Scott Pruitt, President Donald Trump's Environmental Protection Agency administrator, did not say whether he accepts the scientific consensus that human activity is the main cause of climate change during his confirmation hearings.
Now that he's secured the position, he's making his opinions on the matter more clear.
Speaking to CNBC's Joe Kernen on March 9, Pruitt said he does not think CO2 is the primary contributor to global warming. He also suggested that there's "tremendous disagreement" about whether human activity is the main cause of climate change.
That's a flip from his position during his confirmation process, when he wrote that "the Administrator has an important role when it comes to the regulation of carbon dioxide," and pledged to uphold the EPA's finding that the greenhouse gas presents a danger and should be regulated.
Here's the transcript of Pruitt's exchange today:
Kernen: Do you believe that it’s been proven that CO2 is the primary control knob for climate?
Pruitt: 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. So no, I would not agree that it is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.
Pruitt: But we don’t know that yet. As far as, we need to continue the debate and analysis.
Kernen: I agree, when I hear the science is settled, I never heard that science had gotten to a point where it was, I thought that’s the point of science, that you keep asking questions, but I don’t want to be called a denier, it scares me, it’s a terrible thing to be called. Administrator Pruitt I know you don’t want to be called that either. Um, thanks for being with us this morning.
Pruitt: Thank you very much.
Contrary to Kernen's statements, there is no disagreement among the vast majority of scientists that human activity and carbon dioxide emissions are the primary drivers of global warming.
The EPA, in fact, has a fact sheet explaining how humans drive greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. The information comes from an international report prepared by thousands of scientists that shows humans account for at least half of all the warming in the world.
And there's plenty of evidence that suggests the warming we're seeing is not part of any natural cycle:
- All sixteen of the warmest years ever on record have happened since 1998. The top five are 2015, 2014, 2010, 2013, and 2005. (2016, which shattered temperature records, is likely to join that list soon.)
- Arctic sea ice is in massive decline, which makes it likely the North Pole will become ice-free in a future summer.
- Permafrost is melting across the northern hemisphere.
- The atmosphere has reached CO2 levels not seen in 15 million years.
Speaking to Business Insider in November, Mark Serreze, Director of the National Snow and Ice Data center, said it's not that complicated for scientists to figure out the underlying factors that contribute to climate change.
"We understand the physics of what's happening pretty well now," he said. "If you load the atmosphere with a greenhouse gas, it will induce a warming. It's all based on an understanding of how electromagnetic radiation and matter interact. It's a very mature science. If you are going to deny that somehow, you'd have to deny that your microwave oven works."
Serreze also said people are invited to come to the NSIDC to download snow and ice data and do their own analysis if they want, though he said deniers of global warming rarely take him up on it.
Watch the CNBC clip below: