Alternative theories of climate change — that is to say, those at odds with mainstream science — are now ascendant at the highest level of government, along with deep suspicion of environmental regulations. And other alt-science points of view — on vaccination, nuclear power, intelligent design — have been showing signs of purchase in the Trump administration. Even Robinson himself may soon be making tracks for Pennsylvania Avenue. Chief among his financial backers are the Mercers — hedge-fund billionaire Robert and his daughter Rebekah — who are better known these days for their avid right-wing activism and sponsorship of Steve Bannon. In March, reports emerged that Rebekah Mercer had made the case for Robinson to be the nation’s new national science adviser. “It would be an honor to do it,” he told me.
“He’s one of the founders of this whole movement,” says Joseph Bast, CEO of the Heartland Institute, which has served for 20 years as the leading think tank of the push to challenge climate science. Last year, when Robinson joined Heartland’s board of directors, Bast called him “as bold and brave a person as I have ever met.” Now Bast says that courage has been vindicated. “Time will tell,” he promised, “but it certainly seems like Robinson’s views are winning the day.”