The head of the Environmental Protection Agency has turned his back on scientific consensus and opened his arms to budget cuts. His nomination to head the agency was met with protests in February.
It’s been a bad week for those of us still clinging to an ever-thinning veil of hope regarding the pathology of climate denial. You know, the kind of hope that includes Trump Administration officials suddenly applying their vaunted business acumen to a green economy based on renewable energy. Or maybe even just a few Republicans relocating their faith in the Enlightenment, and crossing party lines to defend the scientific process.
But so far, nothing doing.
Scott Pruitt, the Trump team’s head of the Environmental Protection Agency, was asked Thursday morning on CNBC’s news program, Squawk Box, whether he believed that CO2 is the “primary control” on climate. He responded, “No.”
“I believe that measuring, with precision, human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do,” Pruitt stated, “and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact. So, no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”
Pruitt, who is currently under investigation for alleged close ties to major fossil fuel industries, has just placed himself in disagreement with almost every climate scientist on the planet.
The international, scientific support for the role of carbon in climate change is about as solid as the floor under your feet. In 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated with 95 percent confidence that humans are the main cause of the current global warming.
Even oil companies—which were some of the earliest groups to fund and investigate relationships between carbon and climate—agree. Here’s ExxonMobil’s position on climate change: “Increasing carbon emissions in the atmosphere are having a warming effect. There is a broad scientific and policy consensus that action must be taken to further quantify and assess the risks.”
But assessing those risks and taking action on them suddenly seems farther away than ever. On the heels of a $54 billion increase in defense spending, the Trump White House Office of Management and Budget sent a memo to Congress last week aiming to cut the Environmental Protection Agency’s $8.2 billion budget by 25 percent. The proposal would reduce EPA staff by 20 percent and slice grants to states by 30 percent.
Some programs facing total shutdown—several of which target environmental injustices—include an act to reduce diesel emissions, grants to help native Alaskan communities adapt to changing environmental conditions, and urban brownfield cleanup programs.
The single largest program to be slashed would be the EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which enables industry, NGOs, businesses, local government officials, tribes, and citizens to collaborate on problems that refuse to stay within jurisdictions, like water pollution, soil erosion, and invasive species.
The single largest program to be slashed would be the EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which enables collaboration on problems that refuse to stay within jurisdictions, like water pollution, soil erosion, and invasive species.
The program, currently funded at $300 million, will receive only $10 million in the proposed budget. Federal support for assisting two countries, eight states, numerous tribal organizations, industries, and a broad range of interest groups collaboratively steward the Great Lakes began in 2004. Nancy Langston, professor at Michigan Tech and who researches environmental issues in Lake Superior, described the news of the cuts as “appalling,” pointing out that the program impacts a region with 21 percent of the world’s fresh water.
“Since its inception, the [initiative] has been an exceptional program,” she told The Progressive. “It gives local communities and scientists the tools they need to promote the cleanup of toxic hotspots, prevent invasive species, curb algal blooms, and promote the overall well-being of the Great Lakes. [It] makes fish safer to eat, waters safer to drink, beaches safer for our children, and our environment safer for everyone.”
Cuts are also planned for environmental cleanup funding for other bodies of water involving multiple states—like Puget Sound and Chesapeake Bay—and also for NOAA (17 percent) and the Coast Guard (13 percent). Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow responded by tweeting:
The Trump Administration’s final 2018 budget plan is to be released March 13, at which point it goes before Congress. Will the Enlightenment prevail?