It doesn’t matter if Donald Trump still believes climate change is a hoax
One day after Donald Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change, the president’s own views on climate science are under increased scrutiny. And a Friday press briefing only muddied the waters further.
While taking a guest turn in the White House press room, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, who played a key role in advising Trump to leave the Paris Agreement, refused to answer basic yes or no questions on Trump’s climate change beliefs.
Here’s how Pruitt responded to a question from an ABC News reporter, who asked: “I’m hoping you can clear this up once and for all. Yes or no, does the president believe that climate change is real and a threat to the American people?”
In response, Pruitt said, “You know what’s interesting about all the discussions through the last several weeks have been focused on one singular issue, is Paris good or not for this country…”
Later he dodged similar questions while repeatedly asserting that he had fully answered them.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer also failed to answer a question about Trump’s views on the reality of and threats posed by climate change. Earlier in the week Spicer said he didn’t know, because, “honestly I’ve never asked him.”
Perhaps these “hoax, yes or no?” questions are no longer meaningful.
It’s time to accept that all of Trump’s actions and personnel appointments indicate he does think climate change is a hoax, or perhaps more cravenly, sees a political advantage in pretending to view it as one.
The lesson for journalists is that Trump’s beliefs aren’t where we should be focusing, but rather his actions. While Pruitt was standing at the lectern, the EPA was reportedly offering buyouts to longtime employees to cut its workforce of scientists and policy specialists.
The pace of anti-environmental actions by this administration so far is staggeringly fast. Perhaps next time the gotcha question should be about these moves and not the president’s stance on climate science, as important as that may be.
Even though climate scientists are in lockstep agreement that human activities, such as burning fossil fuels and chopping down forests, are causing the planet to heat up, Trump has claimed that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese in order to harm the U.S. economy.
Q: Does Trump believe in climate change?
EPA chief Scott Pruitt: Blah blah blah blah Paris blah blah blah (did not answer)
— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) June 2, 2017
In his speech announcing the Paris pullout, Trump never mentioned whether he sees global warming as reality. This was odd, because you’d think this would’ve come up when deliberating about whether to remain a part of the most comprehensive agreement ever established to address the problem of climate change.
There are many reasons to conclude that Trump remains doubtful of climate science findings. For one thing, he’s surrounded himself with climate deniers, from chief strategist Steve Bannon to Pruitt himself. Even the Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, who oversees the Forest Service, said in a statement on Thursday that “the Earth’s climate has been changing since the planet was formed.”
It’s unlikely that any climate scientist was asked to give input during the Paris Agreement debates, since Trump has no science adviser. The president also hasn’t staffed the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, whose role is to feed science and technology information to the president and senior officials.
During his brief appearance in the White House briefing room, Pruitt also elaborated on his own climate science views, which are so far out of step with mainstream climate research that scientists published a study on May 24 specifically to rebut some of his claims.
Yet the study has had little effect, considering that Pruitt made the same erroneous statements again today.
In response to CNN’s Jim Acosta, who cited the recent string of record warm years, Pruitt repeated the falsehood that global temperatures are remaining flat.
“We’ve actually been in a [temperature] hiatus since the late 1990s as you know,” Pruitt said.
Last year was the warmest year on record globally, beating the previous milestones set in 2014 and 2015
The Pruitt-debunking study, published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, found that satellite temperature records, which Pruitt had cited in congressional testimony, don’t show any hiatus but rather a continued warming trend.
Surface temperature records don’t show a continued hiatus either, and many climate scientists believe that the idea of a warming hiatus, in which global warming slowed down after 1998, was an artifact of measuring the climate and not a real phenomenon.
Pruitt, in discussing his own views on climate change, said there should be more of a debate about climate science. “I think that — what the debate — what the American people deserve is a debate, objective, transparent discussion about this issue,” he said.
In reality, scientists have been debating climate change findings for more than a century and have reached a consensus that it is, in fact, real and human-caused.
Pruitt was criticized for a March interview with CNBC during which he asserted that carbon dioxide is not the main cause of global warming, which he repeated on Friday using different wording.
He said it’s difficult to measure “with precision the extent of human influence” on the climate, which is not actually true.
In other words, Pruitt thinks, we may be causing climate change, or we may be causing only a tiny fraction of it, in which case why do anything about it?
That Pruitt is in charge of the EPA, of all agencies, should tell you all you need to know about Trump’s true colors on climate change.