Just when it appeared that that the zealously anti-environmental congressional veteran Cathy McMorris Rodgers would be granted the nomination to become the next Secretary of the Interior, Donald Trump announced that he is picking an inexperienced freshman member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Ryan Zinke, for the post.
Zinke’ only relevant experience for the job of Secretary of the Interior is that he has served one two-year term in Congress.
What’s more, Zinke appears to be an even more enthusiastic proponent of corporate pollution. While McMorris Rodgers had a 4% approval rating from the League of Conservation Voters, Zinke’s approval rating with the group is 3%.
Zinke’s opposition to a clean environment appears to be a matter of political ambition rather than sincere intellectual consideration. In 2010, Zinke signed a letter to President Obama urging him to pass strong legislation to confront climate change. By 2014, though, Zinke had decided that he wanted to run for Congress, and decided that in order to get funding from dirty energy corporations, he should switch into full bore right wing climate change denial.
The tactic worked. Zinke gained a seat in Congress using of hundreds of thousands of dollars donated by fossil fuel corporations – much of which was spent through shadowy independent expenditures that can’t be directly traced.
Zinke announced that anthropogenic climate change is “not proven science” even though it clearly is, as a review of the scientific work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows. The IPCC, the largest international body of scientists researching climate change, which, upon reviewing the latest scientific data, which is astonishingly vast and well-analyzed, concludes in its report, “Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems. Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen.”
In his earnest attempts to keep his corporate benefactors happy, Zinke has swerved into absurdity, going so far as to claim that climate change won’t necessarily impact the weather. By definition, climate impacts the weather.
Of course, Zinke doesn’t have a degree in climatology. He does have training in the methods of mining for dirty fossil fuels, and seems to have unsuccessfully attempted to expand his understanding of rocks and crude oil into a botched political ideology that denying scientists’ understanding of complex climate systems.
That Zinke’s statements about climate change make no rational sense matters less than the fact that they demonstrate his allegiance to powerful fossil fuels corporations who are willing to send him checks as he works to prevent any meaningful government action to confront global warming, ocean acidification, and sea level rise.
Zinke promotes the burning of more coal, more crude oil, and more gas – the very same practices that got us into the current climate crisis in the first place. Zinke calls this policy “all of the above” which in practice means burn everything you can, and to hell with the consequences.
As Secretary of the Interior, Zinke will be in a position to grant access to public wilderness to the very same corporations that have been sending him money to prop up his young political career. So, the pollution that Zinke is poised to bring to Washington D.C. won’t just be in the form of dirty air and water. Zinke travels with the distinct stench of political corruption as well.