Calls flood EPA after chief’s re­marks

Scott Pruitt ques­tioned link be­tween hu­man ac­tiv­ity, cli­mate change

The Washington Post Sunday - - THE WORLD - BY JULIET EILPERIN AND BRADY DEN­NIS juliet.eilperin@wash­post.com brady.den­nis@wash­post.com

En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency Ad­min­is­tra­tor Scott Pruitt’s phones have been ring­ing off the hook since he ques­tioned the link be­tween hu­man ac­tiv­ity and cli­mate change on Thurs­day.

The calls to Pruitt’s main line reached such a high vol­ume by Fri­day that agency of­fi­cials cre­ated an im­promptu call cen­ter, ac­cord­ing to three agency em­ploy­ees. The of­fi­cials spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity out of fear of re­tal­i­a­tion. By Satur­day morn­ing, calls went straight to voice mail, which was full and did not ac­cept mes­sages.

EPA spokes­woman Nancy Gran­tham said in an email that as of Fri­day night the agency “has logged about 300 calls and emails.”

Al­though con­stituents some­times call law­mak­ers in large num­bers to ex­press ou­trage over con­tentious pol­icy is­sues, it is un­usual to tar­get a Cabi­net of­fi­cial.

Pruitt’s com­ments on the CNBC pro­gram “Squawk Box” — that “we need to con­tinue the de­bate and con­tinue the re­view and the anal­y­sis” over cli­mate change — prompted an im­me­di­ate push­back from many sci­en­tists and en­vi­ron­men­tal groups. It also drew a re­buke from at least two of Pruitt’s pre­de­ces­sors at the EPA.

“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, so no, I would not agree that it’s a pri­mary con­trib­u­tor to the global warm­ing that we see,” Pruitt said on CNBC.

There is no im­me­di­ate ev­i­dence that any en­vi­ron­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions or­ga­nized the del­uge of calls to the new EPA ad­min­is­tra­tor, but a sin­gle com­ment on Red­dit — which in­cluded the phone num­ber to the EPA Of­fice of the Ad­min­is­tra­tor — may have helped spur the out­pour­ing of crit­i­cism.

Pruitt’s com­ments put him at odds with the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of sci­en­tists, most world lead­ers and even his pre­de­ces­sors at the agency.

The U.N. In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change has con­cluded that it is “ex­tremely likely that hu­man in­flu­ence has been the dom­i­nant cause of the ob­served warm­ing since the mid20th cen­tury” — a po­si­tion re­it­er­ated on the EPA’s web­site.

On Fri­day, the Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced that the level of car­bon diox­ide in the at­mos­phere rose at a record pace for the sec­ond straight year. The two-year surge in car­bon con­cen­tra­tions that took place in 2015 and 2016 has no prece­dent in the 59 years in which the agency has been track­ing it.

But re­cently, re­tired Ge­or­gia In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy cli­mate sci­en­tist Ju­dith Curry, who has ques­tioned the ex­tent to which hu­mans have con­trib­uted to cli­mate change, ar­gued that Pruitt should not have come un­der fire.

“If I am in­ter­pret­ing Pruitt’s state­ments cor­rectly, I do not find any­thing to dis­agree with in what he said: we don’t know how much of re­cent warm­ing can be at­trib­uted to hu­mans,” she wrote on her blog. “In my opin­ion, this is cor­rect and is a healthy po­si­tion for both the sci­ence and pol­icy de­bates.” More at wash­ing­ton­post.com/ news/en­ergy-en­vi­ron­ment

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