Democratic lawmakers and environmentalists are ramping up their campaign against President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to head the EPA.
Clean Air Moms Action (CAMA) launched a massive ad campaign against Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s nomination to head EPA in seven states and Washington, D.C. The ad specifically focuses on Pruitt’s opposition to EPA’s $10 billion mercury regulation.
Others have gone further and called Pruitt a “climate change denier.” Democratic lawmakers are using Pruitt’s “denier” status as a rallying cry for activists to put up roadblocks during his confirmation hearings.
“The EPA is in charge of clean air for America. We must not have a professional climate denier in charge. This is an emergency,” Hawaii Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz tweeted Monday.
Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Ed Markey also attacked Pruitt for “denying climate change.” Markey said EPA would come to mean “Every Polluters Ally” under Pruitt.
Indeed, major media outlets reported Trump appointed a “climate denier” to head EPA. The New York Times ran with the headline: “Trump Picks Scott Pruitt, Climate Change Denialist, to Lead E.P.A.”
But is Pruitt actually a “denier” of man-made global warming?
The evidence for Pruitt’s denialism centers on one line from a May 2016 National Review column he co-authored with Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange.
Pruitt’s column criticized a group of Democratic attorneys general investigating ExxonMobil and conservative think tanks for opposing federal climate regulations. It was not about climate science.
“Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind,” wrote Pruitt and Strange.
Notice that Pruitt and Strange never question the existence of global warming. They simply state there is disagreement over its “degree and extent” and its connection to human activities, not its existence.
The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), often cited by scientists as the global authority on global warming, highlighted the uncertainties in climate science in its latest report.
IPCC said it’s “extremely likely that more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010” by human activities.
IPCC also reported “[g]reenhouse gases contributed a global mean surface warming likely to be in the range of 0.5°C to 1.3°C over the period 1951 to 2010.” IPCC projects future warming could be anywhere from 1.5 to 4.5 degrees Celsius depending on the assumptions built into climate models.
NPR’s David Greene questioned former EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman, a Pruitt critic, on this very subject. He asked her to point to a single time he denied that climate change is happening. She couldn’t.
Green said his “colleagues at NPR who report on science have looked very hard to find if there’s been an explicit time when he has said that.”
“Do you know of a time when he’s actually denied climate change?” Greene asked.
Whitman could only say Pruitt’s “actions” against the EPA are a form of denial.
“It’s a little bit like Donald Trump,” Whitman said. “I mean, do you believe what he says or what he does? He says he wants to talk about climate change. But the people he appoints are people who have, time and again, sued the agency or said things that would indicate that they really don’t believe that climate change is a serious issue. It’s concerning.”
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