The anger and frustration among climatologists, environmentalists and others is understandable. But nobody should be surprised by the comments of Scott Pruitt, the new head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, who, in a recent interview, said he rejected the established science of climate change.
His denials about the growing danger of carbon emissions were known well before his confirmation as the nation’s top environmental official. They were reflected as much in his actions — including repeated attempts as Oklahoma’s attorney general to undermine the authority of the very agency he now heads — as his words. “I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do, and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact,” Pruitt said during an interview on the CNBC program “Squawk Box.” “So no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”
To be precise, there’s no disagreement among those who are involved in the actual measuring of climate change and the impacts of human activity. There is widespread consensus among international scientists that climate change is real and that human activity is largely responsible. There’s also little disagreement among most researchers inside the EPA itself, the primary U.S. agency in charge of issuing regulations to curtail carbon emissions to combat climate change. The EPA makes clear on its own website that “natural causes do not explain most observed warming, especially warming since the mid-20th century.” It adds that “it is extremely likely that human activities have been the dominant cause of that warming.”
Where disagreement exists is between those who want to acknowledge the science and those who don’t. As Pruitt has indicated, he is in the latter camp along with Rick Perry, the newly confirmed secretary of energy, and President Donald Trump, who has called the idea of human-caused climate change a hoax.
But the real danger of this troubling triad is not that its members really believe more research is needed. It’s that they preach with a conviction that the research is settled and that it has concluded the opposite of what scientists believe — that there is no connection between human activity and climate change, therefore justifying their push to abandon the nation’s commitments to abide by the international Paris climate agreement and dial back efforts to restrict carbon emissions. Pruitt has already called the Paris climate accord, which was signed by nearly 200 countries in 2015, a “bad deal” for the United States. And under his leadership, the EPA has already withdrawn an agency request to oil and gas companies that they issue reports on the efficiency of their equipment and their methane emissions. Apparently, the agency is no long interested in knowing.
It’s clear Pruitt’s primary interest is in ensuring blue skies for fossil fuel-based energy companies. At least he has done the nation and those dedicated to resisting his efforts a favor by making no secret of it.