Myron Ebell, advisor to US president Donald Trump on energy and climate change until 20 January, could not have been clearer.
“The environmental movement is the greatest threat to freedom and prosperity in the modern world,” he said, speaking in London at an event hosted by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a climate sceptic think tank.
Investors who have sunk billions into solar and wind energy are “gullible” he said, the science behind global warming is “vastly exaggerated”, the writing is on the wall for the UN’s climate body.
Ebell’s views are significant, as he was charged with leading the Trump’s transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which under Obama tackled climate change.
Admitting he has never actually met the president, the veteran lobbyist nonetheless expressed confidence Trump saw talk of a climate crisis as “overblown and overstated”.
Steve Bannon’s appointment as Trump’s key strategist was a sign of his disdain for climate science, suggested Ebell, pointing to Bannon’s appointment of climate sceptic journalist James Delingpole when he ran right-wing news site Breitbart.
Heading for a press conference on Trump’s climate plans purely for the pleasure of watching leftie journalists squirm. Good use of time?
— James Delingpole (@JamesDelingpole) January 30, 2017
Yet pressed on what the Oval Office will do next on climate change, Ebell was evasive – perhaps reluctant to burn bridges with the administration, perhaps acknowledging Trump is hard to predict.
“We did produce an action plan and an advisory document,” he said, which was based on policies Trump discussed during his presidential campaign.
While Ebell would not discuss this “confidential” document, he did indicate it advised Trump how the US can ditch the Paris climate deal and turn off funding for the UN climate body and Green Climate Fund.
It also outlined how the administration can “repeal all rules” linked to greenhouse gases such as the Obama era clean power plan regulating emissions from energy plants.
“The US will change course on climate policy… Trump wants to unleash American energy production,” said Ebell, speaking to a room of around 50 journalists.
Asked if a shift in global investments towards clean energy would impact the White House, Ebell demurred. “I’m not an investment guru,” he said.
Ebell on climate science
“The people of America have rejected the ‘expertariat’ about one thing after another including climate policy… climate scientists are in this for the glamour and the fame”
“If were going to have some warming it should have started… it has been vastly exaggerated.”
The best and “cleanest” way for the US to ditch its international climate commitments is to “withdraw from the framework convention”, he suggested, adding it “may be down the line”.
Rex Tillerson, former Exxon boss and Trump’s pick for chief diplomat, is on record supporting the Paris Agreement. America should keep a seat at the table, he said in his confirmation hearing.
Ebell is betting he’ll be overruled: “If Rex Tillerson disagrees with the president – who will win that? The president was elected and Rex Tillerson was appointed. I’d say the president was odds on to win.”
Still, he expected despite Trump’s blistering fusillade of executive orders ranging from bans on immigration to a medical insurance repeal, the climate piece will take time.
With the nomination of environment chief Scott Pruitt yet to win approval from Congress, the web of policies based on a 2009 court ruling that greenhouse gases are a danger to the public will stand.
Once Pruitt is in office, this should be a priority, said Ebell: “There are numerous grounds that it should be undone and I hope that it will be undone.
“My personal view is he should and the EPA should start the regulatory process to do that.” Pruitt’s confirmation vote is slated for Wednesday.