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.@EPAScottPruitt rejects basic science: is there media normalizing

March 9th, 2017 · 2 Comments

When it comes to climate science, Donald Trump arrogantly shows his total lack of intellectual curiosity and disdainfully rejects the world’s leading scientists’ and scientific institutions conclusion that 

  • climate change is real
  • humanity is driving this change
  • this is creating serious risks

Science denial isn’t isolated to the Oval Office, it is one of the most unifying features of @TeamTrump.

With that in mind, while depressing, Scott Pruitt’s open statements that he rejects basic science on CNBC’s Squak Box aren’t shocking:

Kernan: Do you believe that it’s been proven that CO2 is the primary control knob for climate? Do you believe that?


No, 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’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see. But we don’t know that yet, as far as — we need to continue debate — continue the review and analysis.

Pruitt, as Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, ‘owns’ some of the best climate science in the world and yet is rejecting perhaps the most basic and longest understood item in the field. As Professor John Abraham put it in an email

Scientists have known since the mid 1800s that carbon dioxide was a major greenhouse gas. This means Mr Pruitt is knowledge is close to 200 years out of date.
This post really isn’t the place for a (yet another review) of the science but here is a great place to start as to how the science really is settled on the basic points of climate change including that CO2 emissions from human activity is the prime driver in climate change.
Now, there are several options to explain Pruitt’s rejection of basic science:
  • Pruitt is an absolute idiot who can’t comprehend basic science…
  • The science is inconvenient ideologically …
    • and thus rejected

The second seems to fit Occam’s Razor — the simplest explanation for the situation that meets all the facts. [UPDATE: David Roberts’ excellent post focuses on this–that the denialism is ex post facto the decision to prevent action on climate.]

Now, Pruitt’s revealing statement is generating lots of buzz.

Within reporting, even ‘honest’ reporting seeking to make clear the #AlternativeFacts nature of Pruitt’s comments, the framing is all too often ‘normalizing’ and understating the outrageousness of the EPA directly holding such anti-science attitudes. For example, here is Tim DeChristopher at CNBC:

The statement contradicts the public stance of the agency Pruitt leads. The EPA’s webpage on the causes of climate change states, “Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas that is contributing to recent climate change.”

Pruitt’s view is also at odds with the opinion of NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Here are some more honest statements:

The media norm creates a ‘he says, she says’ that understates the dangerous nature of the Violently Radical GOP Extremism (ViRGE) Trump regime.

Fossil foolish rejection of basic science runs rampant through the GOP and (climate) science denial is the norm for @TeamTrump as it is a critical tool to prevent ideologically-rejected action to mitigate climate change (primarily through moving off fossil fuels).  Perhaps we owe #PollutingPruitt a thank you for making this so explicitly clear …

Here are a few scientists’ perspective on this:

Ben Santer, climate researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory:

“Mr. Pruitt has claimed that carbon dioxide caused by human activity is not ‘the primary contributor to the global warming that we see.’ Mr. Pruitt is wrong. The scientific community has studied this issue for decades. The consensus message from many national and international assessments of the science is pretty simple: Natural factors can’t explain the size or patterns of observed warming. A large human influence on global climate is the best explanation for the warming we’ve measured and monitored. The human contribution to recent warming is mainly due to carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning. Human-caused warming dwarfs the warming caused by natural factors. We can’t afford to reject this clear and compelling scientific evidence when we make public policy. Embracing ignorance is not an option.”

Kerry Emanuel, Cecil & Ida Green Professor of Atmospheric Science and Co-Director of the Lorenz Center at MIT:

“According to the most authoritative compilation of scientific research, that undertaken perennially by the IPCC, increasing carbon dioxide has been the dominant source of global warming , followed by methane, halogenated gases, and nitrous oxide, all of whose concentrations have increased primarily from human activity.”

Dr. Kevin Trenberth, Distinguished Senior Scientist, National Center for Atmospheric Research:

“Pruitt has demonstrated that he is unqualified to run the EPA or any agency. There is no doubt whatsoever that the planet is warming and it is primarily due to increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from burning of fossil fuels.  Carbon dioxide has increased by over 40% in the atmosphere since pre-industrial times, but over half of that increase has occurred since 1980.  Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and we can demonstrate clearly that the observed warming of the planet would not have occurred without that change in atmospheric composition. These are scientific facts, not opinion, and it is incumbent on politicians to take account of the scientific evidence.”

Don Wuebbles, Harry E. Preble Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Illinois:

“I suggest he talk with his own scientists and read the National Climate Assessment.”

Noah Diffenbaugh, Professor in the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences and Kimmelman Family Senior Fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment:

“We know that global warming is happening, and that the climate is changing. It’s clear that humans are the primary cause. It’s clear that we are already being impacted by climate change here in the United States. To deny that reality not only is a denial of scientific evidence but it also threatens the safety and security of Americans who face increasing odds of extreme events like the California drought, the flooding from Superstorm Sandy, and the heat wave that decimated crops in the mid-west in 2012.”

John Abraham, Professor, School of Engineering, University of St. Thomas:

“Actually scientists have known since the mid 1800s that carbon dioxide was a major greenhouse gas. This means Mr. Pruitt’s knowledge is close to 200 years out of date.”

Richard Somerville, Distinguished Professor Emeritus and Research Professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego:

“CO2 is the most important control on climate. Our burning of coal, oil and gas is the dominant cause of the 45% increase in CO2 since the industrial revolution. The biggest unknown about future climate is human behavior. Everything depends on what people and their governments do. Scott Pruitt should begin his new job by accepting the fundamental findings of modern climate science.”


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Tags: climate change · climate zombies · Energy · EPA · science · Trump Administration

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 John Egan // Mar 9, 2017 at 8:06 pm

    Gee – wouldn’t it be nice to have someone like Dr. Curry heading the EPA, instead?

    What would be ‘nice’ is a GOP that actually cared about national security, the Russian connection(s) into this White House, and the serial Constitutional issues of the Donald Trump kleptocratic kakistocracy.

    You don’t think there’s any connection between actions taken by climate activists and an alienation of an increasing number of people who don’t share their exact views and are dubbed “deniers’ – do you?

    FYI — ‘growing science denial’ is at odds with polling on climate.

    You bought it – – you own it.

    Who ‘bought it’ are those who bought into decades of propaganda with Russian support to (working with?) GOP, and a GOP that is in bed with rejection of science. World is ‘suffering’ with …

  • 2 John Egan // Mar 24, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    Did you hear the one about Keystone XL ??

    It goes something like this:

    “What do you get when you cross an energy litmus test that costs a dozen Dem senators with an agenda that consistently is at the bottom of issues ranked by voters?”

    “A permanent Democratic minority.”

    So you shouldn’t be too surprised, mon ami.