Cli­mate change isn’t due to CO2, Pruitt says

View is at odds with sci­ence con­sen­sus; crit­ics re­buke him.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Matthew Daly

The new chief of the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency said Thurs­day he does not be­lieve that car­bon diox­ide is a pri­mary con­trib­u­tor to global warm­ing, a state­ment at odds with main­stream sci­en­tific con­sen­sus and his own agency.

EPA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Scott Pruitt said mea­sur­ing the ef­fect of hu­man ac­tiv­ity on the cli­mate is “very chal­leng­ing” and that “there’s tremen­dous dis­agree­ment about the de­gree of im­pact” of car­bon diox­ide and other green­house gases.

“So, no, I would not agree that (car­bon diox­ide) is a pri­mary con­trib­u­tor to the global warm­ing that we see,” Pruitt told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

Pruitt’s view is con­trary to those of agen­cies at the heart of main­stream cli­mate sci­ence, in­clud­ing NASA, the Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion and the EPA itself.

Car­bon diox­ide from sources such as cars and coal-burn­ing power plants is re­spon­si­ble for about 33 times more added warm­ing than nat­u­ral causes, ac­cord­ing to cal­cu­la­tions from the No­bel Prize-win­ning In­tergovern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change or­ga­nized by the United Na­tions.

“Scott Pruitt is just wrong on this,” said MIT at­mo­spheric sci­en­tist Kerry Emanuel.

NASA and NOAA re­ported in Jan­uary that Earth’s av­er­age tem­per­a­ture in 2016 was the high­est ever. The planet’s av­er­age sur­face tem­per­a­ture has risen about 2 de­grees Fahren­heit since the late 19th cen­tury, “a change driven largely by in­creased car­bon diox­ide and other hu­man-made emis­sions into the at­mos­phere,” the agen­cies said in a joint state­ment.

The EPA says on its web­site that “car­bon diox­ide is the pri­mary green­house gas that is con­tribut­ing to re­cent cli­mate change.” Hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties, such as the burn­ing of fos­sil fu­els, “re­lease large amounts of CO2, caus­ing con­cen­tra­tions in the at­mos­phere to rise,” the web­site says.

En­vi­ron­men­tal groups and Democrats seized on Pruitt’s com­ments as ev­i­dence he is un­fit for the of­fice he holds.

“The ar­son­ist is now in charge of the fire depart­ment, and he seems happy to let the cli­mate cri­sis burn out of control,” said Sierra Club ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Michael Brune.

Pruitt “is spew­ing cor­po­rate pol­luter talk­ing points rather than ful­fill­ing the EPA’s mis­sion of pro­tect­ing our air, our wa­ter and our com­mu­ni­ties,” Brune said, not­ing that EPA has a le­gal re­spon­si­bil­ity to ad­dress car­bon pol­lu­tion.

The EPA is­sued a state­ment Thurs­day af­ter­noon re­it­er­at­ing that Pruitt be­lieves the cli­mate is warm­ing, in part due to hu­man ac­tiv­ity. “Many ques­tions re­main how­ever that should be de­bated: how much is the cli­mate chang­ing, to what ex­tent is hu­man ac­tiv­ity in­volved and what to do about it?” the agency said.

Pruitt pre­vi­ously served as Ok­la­homa at­tor­ney gen­eral, where he rose to promi­nence as a leader of chal­lenges to for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s reg­u­la­tory agenda. But Pruitt said dur­ing his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing in Jan­uary that cli­mate change is real — break­ing with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and his own past state­ments.

“I do not be­lieve cli­mate change is a hoax,” Pruitt said.

MELISSA PHILLIP / HOUS­TON CHRON­I­CLE

En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency Ad­min­is­tra­tor Scott Pruitt speaks Thurs­day dur­ing the CERAWeek global en­ergy con­fer­ence in Hous­ton. Op­po­nents at­tacked Pruitt’s re­marks to CNBC’s “Squawk Box” about the role of car­bon diox­ide in cli­mate change.

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