Trump cabinet officials propagate soft climate denial on the Sunday shows

Following withdrawal from the Paris agreement, Trump’s EPA chief refuses to say whether he still believes climate change is a hoax.

President Donald Trump listens as EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Thursday, June 1, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Susan Walsh
President Donald Trump listens as EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Thursday, June 1, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Susan Walsh

On the first round of Sunday shows since President Donald Trump announced the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, two members of his cabinet defended the move by promulgating a form of soft climate denialism.

While fielding questions on ABC’s This Week and CNN’s State of the Union, respectively, Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley minimized humans’ role in climate change but said Trump believes the climate “is changing.”

“President Trump believes that the climate is changing and pollutants is part of the equation,” said Haley. “That is the fact. That’s where it stands. He knows that it’s changing. He knows the U.S. has to be responsible with it. That’s we’re going to do. Because we got out of a club doesn’t mean we don’t care about the environment.”

That passive-tense acknowledgment of a changing climate is still a form of denial, because it doesn’t acknowledge as fact the scientific consensus that humans are playing a central role in warming the planet. As Dr. John Holdren, the chief science adviser for the Obama administration, told ThinkProgress earlier this week, it’s “a crock, scientifically.”

“Obviously if you don’t know what the human role is then you take a lot of the steam out of the argument for action, except as sort of an insurance argument,” said Holdren. “It’s a crock, scientifically. We do know.”

Pruitt, meanwhile, danced around the same question in response to repeated questioning from ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. Asked whether the president believes in human-caused climate change, Pruitt replied: “I think the whole question is an effort to get it off the point, and the issue of whether Paris is good for this country or not. The president has indicated the climate changes.”

Before becoming president, Trump famously said that climate change was a hoax invented by the Chinese. Pruitt was unwilling to either reaffirm that the president still believes that, or confirm whether he had changed his mind.

Haley and Pruitt aren’t the only administration officials to blow smoke in response to questions about the president’s unwillingness to accept climate science. The day after Trump announced he was pulling the United States out of the Paris agreement, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway refused three times to say whether Trump believes global warming is a hoax. That same day, White House press secretary Sean Spicer claimed he hadn’t had a chance to ask the president about his current position.