Energy

Let’s Talk About Scott Pruitt’s ‘Denial’ Of Global Warming

The media firestorm continues over Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt’s claim that carbon dioxide is not the “primary contributor” to recent global warming.

Pruitt made his comments during an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box” earlier in March, but the political backlash is still unfolding.

Former Vice President Al Gore called it an “obviously false assertion” tantamount to “fake news.” The American Meteorological Society (AMS) said it was “indisputable” that human activities were the primary driver of global warming.

“We are not familiar with any scientific institution with relevant subject matter expertise that has reached a different conclusion,” the AMS wrote in an open letter to Pruitt released Monday — apparently forgetting there’s considerable disagreement on this issue among their own membership.

In the past week, Pruitt’s been criticized by dozens of scientists, media outlets and pundits for his remarks.

“Do you believe that it’s been proven that CO2 is the primary control knob for climate?” CNBC anchor Joe Kernen asked Pruitt during a March 9 interview.

“No, 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 responded.

“So no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,” Pruitt added.

The media was after Pruitt faster than you can say “climate denier.”

EPA chief’s climate change denial is easily refuted by the EPA’s website,” The Washington Post reported. “E.P.A. Chief Doubts Consensus View of Climate Change,” reported the same New York Times reporter who labelled Pruitt a “denialist” in December.

The Washington Post said humanity’s led role in global warming is “not questionable,” despite admitting scientists were unsure “exactly how much warming will occur after a given amount of carbon dioxide is pumped into the atmosphere.”

Environmentalists called for Pruitt to resign for allegedly misleading Congress, and Democrats joined in by pointing to the former Oklahoma attorney general’s testimony where he said EPA had an important role to play in regulating greenhouse gases.

Politifact pointed out Pruitt contradicted EPA’s own website, which says it’s “extremely likely” CO2 “is the primary greenhouse gas that is contributing to recent climate change.” They rated Pruitt’s claim as “false.”

But was he wrong? Let’s examine what Pruitt actually said versus how it was portrayed by journalists.

Pruitt said he doesn’t agree Co2 is “a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.” That’s what the media focused on, but Pruitt also noted “we don’t know that yet.”

Pruitt’s remarks to CNBC line up with what he’s been arguing for years — he’s not convinced humans there’s enough evidence to suggest humans are the driving force behind recent global warming.

He’s not rejecting the idea, but arguing he’s not been convinced by the evidence. Pruitt’s remarks suggest that could change with more research.

Most climate scientists who have publicly weighed in on Pruitt’s remarks were critical of them, but at least a couple of prominent skeptics came out in his defense.

“I do not find anything to disagree with in what he said: we don’t know how much of recent warming can be attributed to humans,” climatologist Judith Curry wrote in a blog post.

“In my opinion, this is correct and is a healthy position for both the science and policy debates,” Curry wrote.

Indeed, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change blames humanity for most of the recent global warming, meaning 51 to 99 percent. NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt says human activities caused 100 percent of recent warming.

University of Alabama climatologist Roy Spencer, on the other hand, found in 2013 that half the warming since the 1970s can be attributed to naturally-occurring El Niños.

Climate scientist Roger Pielke, Sr. said CO2 is not the dominant force behind climate change. Humans influence the climate in many ways and global warming is just one aspect of that.

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