Calls flood EPA after chief’s remarks
Scott Pruitt questioned link between human activity, climate change
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