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As EPA head, Scott Pruitt must act on climate change

Posted on 23 February 2017 by Guest Author

Republished from the Seattle Times by  and 

We have a message for Pruitt: We are scientists, and we are not going away. And neither is climate change.

IN May, Scott Pruitt wrote an article suggesting that protecting the environment and its people are examples of government overreach. Now, Pruitt is head of the Environmental Protection Agency, a federal agency whose mission is “to protect human health and the environment.”

We challenge Pruitt to take this mission seriously and reconsider his public statements on science, climate change and our national need for environmental protection. We have a message for Pruitt: We are scientists and we are not going away. And neither is climate change.

Pruitt has claimed that “healthy debate is the lifeblood of American democracy.” We agree. In fact, the scientific enterprise is built on debate, along with skepticism, conflict and progress. But do you know what we do not debate anymore? Basic physical science — like the fact that Earth’s climate is changing, or like the fact that the planet spins in a certain direction, or that the ocean’s tides are influenced by the moon. As a scientific community, we have immense consensus on these issues.

Sarah Myhre, a climate and ocean scientist, is a postdoctoral scholar at UW.

The climate is changing because we burn fossil fuels and emit greenhouse gases — that is a fact. Even the former CEO of ExxonMobil, along with other oil and gas company CEOs, has stated this fact and called for “serious action” on climate change. The existence and cause of climate change is not up for debate — in a similar way that gravity is no longer up for debate, no matter how high Pruitt personally can jump. The global scientific community is now focused on how to best prevent catastrophic damages from climate change — here, there is much room for leadership and new ideas, and we welcome a healthy debate to find the best solutions.

Kelly Fleming, a chemical engineer, currently is an AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow. Jane Zelikova, an ecologist, is an AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow at the U.S. Department of Energy.

Pruitt has expressed disdain with the “climate-change agenda.” Although it is not immediately clear what this means to him, we can tell you what it means to us. As Americans, we collectively continue to strive, generation by generation, to form a more perfect union. Our agenda is about evidence and innovation — the lifeblood of democracy and our American experiment. Our agenda is about human health. It is about equal access to clean air and water. It is about protecting our children’s and grandchildren’s futures. This isn’t a political agenda — it is a human agenda. As head of EPA, we are calling on Pruitt to be a part of this inclusive, American, responsible agenda.

Continuing to “debate” the existence and causes of climate change hurts the American people. It is intellectually dishonest. It is irresponsible. Here is the truth about science: You cannot pick and choose the science that is convenient for you. You cannot reject physical science about climate change, only to enjoy the computer in your pocket, the clean water in your bathroom, or the antibiotics at the pharmacy.

This, in a nutshell, is the hypocrisy that we are asking Pruitt to consider. His opinion and the scientific consensus are two very different things. To continue to debate the inherent risks of climate change wastes taxpayer money, put s people in harm’s way, and squanders this critical window of time for action. The money spent obstructing established climate science could instead be spent helping to prepare areas that will be the hardest hit. These areas also happen to include the communities with the least resources to adapt.

Now is the time to lead on climate. Now is the time to be brave in the face of change. We challenge Pruitt to use the power of his new position not to further his own beliefs, but to serve his country. That means serving everyone, including the overwhelming majority who agree that climate change is a danger to our country and to our planet. That means accepting the science and acting in the best interests of the United States and all its citizens. That means harnessing the innovative, entrepreneurial American spirit and addressing the most pressing issues of the century.

We are asking Pruitt to protect human health and the environment: act on climate change.

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Comments 1 to 11:

  1. Very well stated in all respects.

    "IN May, Scott Pruitt wrote an article suggesting that protecting the environment and its people are examples of government overreach."

    Scott's claims are purely his opinion that he has failed to substantiate. He is wrong anyway. Read a standard economics textbook, and economists have found that markets don't solve certain critical problems, especially long term problems and environmental problems, so only government can fill the gap with appropriate laws etc. 

    I think there's a time for debate, and a time to accept that certain things are well established on the basis of science and evidence. We debate things them move on. If we debated things forever, we would still be living in caves.

