On Thursday, new Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt denied that carbon dioxide is a "primary contributor" to climate change. That's rather absurd, given that the scientific community has all but unanimously concluded that carbon dioxide is, in fact, a huge contributor. Shortly thereafter, Bernie Sanders told CNN how he felt about the matter, and Sanders' response to Pruitt's CO2 remark was a healthy dose of reality when compared with Pruitt's reality-denying claim.
“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 told CNBC while attending an oil industry conference (!) in Texas. "So no, I would not agree that [CO2 is] a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”
Sanders wasn't having any of that.
"I wish I could come up with another word: It is pathetic that that is the position of the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency," Sanders told CNN. "The debate is over. Something like 97 percent of the scientists who have written peer-reviewed articles on the subject agree that it is human activity and CO2 emissions that are causing devastating problems already in the United States and around the world."
There is good reason for Sanders' incredulity: Pruitt is wrong.
NASA thinks he's wrong, having concluded that the average temperature on Earth has risen by 2 degrees since the 19th century, and that this increase was "driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere." The 2,000 scientists surveyed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change think he's wrong, having specifically cited CO2 as a key driver of climate change in 2013. And hey, even the EPA itself thinks the EPA chief is wrong.
"Natural causes alone cannot explain all of these changes," the agency's webpage on climate change reads (at least, as of now). "Human activities are contributing to climate change, primarily by releasing billions of tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other heat-trapping gases, known as greenhouse gases, into the atmosphere every year."
In 2009, the agency concluded that the release of CO2 and five other gases "threaten[s] the public health and welfare of current and future generations."
Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that Pruitt denies this. After all, he was appointed to his post by President Trump, who once tweeted that climate change is hoax concocted by the Chinese government in order to hurt American manufacturing.
Nevertheless, denying the role that CO2 plays in global warming is, at this point, an exercise in willful ignorance.
"That you have the head of the Environmental Protection Agency who denies that reality in face of overwhelming scientific evidence is — not only is it sad, it is a real threat to the well-being of this country and the world," Sanders said. "Because the truth is, we're going to have to become very aggressive in transforming our energy system away from fossil fuel, away from CO2 emissions into energy efficiency, into sustainable energy. That is the future of this planet — that's for our kids, our grandchildren, and future generations."
And he couldn't be more right.