By Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House is advancing plans to form a presidential panel that will question science used in U.S. military and intelligence reports showing that human-driven climate change poses national security risks, according to a source briefed by participants in the negotiations.
The National Security Council at the White House has been considering the formation of a climate panel that would likely be headed by William Happer, a retired Princeton University physics professor who says greenhouse gas emissions are good for the planet and who lacks a background in climate science.
Happer said on CNBC in 2014 that the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, has been demonized, "just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler."
The NSC held a meeting on Feb. 22 to discuss the 12-member panel. Next the NSC will likely send participants a document for comment, the source said. Then there will likely be a deputies' meeting and a cabinet meeting before President Donald Trump puts forward an executive order calling for the panel.
Trump has repeatedly questioned whether humans are causing climate change and has been angered by reports from his military and intelligence agencies that storms, droughts and floods made worse by climate change pose national security risks. Trump's administration has pursued policies to boost output of oil, gas and coal and roll back emissions limits on power plants, cars and trucks.
U.S. military bases, including North Carolina's Camp Lejeune, have suffered billions of dollars in damage from recent hurricanes and climate change could force the military to increase global humanitarian missions.
At last week's meeting, attendees also discussed downgrading the panel to an ad hoc advisory group that would not be subject to rules of a panel, also known as a federal advisory committee, including that meetings must be subject to public records requests. That idea was first reported by the Washington Post. But several officials opposed forming an ad hoc panel, the source said.
"There were more people at the meeting in support of forming the panel than those who voiced opposition," said the source who spoke on condition of anonymity. John Bolton, Trump's national security adviser who supports forming the committee, is expected to talk with military and intelligence officials who oppose it, the source said.
If the presidential panel is formed it would feature scientists including Steven Koonin, a New York University professor who has written editorials questioning whether climate science is settled and who served at the Department of Energy under President Barack Obama.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The heads of four committees in the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives decried the panel and sent Trump a letter asking for the names of people on it.
Such a panel would run counter to the "overwhelming scientific consensus on the causes and impacts of climate change," the House chairs, Adam Smith, Frank Pallone, Raul Grijalva and Eddie Bernice Johnson, said in the letter.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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