    The climate denialists are stuck like a vinyl record in a groove, repeating the same old tired debunked nonsense over and over. Perhaps they all have OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).

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  2. Everything you have said here is spot on.  However I think Pruitt, and like minded people, sidestep the whole issue by attempting the argument that these things should be handled at the state level.  I believe this is a new sort of denial tactic.  Any attempt to convince Pruitt to change his ways must also include a solid argument on why climate change can't be affected at the state level.  Seems obvious to us, but not to them.  Just my opinion.  Keep up the good work!

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  3. So scientists don't debate objective "reality". We put light first and then give it a name (sound). So we don't feel changing body and consider changing scenery as reality. We consider changing thoughts and senses as proof. Our lives are so imbalanced by impressions and so stressed that we want more objects i.e. measurements. And this want is the cause of disturbance that we call climate change. The cause and solution of disturbance is not CO2. I think doubts of Scott Pruit will improve our understanding of causes and solutions of climate change.

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  4. Pruitt can drag his feet for 4 years and if Trump gets elected again, for a further 4.

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  5. Actually Pruitt may take a major step towards checking climate change if he revises EPA's pseudo-science rules about low level radiation. The LNT (linear no threshold) myth that even low level radiation can cause cancer has been disproven. Ending LNT and ALARA (as low as reasonably achievable) would end public fear of radiation and lower exhorbitant costs for the medical and nuclear power industries. He can start with ending the anti-radon program, which is costly and anti-science. Here's my take...

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  6. The LNT "myth" has not been debunked. It is certainly an area of legitimate scientific contention, however. I do not think it will have a significant impact on the public debate or nuclear plant costs in any case.


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  7. nigel - what have you personally done due to CO2 poisoning of the atmosphere? All over this site what I have seen is that the only science that is the "right" science, is that which proclaims AGW. And that anyone else is a "denialist". While warning anyone like me who questions such a position the moderator seems to have to problem with insults such as that.

    I have stated elsewhere that I have calculated the amount of CO2 necessary to cause the increases in CO2 that have occurred since 1960. Dr. Crisp has calculated the amount of CO2 generated from man's use of fossil fuel and the use of CO2 outgasing sources such as cement. Our numbers come out very close. This would indicate that man generated every bit of CO2 that caused the rise since 1960.

    The problem with this position is that the rise in CO2 was linear and the use of fossil fuels and cement etc. has been logarithymic.

    This also denies the huge increases of CO2 from outgasing of oceans from the increases in MGT which has been measured in Alaska at the very least.

    Exactly how can the science be undeniable with huge gaps between the modeling and reality?

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Ad hominem. sloganeering, and moderation complaint snipped. 

    Please note that posting comments here at SkS is a privilege, not a right.  This privilege can be rescinded if the posting individual treats adherence to the Comments Policy as optional, rather than the mandatory condition of participating in this online forum.

    Please take the time to review the policy and ensure future comments are in full compliance with it.  Thanks for your understanding and compliance in this matter.

  8. Wake... Straw man argument. No one says CO2 is "poisoning" the atmosphere.

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  9. Wake... "Exactly how can the science be undeniable with huge gaps between the modeling and reality?"

    You keep making completely unsubstantiated statements that are not based in fact. Take some time to read up on these issues before you make such sweeping and inaccurate statements.

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    Wake is making strange arguments and offering no references. The carbon cycle is not nearly as mysterious as he suggests, and the oceans are a well known carbon sink. Sinks are the reason why atmosheric carbon has not risen as much as could be expected at first glance from human emissions, which are indeed staggering. USGS estimates the total anthropogenic contribution to be close to 100X that of volcanic activity, so it is indeed a geological scale event that we are witnessing. Wake is correct in his assessment that the rise is entirely due to human emissions.

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  11. Wake @7:

    "I have stated elsewhere..."

    And you were thoroughly refuted elsewhere as well.  Responding to a refutation of your views be simply restating them on another thread is bad form.  If done repeatedly it shows you to be a troll, and is violation of the SkS comments policy.

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