I’m sitting in front of my computer reading part of an interview last Thursday with Scott Pruitt, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency. The article includes a photo of Pruitt, with a placard in front of him reading “Hon. E. Scott Pruitt.”
Before being named to the EPA post, Pruitt was the Attorney General of Oklahoma. In that position, one of his main accomplishments was bringing fossil fuel corporations and lobbying groups into the Republican Attorneys General Association. He also acted as a conduit for Devon Energy, Oklahoma’s largest oil and gas firm, when he sent a letter to the EPA accusing it of federal overreach. His contribution was the signature; attorneys for Devon Energy actually wrote the letter.
The Republican AG group welcomed its fossil fuel funders by forming a nonprofit called the “Rule of Law Defense Fund.” The fund had the deliberately vague purpose of pursuing “issues relevant to the nation’s Republican attorneys general.” Pruitt is a board member. The organization has received at least $175,000 from the Koch brothers’ Freedom Partners super PAC.
That is the background for Pruitt’s astonishing statement in his interview: “… no, I would not agree that [carbon dioxide is] a primary contributor to the global warming that we see. ... we don’t know that yet ... we need to continue debate and continue the review and the analysis."
This is a familiar industry line. First with the tobacco industry, now with the fossil fuel industry. “We don’t know that cigarettes cause cancer.” “We don’t know that burning oil and gas and coal causes global warming.” “The science is uncertain.” “We need further studies.” Et cetera. What is so sickening is hearing these words from the head of the EPA.
Debate, review, analyze .... What they really stand for is delay, delay, delay. The longer an industry fights off action, whether it be on smoking or climate change, the longer the money rolls in… and the more people die from lung cancer or unprecedented flooding or heat stroke or climate-driven drought.
We do know that humans' burning of fossil fuel is driving our current global warming, and have known it with certainty for decades. There are few things more firmly established in modern science than the primary role of human-generated carbon dioxide in causing the planetary warming we’re experiencing. Pruitt might as well have claimed that there is no proof that Earth is round, that we need to keep debating and reviewing and analyzing that issue.
But there’s no money in pushing a flat Earth agenda; there’s plenty of money available for people like Pruitt, who will swap their integrity for a few lies about climate change (and the high positions and salaries that reward their willingness to spread those lies in front of cameras).
What are the consequences of lies about global warming?
Rising sea levels moving steadily inward on beaches and coastal plains around the world. More intense, deadly heat waves that have already killed thousands. The death of coral reefs and bleaching of many more, even in the most remote, pristine areas of the planet. Ever larger and more intense forest fires, thousand-year floods, and mega-droughts. The looming extinction of untold numbers of plant and animal species.
And that’s just a brief sample. What Pruitt and this administration are furthering is death, loss, suffering, and destruction across a wide swath of the planet—while their supporters cheer on the madness.
This is Esau’s trading of his birthright for a mess of pottage that long since turned foul and rotten. I’m thinking again of that placard in the photo of Pruitt. We use the title “the Honorable” so routinely. So cheaply. Few things could be more dishonorable, and more despicable, than carrying lies for such a morally indefensible cause.
© Tony Russell, 2017