EPA head falsely claims carbon emissions aren’t the cause of global warming

Pruitt won’t listen to scientists, but he promises he’s listening to industry.

Scott Pruitt on CNBC’s Squawk Box on Thursday. CREDIT: Screenshot via CNBC
Scott Pruitt on CNBC’s Squawk Box on Thursday. CREDIT: Screenshot via CNBC

The man in charge of the protecting the country’s environment, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box on Thursday morning and falsely claimed carbon dioxide emissions are not the “primary contributer” of 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 said.

Pruitt might choose not to accept that fact, but it’s true. Scientists have found a causal relationship between the carbon dioxide humanity has been spewing into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution and the ever-increasing global temperatures.

The global carbon dioxide level is expected to reach a record high this spring, as it has over the last several years. Meanwhile, the country has been experiencing record warmth, and sea ice is approaching — if it hasn’t already begun — a death spiral.

The Supreme Court has already sided with the EPA in ruling carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is a pollutant, and, as such, must be regulated. In response, the EPA, under Obama, formulated the Clean Power Plan, which seeks to limit carbon emissions from the electricity sector, one of the leading contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and, therefore, to global warming.

During his confirmation hearing, Pruitt told Senators he would not try to overturn the pollutant finding, but he has repeatedly said that human activity has not been adequately linked to climate change.

In the same interview Thursday, Pruitt explained why the agency withdrew a request for information from oil and gas producers that was intended to help the EPA establish how to best reduce methane leaks and venting. He said the industry asked the agency to back off.

“We’ve withdrawn that [request], after hearing from industry,“ Pruitt said. ”So we’re taking steps to instill rule of law, process, and also making sure that we’re listening to those in industry and how it’s going to impact them.”

This position was less problematic when Pruitt was the EPA-suing attorney general of Oklahoma. Now that he is running the agency, it is expected to cause issues.

Any day now, President Trump is expected to issue an executive order rolling back the Clean Power Plan and triggering lawsuits over how the agency will address carbon pollution. Under Pruitt, the EPA is not expected to proactively address this issue, and environmentalists worry that the country will lose its last, best chance to address climate change and prevent six or more feet of sea level rise by the end of the century.

Pruitt’s comments echo those commonly heard from climate science deniers — and from fossil fuel interests, two groups that frequently overlap.

Pruitt has been criticized for his cozy relationship with oil and gas companies, whose business is directly related to the current carbon crisis. As Oklahoma attorney general, he allowed an oil and gas lawyer to write a letter that Pruitt then sent to the EPA on state letterhead. The Oklahoma attorney general’s office is currently embroiled in a legal fight to prevent the release of emails between Pruitt and his staff and oil and gas representatives.

This is not the first time Pruitt has rejected or been ignorant to mainstream scientific research. During his confirmation hearing, he indicated that he did not know whether there was a “safe” amount of lead for children to inject. (There is not.)