will seek to unwind President Joe Biden’s climate policies much faster than he did the policies of President Barack Obama.

‘Who knows what will happen’

Project 2025 calls for the president to use an executive order to “reshape the U.S. Global Change Research Program and related climate change research programs.”

The program was established by Congress in 1990 to coordinate federal research and spending to better understand how climate change affects the country. One of its key successes was to reveal how the depleted ozone layer was harming Americans, which led to regulations that successfully addressed the issue.

A top target of Project 2025 is the program’s National Climate Assessment, a congressionally mandated report that is due again in late 2026 or early 2027. The proposed executive order would require a “critical analysis” of the assessment and a rejection of all related climate science work prepared by the Biden administration.

In Trump’s first term, his administration worked to bury and then remake the assessment. The report was quietly released the day after Thanksgiving, when the public is less likely to pay attention to news, and Trump said he didn’t “believe” it. In the waning days of the administration, Trump officials attempted to craft the next version of the report but ran out of time.

The Trump administration only “discovered” the Global Change Research Program in its final months and officials immediately tried tampering with it by promoting bad science, said Don Wuebbles, an emeritus professor of atmospheric science at the University of Illinois who worked on all five of the climate assessments.

In a Trump White House, he said, it won’t matter that there is overwhelming scientific consensus that humans are driving climate change and that it’s a crisis that needs to be addressed.

“Those people are irresponsible and have no ethics, and unfortunately who knows what will happen in an unethical White House,” he said, adding, “What peer-reviewed science papers are they going to use as their basis? Because the current assessment is entirely based on established well-known observations and analysis.”

A Trump administration may have a hard time reversing the Inflation Reduction Act’s $370 billion in climate incentives and spending. Biden’s signature climate law has already spurred new clean energy projects and jobs across the country — many in Republican-controlled states.

But a flawed National Climate Assessment, produced by partisan researchers loyal to Trump, might help the administration gut public health regulations on the fossil fuel industry, said Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University.

While such a flawed assessment would be unreliable, he said, it could be enough to shift the opinion of a Trump-appointed judge if the administration challenged Biden’s climate policies in court.

“Environmental regulations rely on a scientific foundation,” Gerrard said. “Efforts to undermine that foundation could have serious negative effects on climate laws.”

Project 2025 also calls for an adviser who would coordinate the administration’s energy and environment policy — which focuses on weakening the federal government’s climate response across multiple federal agencies, revoking regulations that aim to limit planet-warming emissions and cutting back on permitting requirements for the fossil fuel industry.

The new “energy/environment coordinator” would report directly to the chief of staff, the document states, and “help to lead the fight for sound energy and environment policies both domestically and internationally.”