When it comes to lines on a resume you would expect to see for newly installed Donald Trump campaign CEO Stephen Bannon, executive chairman of the conservative blog Breitbart News makes perfect sense. Far more surprising is his mid-‘90s gig as the acting director of Biosphere 2, a massive closed ecosystem and research facility in the Arizona desert.
Mother Jones has the fascinating story on how Bannon came to run, however briefly, the $200 million scientific facility, which began life in 1991 in part as an attempt to demonstrate the viability of facilities like Biosphere 2 — the entire rest of Earth constitutes Biosphere 1 — in future space colonization. The initial plan was to prove eight people could survive for two years in a completely closed, self-sustaining environment. Turns out they really, really couldn’t: Ants and cockroaches ran amok, the filtration systems kept clogging, and the crew members began fighting as the troubles mounted. After this failure, Space Biospheres Ventures needed outside help.
Enter Stephen Bannon, a successful businessman and investment banker. Mother Jones details the opposition he faced from some of the original team of researchers, but he did oversee a shift in the research focus of Biosphere 2 away from two-year tests of survival to research topics of more pressing concern to society. Including, rather remarkably, climate change. The article quotes from a 1995 interview Bannon gave to C-Span, in which he explains climate scientists looked at Biosphere 2’s atmosphere as a potentially useful approximation of what Earth’s atmosphere could look like in 2100.
“So the power of this place,” Bannon explained, “is allowing those scientists who are really involved in the study of global change, and which, in the outside world — or Biosphere 1 — really have to work with just computer simulation, this actually allows them to study and monitor the impact of enhanced CO2 and other greenhouse gases on humans, plants, and animals.”
That’s a far cry from Donald Trump’s stance on climate change, as the Republican nominee has repeatedly called climate change “a hoax.” Bannon’s statements here also sound nothing like the climate position of Breitbart News, which he ran for four years before joining the Trump campaign. As Mother Jones points out, Breitbart has been characteristically pugnacious in writing about climate change, “mocking climate science as ‘tosh’ and ‘eco-propaganda’ and claiming that the Earth is actually cooling.” It’s possible Bannon’s position has changed in 20 years, or that a consummate businessman like Bannon was happy to talk up Biosphere 2’s value to climate scientists as long as he saw profit in it without believing in any of it personally.
In any event, in case none of what mid-‘90s Steve Bannon has to say about climate sounds much like what you would expect to hear from the Trump campaign’s CEO, well, here:
During a 1996 trial, Bannon testified that he had called one of the plaintiffs a “self-centered, deluded young woman” and a “bimbo.” He also testified that when the woman submitted a five-page complaint outlining safety problems at the site, he promised to shove the complaint “down her fucking throat.”