In the span of a few months, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has emerged as the Trump administration’s top purveyor of climate change-related lies and misinformation.
But while Pruitt’s anti-science views are so extreme that even Fox News felt compelled to debunk him on air, he said this week that it is “crazy” for people to refer to him as a “climate denier.”
Here’s why it’s not.
In his latest interviews with Politico and Reuters, Pruitt repeated numerous talking points set forth by the fossil fuel-funded campaign to discredit climate science. All of those points have been debunked for years.
But Pruitt then takes offense at the fact that people refer to him as a “climate denier” — and he even pretends not to know what the term actually means.
“What does it even mean? That’s what I think about it. I deny the climate? Really? Wow, OK. That’s crazy, in my view,” he told Politico.
Of course, none of the criticism surrounding Pruitt’s steady stream of misinformation regarding climate change states that he denies the climate. Critics emphasize his routine denial of basic climate science. Pruitt denies the well-established finding that human activity is the primary cause of climate change — and thus the primary solution.
“Climate denier” is just shorthand for rejection of the science.
And, as the transcript from the Reuters interview makes clear, Pruitt continues his attempt to cast doubt on the most well-verified science.
“It is not a question about whether the climate is warming. It is not a question about whether human activity contributes to it,” says Pruitt, repeating the line others in the current administration, like Energy Secretary Rick Perry, use to appear as if they aren’t hard-core deniers. But as with Perry, Pruitt continues with standard denial-speak:
It is a question about how much we contribute to it? How do we measure that with precision? And by the way, are we on an unsustainable path? And what harm… is it causing an existential threat?
Recall that when Pruitt tried to assert humans were not the primary contributor to climate change on Fox News Sunday, even anchor Chris Wallace called him out on his denial. “Mr. Pruitt, there are all kinds of studies that contradict you,” Wallace said. He then noted that the world’s top climate scientists concluded there’s a 95 to 100 percent chance “human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”
The centrist Politico felt equally compelled to debunk Pruitt, noting, “in contrast, the vast majority of the world’s climate scientists agree that the planet is warming in large part due to the burning of fossil fuels like coal.”
If Fox News and Politico debunk you, it’s probably safe to call you a climate (science) denier.
Actual science is quite clear that we are on an “unsustainable path,” climate change is an “existential threat,” and the policies of Trump and Pruitt would make things dangerously worse, as I wrote this week.
But Pruitt is not merely content to spout his denial one major media outlet at a time. This week, he said he would be interested in a nationally televised debate that would give equal airtime to the few remaining climate scientists that actively deny basic climate science — when 97 percent of climate scientists agree humans are the primary cause.
“Let’s get red team scientists in. Let’s get blue team scientists in. Let’s let them question one another. That would be exciting to see,” Pruitt told Reuters. And when Reuters asked, “Would you put it on television?” Pruitt replied, “I think so… You want this to be on full display. I think the American people would be very interested in consuming that. I think they deserve it.”
In fact, John Oliver showed what kind of debate Americans deserve back in 2014 on his HBO show, Last Week Tonight — a debate where the 97 percent of climatologists who accept the science get proportional representation.
Finally, as Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) tried to patiently explain to Energy Secretary Rick Perry in a recent budget hearing, the petrochemical billionaire Koch brothers — the country’s top funders of climate disinformation — set up a red team of skeptics years ago, and they found that not only is global warming real, it is “essentially all” due to humans.
Franken exposed the inconvenient truth of the “red team” exercise: neither Perry nor Pruitt are interested in any exercise to determine the actual facts or the truth. They simply want to give deniers more air time, create more public confusion, in order to undermine climate action and justify burning more fossil fuels.