It was just a few short weeks ago that Kellyanne Conway coined the term "alternative facts" on MSNBC's Meet The Press. Now, another member of the Trump team is extending this ideology by denying basic scientific truths. Chosen by Trump to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt discussed climate change during an interview on Thursday. And shockingly, he does not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming. He said:
I believe 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. So, no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.
This statement is problematic for many reasons: For one, the "tremendous disagreement" within the scientific community on the topic doesn't actually exist. Furthermore, the very agency that Pruitt is responsible for leading lists carbon dioxide as a "primary greenhouse gas that is contributing to recent climate change" on its website.
Pruitt doesn't seem to understand that carbon dioxide traps heat at the Earth's surface and leads to warmer temperatures — a concept that dates back to the 19th century and is a part of basic middle school curriculum across the country.
According to NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Data, in fact,
The planet's average surface temperature has risen about 2.0 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century, a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere.
Pruitt also doesn't seem to know the basic principles that the EPA enforces in its environmental regulation policies. The EPA is responsible for protecting human health and the environment by establishing environmental policy — policy that largely regulates greenhouse gas emissions. Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general with alleged ties to fossil fuel industries, has sued the agency 13 times.
Pruitt's remarks raise serious questions about the future of environmental protection regulations under a Trump administration. Trump has already vowed to withdraw U.S. support from the Paris Climate Accord, a global pact to cut carbon emissions signed by President Obama last year, and he is expected to unveil a new executive order soon that will undo key aspects of the EPA's Clean Power Plan.
Given that President Trump himself once claimed in a tweet that global warming is "a hoax created by and for the Chinese," Pruitt's comments shouldn't come as much of a surprise. But they should cause alarm about the future of the EPA and the Trump administration's tendency to either invent its own realities, or deny established facts.