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Environmental Protection Agency Administrator-designate, Oklahoma Attorney General testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Trump's EPA pick says his personal views on climate change are 'immaterial' to the job


In his opening statement at his confirmation hearing Wednesday, EPA administrator-designate and current Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt encouraged "open and civil" discourse over the science of human-caused climate change. 

Over the course of the hearing, open discourse on the issue was widespread. Whether it was civil is up to interpretation. 

Pruitt mum on climate impacts

Throughout the hearing, Pruitt attempted to defend himself against claims that he's a climate change "denier" -- or someone who doesn't fully accept the overwhelming body of science that states humans cause global warming. 

He explicitly said he does not believe climate science is a "hoax," contrasting himself from President-elect Trump's position. But he also refused to say whether he believes humans are the primary cause of climate change and whether its impacts will be harmful.

View on climate 'immaterial' 

Arguably the most heated exchange over Pruitt's climate views came when he was pressed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who has regularly condemned the fossil fuel industry and urged swift action on global warming. 

Sanders asked Pruitt to say whether he personally believes humans are the primary cause of global warming -- something 97 percent of published climate scientists accept. Pruitt responded by saying his personal views on climate change are "immaterial" to how he would lead the EPA.


"Really?" Sanders asked. "You are going to be the head of the agency to protect the environment and your personal feelings about whether climate change is caused by human activity and carbon emission is immaterial?"

Pruitt stood by his position, adding that the EPA “has a very important role to perform in regulating [the emissions of] CO2,” but laws put constraints on that authority.

U.S. Senate Sanders, Pruitt on climate change

Watch | In the full exchange, Sanders pressed Pruitt to say why the climate is changing. Pruitt said he believes "the ability to measure with precision the degree of human activity's impact on the climate is subject to more debate."

Pruitt will lead agency tasked with climate 

If he is confirmed, Pruitt will lead the agency in charge of protecting human health and the environment by implementing regulations on various pollutants. The agency is also tasked with working with other nations to protect the global environment, which includes dealing with global climate change.

In every administration dating back to the 1980s, the head of the EPA has accepted the scientific consensus that humans cause climate change.

Pruitt has doubted consensus

Pruitt has expressed doubt over climate science before. 

“Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind,” Pruitt wrote in a May op-ed with Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange.

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