Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt made heads turn on CNBC Thursday morning when he argued against decades of scientific consensus and said that carbon dioxide emissions aren't a primary driver of global warming.
In doing so, Pruitt directly opposed his own statements to the U.S. Senate. (This wouldn't be the first time that Pruitt lied to or misled Congress.)
In his answer to a question on the record (pdf, page 122) from Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Pruitt wrote: "I also believe the Administrator has an important role when it comes to the regulation of carbon dioxide, which I will fulfill consistent with Massachusetts v. EPA and the agency's Endangerment Finding on Greenhouse Gases respective of the applicable statutory framework established by Congress."
The EPA's 2009 endangerment finding stated that six greenhouse gases, including CO2, "threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations." The lawsuit Massachusetts v. EPA was a landmark 2007 case in which 12 states sued the George W. Bush-era EPA for failing to regulate carbon dioxide emissions.
Yet Pruitt, who has stacked his staff with climate change deniers, is now declaring that he doesn't believe CO2 is "a primary contributor to global warming," earning the ire of climate scientists the world over:
Climate scientists are *outraged* at @EPAScottPruitt today.
"Mr. Pruitt’s knowledge is close to 200 years out of date."
More responses: pic.twitter.com/b7v6LL0cDl
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— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) March 9, 2017
"The arsonist is now in charge of the fire department, and he seems happy to let the climate crisis burn out of control," said the Sierra Club's Michael Brune in a statement. "As Pruitt testified before Congress, it is the legal duty of the EPA to tackle the carbon pollution that fuels the climate crisis, but now he is spewing corporate polluter talking points rather than fulfilling the EPA's mission of protecting our air, our water, and our communities."
"Anyone concerned about the future of our planet should be resisting the pro-polluter Trump/Pruitt agenda at every turn."
—Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch
Pruitt's rediscovered climate change denialism comes as scientists say that February's bizarrely balmy temperatures—which brought an early spring to a large swath of the country—were a direct result of climate change.
"The rise in planetary heat made the freakishly warm February at least three times more likely than it was around 120 years ago, according to the analysis by scientists working on the World Weather Attribution team," reported Climate Central. "While it was a month to remember, by mid-century that type of heat could occur every three years unless carbon pollution is curtailed."
The latest research echoes findings from the U.S. Geological Survey, whose analysis in February showed that "climate change is variably advancing the onset of spring across the United States," as the Washington Post reported.
Many environmentalists charge Pruitt with working solely to advance the interests of the fossil fuel industry—as he apparently did in his decision last week to revoke the federal government's requirement that oil and gas corporations report methane emissions.
"It's become abundantly clear by now that Scott Pruitt is an anti-fact, anti-science climate change denier," said Wenonah Hauter, director of Food & Water Watch. "Does he also believe the Earth is flat? Does he also believe the Moon landings were a hoax? More likely, he'll simply say and do anything necessary to promote the corporate interests and enable the profits of the oil and gas industry. Anyone concerned about the future of our planet should be resisting the pro-polluter Trump/Pruitt agenda at every turn."