Scott Pruitt, the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, touched off the most easily predicted firestorm in agency history last week when he announced on CNBC that he does not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming.
"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," he told CNBC on March 9. "But we don't know that yet. ... We need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis."
The rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide has been inexorable since the beginning of the industrial age, when human beings began burning fossil fuel at ever-increasing rates.
The EPA's own web page states flatly (for the time being) that "Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas that is contributing to recent climate change." Generations yet unborn will pay the price for Pruitt's willful ignorance.
No one familiar with Pruitt's record as Oklahoma's attorney general should have been surprised by his remark. He filed 14 lawsuits against the EPA challenging various agency rules and regulations that bothered the oil and gas industry, which controls politics in Oklahoma. President Trump named Pruitt to head the EPA precisely because he shared Pruitt's facts-be-damned attitude.
Pruitt and Trump are making policy that defies settled science.
For starters, they're pulling the U.S. out of the Paris accords on climate change; abandoning the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan that places restrictions on coal-burning power plants; threatening to roll back mileage standards for American-made cars and trucks; and abandoning the Obama administration's Waters of the United States rule. It's settled science that what goes into a small stream eventually makes its way into a large stream, usually by way of municipal drinking water systems. All of these changes would save industries money, but all would make the air and water dirtier and more dangerous.
The Trump administration, in service of its goal of raising military spending by $52 billion, hopes to cut the EPA's $8.2 billion budget by 31 percent. Congress is unlikely to go along with that, because here's the EPA's dirty little secret:
Most of EPA's spending isn't on climate change research, though that will certainly be gone. Most of its money is spent on grants to state and local governments for a variety of clean water, clean air and environmental cleanup programs. Grants to small-town and big city water and sewage systems and industrial site cleanups would be reduced.
Out where people live, they like clean air and water. If Republicans gut the EPA budget, they'll find that out.
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