The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief is challenging scientists to engage in a televised debate in which they defend climate change as a serious threat to the planet.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt tells Reuters the government agency is planning to host a climate change debate for broadcast on TV, saying the American people “deserve” to have their questions and doubts about global warming’s effects answered. Pruitt doubled down on the “courage” the Trump Administration had in pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement in June and said scientists should not scoff at the idea of having televised debates.
He noted that if scientists are “so certain about it,” then they shouldn’t be “scared of the debate and the discussion.”
“There are lots of questions that have not been asked and answered (about climate change),” Pruitt told Reuters in a Monday interview. “Who better to do that than a group of scientists… getting together and having a robust discussion for all the world to see.”
When asked if Pruitt thought it prudent to televise the scientists’ climate change debate, he said transparency is the ultimate goal and he wants it on full display. “I think the American people would be very interested in consuming that. I think they deserve it,” he added.
The move comes as President Donald Trump, who appointed Pruitt as EPA head from his post as Oklahoma’s attorney general, is set to roll back a series of Obama Administration regulations regarding carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels. On June 27, Pruitt signed proposed legislation to rescind the Obama administration’s “Clean Water Rule” intended to clarify which lakes, wetlands and other bodies of water fall under Clean Water Act protection.
Pruitt acknowledged scientific data showing Earth is warming, but he argues that the seriousness and practicality of the problem should be weighed when companies are being forced to take expensive measures to reduce their carbon footprints.
“It is a question about how much we contribute to it,” he told Reuters. “How do we measure that with precision? And by the way, are we on an unsustainable path? And is it causing an existential threat?”
Pruitt explained that his wish for the EPA to host a climate change debate was inspired by theoretical physicist Steve Koonin’s article in the Wall Street Journal on April 20 and Bret Stephens’ April 28 New York Times column. He said the “red team, blue team” competition dynamic between the two is the kind of methodology the national security community uses to test theories – and the science community should follow suit.
Pruitt noted that while he has no intentions of dismantling the 2009 “endangerment finding” that carbon dioxide harms human health, he said Congress should look into any legal basis to challenge the scientific determination. He also added that he plans to deal “very aggressively” with automakers who cheat emissions tests.