Scott Pruitt is a CO2 Truther

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EPA chief Scott Pruitt says carbon dioxide is not a primary contributor to global warming. Joshua Roberts/REUTERS

Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, says carbon emissions aren’t to blame for the greenhouse effect. On Thursday, during an appearance on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” Pruitt insisted that CO2 emission are not the primary cause of global warming.

“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's a primary contributor to the global warming that we see," Pruitt said. The EPA chief added that there is need for additional research and information—and more debate—before anyone is allowed to point fingers at this suspect greenhouse gas.

In the same interview, Pruitt called the Paris Agreement a bad deal. All 174 countries and the European Union that are part of the agreement are required to adhere to a framework to reduce greenhouse emissions by 2020, and limit global warming below 2 degree Celsius and as close to 1.5 degree Celsius as possible. After China, the U.S. is the top emitter of greenhouse gases.

Pruitt’s words certainly don’t match up with the EPA’s official stance. The agency’s website provides an evidence-based overview that more than suggests the earth’s temperature is rising and wreaking havoc on the entire ecosystem and causing damage to human health. The EPA’s website says "Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas that is contributing to recent climate change."

The EPA website cites an exhaustive report published a year ago by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international body for assessing the science related to global warming. The panel was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Association and the United Nations. They’re tasked with conducting scientific research and analysis that helps world leaders draw up policies for environmental protection. The government panel has declared that “scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.”

CO2 is part of the natural carbon cycle and is emitted through plants and animals. It’s released through other processes such as volcanic eruption and gas exchanged between the ocean and atmosphere.  However, scientists say the primary cause of excess greenhouse gasses is human activity, specifically the burning of fossil fuels.

Researchers have compiled together records on climate for the last thousand to millions of years. Data on everything from tree rings and glacier lengths to pollen counts and the volume of sediment on the ocean floor, have been studied and restudied  before arriving at the conclusion that humans are causing irreparable damage to the planet we inhabit.

Scientists (and the EPA) say the climate change that occurred before the Industrial Revolution is a result of natural phenomena, such as the volcanic eruptions and solar energy. However, the climate change we’ve seen in recent decades can’t be explained by this alone.

According to NASA, the earth is getting hotter. The warmest years on record have been in the last 35 years with 15 of 16 hottest since 2001. NASA reports that 2015 was the first year the global average temperature was 1 degree Celsius higher than the average between 1880 and 1899. At the same time, we’re seeing more weather extremes. In the U.S., the number of record high temperature events have been increasing since 1950 while the record low temperatures are decreasing.

The oceans are also getting significantly warmer, and these waters are where as much as 90 percent of global warming goes, scientists say. The problem with warmer water is it contains less oxygen. Plants, fish and other organisms need oxygen to survive. Should warming continue, it will cause an increasing number of “oxygen minimum zones,” where any living organism will struggle to survive. Research also finds the global sea level has risen nearly 7 inches in the last century. However, the rate of this increase is nearly double in the last decade.

All of this evidence is just the tip of the melting iceberg. And it didn’t take long for others to respond with outrage to Pruitt’s comments. In a statement Gina McCarthy, the EPA’s most recent administrator, said that science should always be about empirical evidence, not beliefs. “When it comes to climate change, the evidence is robust and overwhelmingly clear that the cost of inaction is unacceptably high. Preventing the greatest consequences of climate change is imperative to the health and well-being of all of us who call Earth home.”

While attorney general of Oklahoma, Pruitt questioned human involvement in climate change. Pruitt, who was sworn in as head of the EPA two weeks ago, shares many of the beliefs of President Trump. During his meeting with reporters from the New York Times in November, Trump called climate change “a very complex subject.” He said he has “an open mind” when it comes to environmental issues. However, like Pruitt, he’s not completely sure how much humans are to blame for the warming of the earth.