Scott Pruitt, who heads the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows in the wake of President Trump’s decision last week to pull the U.S. out of the landmark 2015 Paris accord to combat global warming.
Pruitt, a former Oklahoma attorney general and long-time ally of the oil, gas and utility industries that are major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, was unyielding in arguing that the Paris Accord signed by 195 countries including the U.S. was a bad economic deal for this country.
Despite the best efforts of the talk show hosts, Pruitt would not say whether Trump even believes that climate change is a real problem exacerbated by carbon emissions -- as reputable scientists and United Nations panels have repeatedly documented -- or whether it is a “hoax” perpetrated by the Chinese to hobble U.S. economic growth, as Trump has asserted in the past.
When asked by Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace whether he and the president ever discussed the issue, Pruitt demurred: “The focus of the last several weeks was centered on the merits and demerits of the Paris agreement. The president said, actually, back during the campaign, that climate change occurs,” Pruitt noted. “I have said during my confirmation process that climate change is occurring, that human activity contributes to it.”
“He’s also said it was a hoax,” Wallace said of the president.
“Well, Chris, the point here – to answer your question – this is something that over the last several weeks, the president has received much information about the impact on jobs and also the impact on the environment. You know, we have nothing to be apologetic about as a country with respect to what we’ve done in reducing our CO2 [carbon dioxide] imprint.”
Later, on the ABC News’ This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Pruitt complained that whether Trump still thinks climate change is phony “is an effort [by liberal critics] to get it off the point and the issue of whether [the] Paris [Accord] is good for this country or not.”
“I think the president made it clear that the climate changes, and I think what needs to be emphasized here, George, is that our focus with respect to the Paris Accord was about the efficacy of the agreement as [it relates to] the environment, how it would impact the economy. The president said on Thursday that the engagement [by the U.S.] internationally is something that is going to continue. But what Paris represents is a bad deal for this country.”
Then on NBC’s Meet the Press with Chuck Todd, Pruitt went so far as to acknowledge that carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants and other industrial facilities are “one cause” out of many for the rising temperature that scientists warn will wreak havoc with environment and weather in coming decades.
“It’s a cause like methane, water vapor, and the rest,” he said.
Trump, of course, has made contradictory assertions about what he believes to be the case, conveying extreme skepticism if not an outright denial about the reality of climate change throughout his career as a New York real estate tycoon and reality talk show host and as a 2016 presidential candidate.
During his Rose Garden speech on Thursday announcing his decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement, Trump did not discuss his views on the science of global warming or express his skepticism other than to say that even if the Paris agreement were fully implemented, it would only result in a “tiny, tiny amount” of improvement in the Earth’s temperature.
Instead, he focused on his belief that the agreement negotiated by former President Barack Obama would seriously hamstring the U.S. economy – especially the coal industry and the rest of the energy sector – and put the U.S. at a disadvantage against its international rivals, especially China and India. He literally said that the rest of the world “went wild” with joy when the U.S signed the agreement “for the simple reason that it put our country at a very, very big economic disadvantage.”
Former Democratic vice president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore, a leading environmentalist and champion of measures to protect the planet, said today on Fox News Sunday, “I think that it was a reckless decision, an indefensible decision.” I think it undermines our nation’s standing in the world and isolates us and threatens all of humanity’s ability to solve this crisis in time.”
Former Secretary of State John F. Kerry, who helped negotiate the Paris accord for the Obama administration, said on Meet the Press that Trump’s decisions runs counter to the views of the rest of the world, even while “his whole staff cannot tell you whether or not he believes climate change is a hoax.”
Pruitt, a lawyer who spent years challenging Obama administration environmental regulations including a Clean Power plan aimed at closing hundreds of aging coal-fired power plants, has great influence within the Trump administration.
Pruitt and White House senior strategist Stephen K. Bannon persuaded Trump to make good on his campaign pledge to pull the plug on the Paris Accord over strong objections from the scientific community, many major and influential corporations including Exxon-Mobil, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Pope Francis, and even Trump’s daughter, Ivanka.
After Trump made his announcement late last week, he called Pruitt to the lectern to speak for a few minutes, providing a clear signal to everyone else in the White House of Pruitt’s newly found clout as an architect of Trump’s efforts to dismantle Obama’s era clean air and climate change policies.
“What’s important, what the president did on Thursday was put America first, in saying to the United States and saying to the world that we are going to remain engaged, but we are also going to make sure that as we remain engaged that we put America’s interest first,” Pruitt said on Fox News Sunday.”