During the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing today on Oklahoma State Attorney-General Scott Pruitt's nomination to become administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency various Democratic senators focused on his understanding of the science behind climate change. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was the most impassioned in his questioning. For the most part, Pruitt reiterated each time he was questioned that "science tells us that the climate is changing and that human activity in some manner impacts that change." He added, "The ability to measure with precision the degree and extent of that impact and what to do about it are subject to continuing debate and dialogue, and well it should be." Asked if he agreed President-elect Donald Trump's 2014 tweet that climate change is "a hoax," Pruitt replied, "I do not believe that climate change is a hoax."
As The Hill reported:
Sanders kept pushing, saying that there is no scientific debate, and eventually asking Pruitt what his personal opinion on the matter is.
"My personal opinion is immaterial to the job I'm carrying out," said Pruitt, the current attorney general of Oklahoma.
With regard to Pruitt's nomination, Niskanen Center libertarian policy shop president Jerry Taylor observes:
With Republicans in charge of the White House and Congress, conservatives no longer need to fear that acknowledging climate change will usher in a parade of policy horribles. They now control the parameters of the debate, which provides them a tremendous opportunity to address one of the greatest threats mankind faces over the next century in an economically responsible manner. Mr. Pruitt's confirmation should ride on whether he's interested in that project or not.
Pruitt is right that there is some debate among researchers with regard to the degree and impact that man-made climate change is having now and in the future. Just last year, one group of researchers reported that the global warming hiatus is real while another one found earlier this month that the hiatus never happened. Sounds suspiciously like a debate, doesn't it? Sen. Sanders tried to get Pruitt to endorse the notion that climate scientists all back the goal of deeply cutting the emissions of greenhouse gases. In fact, most climate scientists probably do favor such policies, and they are entitled to their opinions on the economic and energy technology tradeoffs implied, but their views are certainly not dispositive. In other words, there is a debate about how best to address the problem of man-made climate change.