A few days ago, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruit, said in an interview that he doesn’t believe “the science is in” and CO2 doesn’t cause climate change. Now, thirty prominent researchers, including a Nobel laureate, sent an open letter to Pruitt, calling him out on his false statements.

Science vs Politicians

In one corner, we have one hundred and fifty years of research, thousands of the world’s most brilliant minds, Nobel Prize winners, and effects which can easily be seen worldwide. In the other corner, there’s Trump, the fossil fuel lobby, and their henchmen. Image shows Scott Pruitt. Credits: Gage Skidmore.

Even ignoring the absolute absurdity of the situation in which the head of the EPA is clearly anti-environment, his statements are blatantly false. The letter reads:

“As scientists who study the Earth’s climate system, we are deeply troubled by your recent statement that there is ‘tremendous disagreement’ about whether carbon dioxide from human activities is ‘a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.’ That statement is incorrect.”

That’s a burn right there. In the world of science, definite statements such as the one above are rarely used, but this is absolutely necessary in this case. Scott Pruitt, head of the EPA, is a lawyer and a Republican politician. His scientific qualifications are limited at best — which was evident from the get-go. But now, as fact-checking organization Snopes reports, he just went against a scientific consensus that has lasted for over a century. Yes, the realization that CO2 warms the atmosphere dates back to the late 1850s and the pioneering work of British professor John Tyndall.

The letter continues:

“In fact, we know with exceptionally high degree of confidence that most of the climate warming over at least the last six decades has been caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities. Further, we know that if we continue to increase the atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases, the Earth will continue to heat up, with serious consequences for economies and ecosystems across the globe.”

Sticking your head in the ground won’t solve any problem, but I’m not sure solving problems is what Pruitt is after. At this point, it seems extremely clear that Pruitt (and the Trump administration as a whole) does not have an unbiased view of climate change. This is not about a political disagreement of sorts, it’s about a government refusing to accept simple scientific principles — something which can have dire consequences for everybody. With the US being the world’s second largest polluter, their lack of action will cost us all.

“Just as there is no escaping gravity when one steps off a cliff, there is no escaping the warming that follows when we add extra carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere,” the scientists wrote. The group included Nobel laureate chemist Mario Molina of the University of California, San Diego, and eight members of the National Academies of Science.

Michael Oppenheimer, an atmospheric scientist at Princeton University, who also signed the letter said that there are two possibilities: either Pruitt is ignorant, or he’s simply lying. If the first possibility is true, then Oppenheimer declared his availability to brief Pruitt on climate change, but if the latter is true… there’s not much that can be done.

“I have no idea how he made this error, whether it’s intentional spinning of the facts, or, as I prefer to think, he really doesn’t know,” Oppenheimer said. ” We and any number of climate scientists would be perfectly happy to brief him about what’s known and what isn’t known and what the uncertainties really are.”

The correlation between atmospheric CO2 and global average temperatures. Image credits: Wiki Commons / U.S. Department of Energy

“Alternative facts”

In a very short time, the Trump administration has made a name for itself in its refusal of reality and its acceptance of what they call “alternative facts.” The term was coined by U.S. Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway. Conway’s used the phrase “alternative facts” to describe what are demonstrably falsehoods promoted by the White House — and nowhere is this more evident than in their climate policies.

Again, just stop for a moment and think that the leader of the EPA just went on national television and said that CO2 doesn’t cause climate change. That’s literally the opposite of what the EPA itself states on its website:

“It is extremely likely that human activities have been the dominant cause of that warming,” and then, “Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas that is contributing to recent climate change.”

This letter sent by some of the world’s most respected scientists, but it’s not like that was the only such response. Earlier, the American Meteorological Society (AMS) also forwarded a letter to Pruitt with an official response underlining the key role that CO2 has played in raising our climate’s temperatures. This has been affirmed by thousands of independent scientists and numerous scientific institutions around the world based on multiple lines and independent evidence. AMS executive director Keith Seitter further emphasized this consensus by saying: “We are not familiar with any scientific institution with relevant subject matter expertise that has reached a different conclusion.”

The American Geophysical Society gave a similar response, pointing to their position on climate change, which “leaves no doubt that increasing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide resulting from human activity is the dominant source of climate change during the last several decades.”

NASA says the same thing, NOAA says the same thing, there’s thousands and thousands of studies that say the same thing — it’s laughable that this is still being discussed. Unfortunately, that’s what it has gotten to.

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