Environmentalists want the Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general to investigate whether Scott Pruitt violated internal policies when he suggested carbon emissions might not contribute to climate change.
The Sierra Club asked the independent watchdog in a letter Wednesday to check whether the former Oklahoma attorney general violated the EPA’s 2012 Scientific Integrity Policy when he told a reporter emissions were not a “primary contributor” to so-called man-made global warming.
“It’s pretty unprecedented to have the head of the EPA contradicting basic scientific facts,” Sierra Club Senior Attorney Elena Saxonhouse told reporters Wednesday.
The group’s lawyers said Pruitt’s comments contradicted a “comprehensive review” of research on climate change. EPA requires its officials and employees respect the basic findings of the scientific community.
The agency said Pruitt’s comments do not appear to run contrary to research from climate studies.
“Administrator Pruitt’s comments are perfectly in keeping with the scientific integrity policy,” John Konkus, an EPA spokesman, said in an email. “There is an ongoing scientific debate on climate change, its causes and its effect. That debate should be encouraged as the Administrator has done, not discouraged as Sierra Club is attempting to do.”
Some media outlets, meanwhile, criticized Pruitt’s comments but made allowance for at least one of his points, namely that it is difficult to determine what is causing so-called man-made global warming.
The Washington Post, for one, wrote last week that “Scientists cannot say exactly how much warming will occur after a given amount of carbon dioxide is pumped into the atmosphere — and probably will not be able to until after the warming has occurred.”
Activists railed against the EPA administrator, suggesting Pruitt had hoodwinked Congress.
Former Vice President Al Gore called his comments an “obviously false assertion” and the American Meteorological Society (AMS) said it was “indisputable” that humans are causing global warming.
Yet, he has consistently argued there is ongoing scientific debate about the extent to which man-made greenhouse gas emissions impact the climate.
“It gets cooler, it gets hotter. We don’t know the trajectory, if it is on an unsustainable course,” Pruitt told CNN in 2016 prior to becoming Trump’s EPA chief. “Nor do we know the extent by which the burning of fossil fuels, man’s contribution to that, is making this far worse than it is.”
Saxonhouse also believes the agency should go further to enforce its policies requiring staff and officials parrot studies showing a link between human design and climate change.
“It shouldn’t just be a piece of paper or some words on a website. It’s intended to protect the public from bad decision-making that’s not based on real facts,” she said.
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