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Demonstrators hold signs against Scott Pruitt's nomination to head the EPA. (Photo: Lorie Shaull/flickr/cc)

Call It What It Is: Climate Cover-Up, Not Climate Denial

Jeff Biggers

Today’s remarks by EPA administrator Scott Pruitt that human activity is not “a primary contributor to the global warming that we see” should effectively bring an end to the term formerly known as “climate denial.”

Dear media: Call it what it is—a climate cover-up.

As our nation’s top official sworn into office to ensure, “national efforts to reduce environmental risk are based on the best available scientific information,” Pruitt’s statement on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” raises some troubling questions on his ability to carry out his agency’s mandate—or even provide a forthright characterization of his agency’s scientific work.

“I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact,” Pruitt said on CNBC, “so no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”

Tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact of human activity on the climate?

Not so, according to Pruitt’s own EPA and its website on climate change: Humans are largely responsible for recent climate change.

Not so, according to the NASA Global Climate Change website, which reminds us that “multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.” Among the hundreds of scientific organizations that “hold the position that climate change has been caused by human action,” NASA features the statements of every major scientific organization, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Chemical Society, American Geophysical Union, American Medical Association, American Meteorological Society, The Geological Society of America, American Physical Society, and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, U.S. Global Change Research Program and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which concluded: “Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.”

Not so, according to Exxon’s own research team in 1977, as Inside Climate News reported in its expose in 2015: “In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels,” Black told Exxon’s Management Committee, according to a written version he recorded later.

Therefore, let’s finally put to rest the prevarication of “climate denial” terminology.

Like Pruitt’s own entanglement with oil and gas producers, the bizarre anatomy of denial has a long paper trail of “bankrolled public relations firms and their bogus fronts and campaigns have deliberately sought to manipulate the media, mangle the language of real science, and effectively derail any public policy or action to halt the spiraling climate crisis.”

Those of us whose families in coal country have paid the ultimate price for such denials, in the form of black lung disease that still rages, cancer-linked strip-mining operations that still rage, and contaminated toxic water, understand the difference between denial—and a full blown cover-up.

With the fallout of record warming temperatures, a growing climate migration crisis and vanishing arctic sea ice, that cover-up is not just a question of semantics.

It’s a question of the EPA’s fundamental mission—and our planet’s future.

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