Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, alluded earlier this week that global warming may be beneficial to humans, once again questioning the world’s leading scientists who have declared the phenomenon one of the greatest known threats to humanity.
In an interview that aired Tuesday on KSNV, a Nevada television station, Pruitt questioned how accurately scientists could predict the planet’s ideal temperature in 2100, or even this year, and said humans had “flourished” in times of past warmth.
“We know humans have most flourished during times of what, warming trends,” Pruitt said during the interview. “I think there’s assumptions made that because the climate is warming, that that necessarily is a bad thing. Do we really know what the ideal surface temperature should be in the year 2100, in the year 2018?”
He continued: “That’s fairly arrogant for us to think that we know exactly what it should be in 2100.”
The view is a new iteration of Pruitt’s antagonism toward established climate science, but it flies in the face of such research all the same. Scientists have long held a near-unanimous consensus that the climate is changing and that humans are the primary cause. World leaders and global organizations have declared the phenomenon one of the most pressing threats to humanity and have warned that unless the world works to halt greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, a host of climate-related effects could devastate the world.
The planet is already far off its goals to reduce such emissions, just two years after almost every country in the world signed on to the landmark Paris climate accord.
But Pruitt and others in the Trump administration have long moved to downplay the effects of climate change or outright rejected that it is happening (despite a White House report released in November that said humans were the dominant cause of global warming). Pruitt told CNBC a year ago, just weeks after he assumed his role at the EPA, that he rejected the science behind climate change and that President Donald Trump himself has called it a hoax manufactured by the Chinese.
“Do we really know what the ideal surface temperature should be in the year 2100, in the year 2018?”
Agencies across the government have also moved to dismantle much of former President Barack Obama’s climate legacy, including unraveling the Clean Water Act, the Clean Power Plan and dramatically scaling back several national monuments in Utah and opening them up to mining claims.
Pruitt’s recent comments seem to reflect a subtle shift from outright denial to a more mainstream view from climate skeptics that, even if the world is warming, such a change may be good for humanity. E&E News notes the statements echo some of those made by the former nominee to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Kathleen Hartnett White, who once described carbon dioxide as a “harmless trace gas” that was merely “plant food.” Hartnett White’s nomination was withdrawn last week.
During Tuesday’s interview, Pruitt also said he wanted to foster an “honest, transparent debate about what we know and what we don’t know, so the American people can be informed and make decisions on their own.”
The comments echo a plan first reported by E&E News last June, in which the EPA was considering holding what it called a “red team-blue team” exercise that could see climate scientists debating climate change deniers.