Polluting Pruitt’s latest stupid idea: a TV debate on climate science
Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency-hating chief of the EPA, wants to have a televised debate among scientists on climate change. When my colleague Mark Sumner read the news about this, he pictured a climate Thunderdome in which two scientists enter and a hunk of the public leaves still believing that there really is a debate to be had.
Pruitt obviously believes that the subject is debatable, and he has made clear which side he comes down on. Anyone who has followed his work as attorney general of Oklahoma filing 14 lawsuits against the EPA, including a joint challenge to block the Clean Power Plan to reduce emissions from fossil fuel power plants, recognizes just how little he cares about the environment and the people harmed by pollution—including the pollution of greenhouse gas emissions. The oil and gas industry has consequently showered him with campaign contributions and, on official attorney general stationery, he’s been happy to affix his signature to letters that were written by that industry.
It’s quite the tell that Pruitt credits the idea of a debate to his reading of two people—Steve Koonin and Bret Stephens. They both wrote Op-eds in April laying out a piece of their climate science “skepticism” on the opinion pages of The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. Both of them then and in their other work repeatedly rely on fallacies and debunked claims. Neither is a climate scientist. Indeed, Stephens isn’t a scientist at all.
“There are lots of questions that have not been asked and answered (about climate change),” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told Reuters in an interview late on Monday.
“Who better to do that than a group of scientists… getting together and having a robust discussion for all the world to see,” he added without explaining how the scientists would be chosen.
Pruitt is right about one thing. Lots of questions have not been answered about climate change. But that doesn’t mean scientists are avoiding asking those questions or failing to conduct hundreds of studies to get answers. It’s just that Pruitt and other climate science deniers don’t like the answers they’re getting.
Comprehending exactly how climate change will play out in terms of seasonal changes, drought, ocean acidification, sea-level rise, disruption to the food chain, species extinction, forced migration, and impacts on the global economy would be a complex matter even if these weren’t intertangled with one another.
Having purged the EPA’s science advisers, scrubbed climate mention from the EPA website, proposed massive cuts in the agency’s budget—particularly its climate-related programs—and having pushed hard for a withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, it’s obvious Pruitt’s not interested in having a debate inside the agency. He long ago made up his mind.
We can expect that any debate governed by Pruitt’s EPA and no doubt sponsored by the same fossil fuel companies that have packed his campaign coffers with Benjamins will be a set-up to amplify the latest version of phony talking points that science deniers have worked so diligently and lucratively to create. Some climate scientists may not be able to resist joining the debate because they feel it is their duty to get the truth out. They should think again. The whole idea is a set-up.
(Originally appeared at DailyKos. Images by Tom Toles via GoComics)