Dear Scott Pruitt: Stop Lying. We See What You Are Doing.

March 10, 2017 | 4:33 pm
A. Eyring/UCS
Erika Spanger-Siegfried
Director of Strategic Climate Analytics

I heard EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt say that carbon dioxide doesn’t cause global warming yesterday. I watched him lie in ways that only serve the fossil fuel industry. I saw him wager away our children’s future for a few more years of fossil fuel profits. And as we dangle here at the end of the climate rope, I know the fury this has lit amongst many of us.

Let’s put a finer point on what’s happening here.

Let’s also look toward ways we can fight back.

To Scott Pruitt and the Trump administration: Stop lying to the American people

Scott Pruitt is not a climate skeptic. He’s not a climate denier. He’s not unclear on the science, or if he is it’s out of willful ignorance. We could politely call him out on “disinformation,” but  it seems especially important in these times to call a lie a lie, and a liar a liar.

Put this in the “I can’t believe I still have to do this” bucket, but here it is:

But not if we allow ourselves to be gaslighted by the Trump administration’s cynical, self-serving, willfully ignorant, future negating, grandkids-gonna-hate-em industry shills.

There is no science debate here. That’s a hand-wavy, obfuscating technique that stooges of the fossil fuel industry (and this administration is teeming with them, including Scott Pruitt) trot out from time to time. These folks are not skeptics or deniers, they are not people taking a philosophical position or working out a rational conclusion. These people understand the science well enough; they are simply taking contrary positions for perverse, self-serving interests. In the world of social media, they would be known as trolls. And to the climate movement, that’s what they are: powerful and dangerous climate trolls.

To Scott Pruitt and the Trump Administration: Stop lying to the American people.

Do your job

Scott Pruitt has a very important new job. As EPA administrator, he is upholder-in-chief of the EPA’s mission: to protect human health and the environment. There are science-based laws in place to ensure those protections, and Administrator Pruitt has one chief responsibility: implement and enforce those. When he takes to talk shows to undermine science–including science on which those health- and environment-protecting laws are based–he is not doing his job. He’s undermining the entire mission of the agency and the health and safety of all Americans he was hired to protect.

On climate science specifically, the EPA’s Endangerment finding has already established that global warming emissions pose harm to human health and welfare. And its ‘Cause or Contribute’ finding equally clearly establishes the role of emissions from power plants, vehicles, and other major sources in contributing to rising carbon emissions. And these emissions are worsening wildfires, heat waves, air pollution, and rising seas that threaten our coastal communities. The EPA is legally required to act on limiting carbon emissions, based on the Mass v EPA Supreme Court ruling and these findings, and Scott Pruitt should do his job.

To Administrator Pruitt and his entourage at EPA: this agency is not a joke. It’s not a political chess piece. Americans demanded it decades ago, benefited from it, and we depend on it today. Do your job. Or step aside for someone who will.

PS: Leave your staff alone.

We see what you’re doing

Those of us who follow climate change know that the time we have to act and avoid drastic climate change is heart-skippingly narrow. We have a small foothold toward progress under the EPA in the form of the Clean Power Plan and the fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, and in our commitment to the global Paris Climate Agreement.

This administration is intent on rolling these back in service of their fossil fuel interests. As Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, put it in an interview “It’s a game. An incredibly cruel game. They are taking the future of your children away for another few years of oil and gas profits.” Watch the full, powerful interview to be reminded how to speak out.

It is very clear what this administration is doing when we look at the way the Trump transition team was stocked with climate trolls, the way his appointees dodged and obfuscated in confirmation hearings in response to climate questions, and the way expected executive orders and budget priorities target climate change science and policy (and budgets)—the administration is dialing back progress on climate solutions and fostering a fossil fuel industry resurgence. Which helps the fossil fuel industry and screws the rest of the entire world, now and indefinitely.

What we saw this week from Pruitt was an opening foray in what is likely to be a long, sustained assault. We should expect it to get worse before it gets better.

To the administration: We see what you’re doing. It’s shameless. And yes, we know you’re just warming up and we already find your moral bankruptcy exhausting. But one thing to remember about us: we fight hard and we never give up. We can’t.

Friends, hold the line

We have fought so hard and come so far. We’ve seen this rodeo before; we’ve dealt with this kind of campaign in the past and defeated it. Now the rodeo is back, with more bull.  And we have to hold the line.

Today is definitely different. And despite feeling powerless, there are countless reasons why we are stronger today. The outlook for a clean energy future, for example, is incredibly positive. (Do yourself a favor and read my friend’s blog on the solar outlook and feel the sunshine…) The markets show new signs of anticipating a carbon constrained future. And today, the climate action stream is merging with the social justice stream, with labor, human rights, and others to potentially form the most powerful movement this country has seen in many, many years.

To win in this moment we need to keep the faith, find strength in numbers, and fight like hell.

On the climate front, UCS is working to defend science broadly and climate science in particular, and that’s going to be the long game. But in the days ahead, we can all:

  • Call or write your senator and ask him/her to release a statement that repudiates Mr. Pruitt’s blatantly fase claims.
  • Visit your representatives’ offices in your district and let them know you expect them to oppose any effort to weaken the public health and environmental safeguards that EPA provides.
  • Keep an eye out for rallies at EPA headquarters and offices and attend if you can. I hear the AFL-CIO is planning one for Wednesday, March 15.
  • Organize a demonstration outside your regional EPA office. Ideas for signs with a science bent are here. Or just copy phrases from the EPA’s climate web pages
  • Call your regional EPA office (numbers online here) and headquarters to express your support for EPA’s climate science work.
  • Look for articles about Administrator Pruitt’s egregious position and respond immediately with a letter to the editor. We have tips to increase the likelihood of your letter being published.
  • Call your local radio or television station and demand that their news departments cover this story responsibly.
  • Are you a parent on social media? Post a picture of your kids on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook showing exactly whose future Administrator Pruitt is willing to sacrifice.
  • Find someone who questions climate science and talk to them. Here are some suggestions to guide your conversation.
  • Register for a local Scientists March on April 22.
  • And last but definitely not least, register and plan to attend the People’s Climate March in DC on April 29. UCS will be there in force.

The progress we’ve made on climate action is still modest, but so hard fought and so very precious. We know we don’t have time for this. We know what backsliding means for our future. We each have an inner Gandalf facing down the Balrog of Moria and bellowing “You Shall Not Pass!” (Or maybe that’s just me.) Let’s make sure administrator Pruitt and the rest of these trolls hear it.

Take care of yourselves in this frustrating time and thank you for holding the line as best you can.

Not this time, climate trolls.