Climate change isn’t due to CO2, Pruitt says
View is at odds with science consensus; critics rebuke him.
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.
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.