Friday, March 23, 2018

John Kelly Shut Down Pruitt’s Climate Denial ‘Red Team,’ but They Have a Plan B - by Dana Nuccitelli

John Kelly, White House chief of staff, listens as U.S. President Donald Trump, left, speaks during a briefing with senior military leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. on October 5, 2017. (Photograph Credit: UPI / Barcroft Images) Click to Enlarge.
In 2007, the US Supreme Court ruled that carbon dioxide is an air pollutant, which means that if it poses a threat to public health or welfare, the EPA must regulate it under the Clean Air Act.  In 2009, the EPA completed its review of the climate science literature and correctly concluded in its Endangerment Finding that carbon pollution poses such a threat via climate change.  That document is the foundation for all government climate policies, including the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan.  Climate deniers have thus long had their sights set on revoking the Endangerment Finding.

That’s a tall order, since the scientific literature is crystal clear on this question.  House Republicans first tried to simply rewrite the Clean Air Act to state the greenhouse gases aren’t pollutants, but they failed to get nearly enough support to pass that legislation.  Next they proposed setting up a ‘Red Team’ of climate deniers to debate the mainstream climate science ‘Blue Team.’  But Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly worried that having this prominent debate on the record would be a distraction and potentially expose the administration to litigation, so he killed the idea. 

However, E&E News reports that Pruitt has a safer Plan B:  take public comments on petitions asking EPA to revisit the Endangerment Finding.  This would appease the deniers by allowing them to officially make their case, but the EPA wouldn’t be under any obligation to take action.  It’s a fight Pruitt knows he would lose in court, because the science is not on the deniers’ side, so he would prefer to simply weaken the Clean Power Plan, eliminate as many other federal climate policies as possible, and delay all US climate action until the clock runs out on the Trump administration.
This is why Kelly shot down Plan A
The evidence supporting human-caused global warming is overwhelming, which is why there’s a 97% expert consensus on the subject.  To argue the contrary, or at least that global warming is overblown, deniers are forced to resort to cherry picking data.  And even their cherry-picked data confirms global warming.

Deniers have already lost this debate in the peer-reviewed literature.  John Kelly is right to fear the distraction and potential liability of associating the Trump administration with these terrible arguments.  Kelly is a military man, and the military doesn’t have the luxury of denying the threats posed by climate change. 

But if they can appease the deniers by allowing them to make these bogus arguments in comments that the EPA can largely ignore, Pruitt and Kelly will view it as a win-win outcome.  As long as the Endangerment Finding stands so that the next administration can use it to implement climate policies, it’s a win for all of us.

Read more at John Kelly Shut Down Pruitt’s Climate Denial ‘Red Team,’ but They Have a Plan B

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