Former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy wanted the United States to set an example for the world on climate change. For instance, while admitting that the Clean Power Plan (CPP) would have no measurable impact on climate, it was still worthwhile, she maintained, because we need “to lead the world in our global climate fight.” Testifying before the 2013 hearing of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power, Ms. McCarthy explained that the CPP “is part of an overall strategy that is positioning the U.S. for leadership in an international discussion.” She said essentially the same in House testimony in 2016.
New EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt should recognize that, despite his predecessor’s misguided support for the climate scare, her emphasis on American leadership in the debate was justified. The United States has a moral obligation to set a good example in addressing serious global issues. Whether man-made climate change concerns are warranted or not, trillions of dollars and millions of lives are at stake.
So what example should Mr. Pruitt set?
It should certainly not be Ms. McCarthy’s approach of considering only one side of the science and demonizing experts who disagree. The public needs to have confidence that the government is giving a proper hearing to all reputable points of view, not cherry-picking the science to support a politically convenient narrative.
Mr. Pruitt is already on the right track. He has repeatedly promoted fair and open debate about climate change science, writing last May in National Review, “That debate should be encouraged — in classrooms, public forums, and the halls of Congress.”
In light of the recent charges by a former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist that agency researchers are manipulating data to support climate alarmism, Mr. Pruitt can expect strong public support for his call to open debate on climate change.
The EPA administrator should also direct the agency to quickly get up to speed on the arguments of climate “realists,” the many scientists who do not support the climate scare. A good opportunity is coming on March 2324 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, D.C., where the 12th International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC) is taking place. The meeting will feature the courageous men and women who take a more realistic stance on climate science, economics and policy than that of the McCarthy EPA.
Although thousands of people have attended the conferences, neither Ms. McCarthy nor any of her staff ever participated, despite repeated invitations from the Heartland Institute, the conference organizer. Yet millions of tax dollars are spent every year sending U.S. government officials to United Nations climate conferences across the globe to hear support for climate alarmism. Mr. Pruitt must instruct EPA staff to stop pretending that the science is settled and instead listen to both sides of the controversy.
As a lawyer, Mr. Pruitt would understand the point Carleton University geology professor Tim Patterson made while testifying before the Canadian House of Commons Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development in 2005: “In the legal system there is a mechanism to reopen cases when new evidence comes to light. In science this is the norm as well — questioning, re-examining, changing ideas and rejecting old ones when reputable new information surfaces. If Canada’s government is to base climate policy on real science, then they must accept that their policy decisions should be changeable as climate science advances. Otherwise, policy becomes disconnected from science, and we may waste billions of dollars going in entirely the wrong direction.”
Mr. Pruitt should explain that precisely the same applies in the United States.
The new administrator also needs to set a better example than Ms. McCarthy with respect to public consultations about new regulations. For example, the 11 EPA “public listening sessions” in 2013 on the Clean Power Plan avoided states where electricity price increases would have been the highest as a result of the new rules. Of the top 10 states with the highest percentage of electricity generated from coal, not one was included in the EPA meetings. Mr. Pruitt should ensure that public consultations include regions most affected by any proposed rule changes.
Mr. Pruitt must also eliminate climate propaganda from EPA speeches, news releases and other public communications. When formally announcing the Clean Power Plan in 2014, Ms. McCarthy referenced “carbon pollution” eight times in the first seven minutes of her presentation. Yet the plan only regulates carbon dioxide, which grade school students know is the stuff of life, the very opposite of pollution. Mr. Pruitt must ensure that no EPA staffers repeat this mistake.
Cleaning up climate-related parts of the EPA website should be very high on Mr. Pruitt’s priority list. Proclamations such as “If we fail to make substantial cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, the Earth will keep warming for centuries to come” should be deleted immediately. The science is too immature to know whether warming or cooling lies ahead.
Finally, Mr. Pruitt needs to help the U.S. concentrate on hardening its infrastructure to extreme weather and other inevitable natural phenomena. The Obama administration’s foolish attempts to control global climate wasted hundreds of billions of dollars, distorted the energy supply, and left the country more vulnerable than necessary to natural disasters. Mr. Pruitt must explain that it is not the climate that needs protecting from humans, but humans that need protecting from whatever nature throws at us next.
• Tom Harris is executive director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition.