Last fall, my 8-year-old daughter brought home a really neat school project. It’s called a “closed-loop ecosystem.” In one of those cheap clear Christmas ornaments, they had placed soil, water and moss inside and plugged up the top. Thanks to plant respiration, and condensation, the tiny ecosystem is alive and thriving months later.
What’s more, this project gave this particular group of third-graders a lot of hands-on science instruction. In particular, they got an object lesson in how ecosystems depend on balance, and how human influence can affect that balance. (I was sternly warned not to remove the top, as doing that would dry out the moss and kill it.)
So even a third-grader gets it – humans can influence the environment. And today, I’m left wondering if my third-grader is more equipped to lead the EPA than Scott Pruitt.
Here’s what Pruitt told CNBC about carbon dioxide this morning on CNBC:
"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.”
No, Scott Pruitt, no. I’m sorry. I wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt. And I had my doubts when President Trump appointed someone to head the EPA that had sued that agency more than a dozen times. But I get it. I imagine the EPA might be a victim of its own success and is now guilty of regulatory overreach. For example, we haven’t polled our readers specifically about WOTUS, but I’d be shocked if fewer than 95% of farmers disapprove of it.
At the same time, I am shocked and saddened that climate change has become as politicized as it has. At its core, the climate change story is told with data – raw observations and numbers collected over decades. And those numbers show that Earth has warmed by about 2.0 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century. There is also more carbon dioxide in our atmosphere than there used to be, which is highly correlated with (if not directly the cause of) this warming.
I am tempted here to talk about “human tampering” and possible anthropomorphic causes of climate change. But let’s skip all of that and avoid those often contentious arguments about mankind’s role (or lack thereof) in our warming planet. Let’s instead talk about some really basic, measurable science.
Carbon dioxide is a heat-trapping gas. This is easily measurable. The amount of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere is also easily measurable. As the amount of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere goes up, average global temperatures have also gone up.
Something even a third-grader can understand. So why doesn’t Scott Pruitt?
“We need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis,” Pruitt told CNBC.
No, we don’t! How can you sit and say with a straight face that you’re “pro-environment” when don’t even have an elementary grasp on basic climate science? What debate? What review? What analysis?
Again, I’m fine with dialing back regulatory overreach. But Scott – this whole nonsense statement on carbon dioxide? Just don’t.