Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt appears willing to accept any conclusion about climate change, as long as it’s not the one shared by most climate scientists around the world. He has long wrongly claimed that climate change is not a man-made problem, but on Tuesday he told a Nevada TV station that it might not be a problem at all. “I think there’s assumptions made that because the climate is warming, that that necessarily is a bad thing,” he told KSNV, a station owned by the conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group. “Is it an existential threat, is it something that is unsustainable, or what kind of effect or harm is this going to have? We know that humans have most flourished during times of, what, warming trends?”
Until this month, Pruitt has opted to dispute the cause of climate change, rather than the effects. “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,” Pruitt said in a CNBC interview about a year ago. “So no, I would not agree that [carbon dioxide is] a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.” That is false, as NASA explains: “Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.”
Now, Pruitt is admitting climate change is happening, but disputing its impacts. In an interview with The New York Times’ Michael Barbaro last week, he said he believed scientists were “arrogant” to suggest that earth’s average temperature should not rise above 2 degrees Celsius:
There are things we know, and things we don’t know. I think it’s pretty arrogant for people in 2018 to say ‘you know what, we know what the ideal surface temperature should be in the year 2100.’ Now is that different from whether climate change is happening? Yes, climate change is happening.
Scientists’ conclusion that the Earth’s surface temperature should not rise above 2 degrees Celsius comes not from arrogance, but from peer review. Pruitt’s new position is also at odds with NASA, whose website cites stronger hurricanes, sea-level-rise, and increased droughts as effects of global warming. The site quotes the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which asserts, “Taken as a whole, the range of published evidence indicates that the net damage costs of climate change are likely to be significant and to increase over time.”