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.
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.
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.