A few days ago, we witnessed one of the most awkward and embarrassing moments since the Trump administration came into office — and that’s saying a lot. The head of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just ignored a hundred years of scientific investigations and said that CO2 is not a driver of climate change.

Image credits: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Unless you’ve been living in a cave in the past decades (or in a climate change denial bubble), you know that the Earth is warming up. As any decent fourth grader will tell you, greenhouse gases heat up the planet and among greenhouse gases CO2 is king. There have been literally thousands of studies analyzing climate change, and the role of humans is virtually certain. Seriously, we’re past that point. That’s why the comments of Scott Pruitt, head of the EPA, are so shocking.

“Do you believe that it’s been proven that CO2 is the primary control knob for climate?” CNBC anchor Joe Kernen asked Pruitt in a March 9 interview.

Pruitt’s response:

“No, 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 responded. “So no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”

Shocking and simply not true

Scott Pruitt. Image credits: Gage Skidmore

Scientists all around the globe are aware that human activity is the leading cause of climate change because humans have exacerbated the Earth’s greenhouse effect, mainly by producing carbon dioxide. Just compare Pruitt’s statement with the main statement on his agency’s 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.”

Let that sink in for a moment. The EPA’s website clearly states that carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas contributing to climate change. The newly-appointed leader of the EPA just stated the opposite. In the US, the fox is guarding the henhouse, and the world’s climate is the hens. Still not convinced? Just have a look at this paragraph from a joint statement issued by NASA and the NOAA earlier this year:

“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,” NASA and NOAA said in January.

Needless to say, climate scientists reacted to this

“Pruitt is incorrect. CO2 is a primary contributor to global warming. That fact is not in dispute among climate scientists,” said Anne Slinn, executive director for research of the Center for Global Change Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, co-chair of the Senate Climate Action Task Force slammed Pruitt’s comments but so far, there has been no consequence for Pruitt.

“Anyone who denies over a century’s worth of established science and basic facts is unqualified to be the administrator of the EPA. Now more than ever, the Senate needs to stand up to Scott Pruitt and his dangerous views,” he said in a statement.

Are cigarettes really bad for you?

This comes right after Trump himself issued a complete media blackout at the EPA and told employees to ‘cut climate change webpage’. This isn’t an isolated event and comes on the back of numerous anti-environment measures taken by Trump and his administration. In just a few months, there’s a growing sentiment that this administration will send the US back to the climate dark ages. Despite pleas from international leaders, researchers, and despite an already established common sense, they’re pushing forth with this type of statements and this type of measures. Pretty much the same thing that happened to cigarettes is now happening with climate change.

Nowadays, pretty much everyone knows cigarettes are bad for you, but it wasn’t always like this. For the longest of time, lobby from the cigarette companies convinced a lot of people that they’re not really bad and there was a time when lots of people believed they were actually good for you. The science was in, there was a humongous quantity of scientific data indicating the damage that smoking does, but by buying off some politicians and journalists they gave people the impression that “more research is needed”. Which ironically, is just what Pruitt said:

“But we don’t know that yet. … We need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis.”

Even now, tobacco’s lobby voice is extremely powerful. In 2010, the tobacco industry spent $16.6 million on lobbyists to represent the industry to Congress. The figures are not publicly available for the oil industry, but many of the most influential members of the energy lobby are among the top polluters in the United States. Heck, one could argue that even the top man himself is a fossil fuel lobbyist.

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