EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Just Said Something So Dumb, We're Not Even Sure How To Respond

Pruitt, seen here at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland. Gage Skidmore/Flickr; CC BY-SA 2.0

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is being decimated from within by its own administrator, Scott Pruitt. Not content with this surreal act of self-destruction, though, Pruitt seems keen to muddy the waters of climate science whenever possible.

Speaking to Nevada’s News 3 a few days back, the EPA administrator was having an amiable chat with news anchor Gerard Ramalho. For some reason, while asking Pruitt's thought on climate change, Ramalho rather irritatingly suggested that “people don’t seem to dispute the fact that the climate is changing... but there are two areas that are disputed,” including whether “man is causing the climate to change.”

Quick fact check, folks: scientists are not disputing whether or not people are causing contemporary climate change, because they know that we are. Regardless, like a pyromaniac being handed a box of firelighters, Pruitt clearly relished the opportunity to spin this misinformation out.

“No-one disputes that the climate changes, is changing – that’s constant. We obviously contribute to it. We live in the climate, right?” he began, before erroneously suggesting that we only add to the climate to “a certain degree.”

Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, summed up the consensus here quite succinctly. During a recent press conference, he noted that “all of the warming in the last 60 years is attributable to human activities, and carbon dioxide emissions are the number one component of that.”

Then, Pruitt said: “We know that humans have most flourished during times of warming trends. There are assumptions made that because the climate is warming that that necessarily is a bad thing.”

Oh, Scott. You do spoil us.

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Arguably the President’s most effective weapon against clean energy and climate change mitigation, Pruitt is a dyed-in-the-wool coal advocate whose science denial serves industry interests with aplomb. Yes, the dismantling of the EPA is insidious and damaging, but so is his rhetoric, which has oscillated from “carbon dioxide does not drive the climate” to “science shouldn’t dictate American policy.”

Flat-out climate denial is becoming a bit old hat, though: the new form of denial is to accept the fact that the contemporary climate is changing, but to also deny the pace of change, deny what’s driving it, or suggest that “the climate has always changed.”

Suggesting that increasing surface temperatures may be good for humanity is a less common but equally incredulous argument to make. Fewer winter deaths and better food productivity in small pockets of the world are clearly overshadowed by the fact that, for many, the unprecedented pace of anthropogenic climate change represents anything from a danger to a full-blown existential crisis.

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