Well, this is a new one.
Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is under investigation by his own agency for misstating the basic scientific consensus on human-caused global warming.
Turns out that providing misguiding scientific information to the public isn’t a cool thing to do, after all — even in the Trump administration.
EPA administrator Scott Pruitt is fast becoming one of the most controversial of President Donald Trump’s cabinet picks. He is leading the push to unravel the Obama administration’s landmark climate change policies while overseeing a historic downsizing of the agency he runs.
But Pruitt may have crossed a legal line when, during an interview on March 9 with CNBC’s “Squawk Box” morning show, he denied the reality of human-caused climate change, contradicting findings published on his own agency’s website.
“No, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”
“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, when asked if he thinks carbon dioxide emissions are the main “control knob” on the planet’s climate.
“But we don’t know that yet, as far as … we need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis,” he said.
Pruitt’s comments put him at odds with the conclusions of his own agency’s climate scientists, who have found that carbon dioxide emissions endanger public health and welfare.
At the urging of the Sierra Club, the EPA’s scientific integrity official is reviewing Pruitt’s comments to see if they violate the agency’s scientific integrity policy, which requires that all agency employees — including political appointees like Pruitt — “communicate with honesty, integrity, and transparency.”
The policy also states that policy makers “… Shall not knowingly misrepresent, exaggerate, or downplay areas of scientific uncertainty associated with policy decisions.”
While there is debate within the scientific community about the specific impacts and severity of global warming, there is virtually no daylight between climate scientists regarding why the world is warming in the first place, let alone carbon dioxide’s leading role in causing it.
In requesting an agency review into Pruitt’s CNBC interview the Sierra Club wrote in a March 14 letter: “Coming from the head of EPA in a major public forum, these statements undermine and delegitimize established climate science. They represent a significant loss of scientific integrity at the agency.”
The EPA has not specified an end date for the investigation, but said the matter could be referred back to the Office of the Inspector General, who could take disciplinary action.
“Administrator Pruitt makes no apologies for having a candid dialogue about climate science and commonsense regulations that will protect our environment, without creating unnecessary regulatory burdens that kill jobs,” EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said in response to an initial Reuters story on the inquiry.
“Differing views and opinions on scientific and technical matters is a legitimate and necessary part of EPA’s decision-making process, which is consistent with EPA’s scientific integrity policy that was in place even during the Obama administration,” she added.
According to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations has contributed the most to global warming since 1750, when accounting for other greenhouse gases and natural factors that influence the climate, such as volcanoes and solar variability.
Last year was the warmest on record since 1880, beating out 2015 for the title. Not coincidentally, carbon dioxide levels are at their highest in all of human history.