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Saturday, March 18, 2017

The EPA chief who’s a climate-change skeptic

Pruitt: No need to cut emissions

In his confirmation hearings, Scott Pruitt was careful to walk “a fine line between accepting and denying climate science,” said Emily Atkin in NewRepublic.com. Now that he’s settled in as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, however, Oklahoma’s former attorney general has come out of the closet as a full-blown climate change denier. In a TV interview last week, Pruitt expressly denied that human-produced carbon dioxide is changing the climate. “No, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,” Pruitt said. He obviously does not understand science or reason, said Ryan Cooper in TheWeek.com. Experiments show that carbon dioxide absorbs infrared heat and keeps it from radiating out into space; a greenhouse with a lot of carbon dioxide gets hotter than one with low levels. Carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere have soared as civilization burns fossil fuels, and the world is undeniably heating up. Nearly all climate scientists agree the resulting droughts and heat waves, rising sea levels, and other changes pose a grave danger to humanity. Yet the man President Trump tapped to run “the agency charged with defending this nation against its most serious threat” doesn’t even believe the threat is real. That makes Pruitt “a clear and present danger to American national security, and to humanity.”

“Pruitt is absolutely right,” said Robert Tracinski in TheFederalist.com. While the data show a rise in both global temperature and CO2 levels in recent decades, association does not prove causation. The computer models predicting catastrophic warming presume the existence of a “feedback loop,” in which a relatively small injection of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere triggers a large warming effect. But how would this mechanism work in the real world, and how sensitive is the climate to CO2?  “Nobody really knows.” These are vital questions, said Julie Kelly in NationalReview.com. By challenging “climate change orthodoxy,” Pruitt is “setting the stage for a long-overdue and critical debate about how much of an impact CO2 has on global warming” one that we need to have before regulations cost our economy trillions.

 Nice try, said Robinson Meyer in TheAtlantic.com. The Right is now “embracing the concept of ‘study and debate’ as a stall, refusing to cede what actual study and debate have found.” The Trump administration will give us more of the same “dissembling” this week when the president issues an executive order repealing the Clean Power Plan, which restricted emissions from power plants. After that, Trump and Pruitt plan to gut the federal-fuel economy standards that regulate consumer vehicles’ tailpipe emissions. Meanwhile, Trump will reportedly cut the EPA’s budget by at least 25 percent and lay off 3,000 workers. Trump has “declared a war on the climate,” and Pruitt is his loyal general.

This is about “something deeper and more corrosive” than deregulation, said David Roberts in Vox.com. Trump is on a mission to undermine the credibility of every “knowledge-producing institution” in our democracy, and to establish himself as the ultimate source of Truth at least in the eyes of his supporters. Part of Scott Pruitt’s job at the EPA is to do to science what Trump himself is already doing to the press, the courts, and the intelligence community: smearing it as just another biased purveyor of politicized “fake news.” Trump can delegitimize science all he wants, said Bill McKibben in the New York Daily News, but he can’t repeal the laws of physics and chemistry. Sooner or later, “the truth will out” and humanity will pay the price.

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