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AAAS CEO Rush Holt Raises Concern Over Selection of EPA Head

AAAS CEO Rush Holt today expressed reservation regarding reports that President-elect Donald Trump plans to select Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who views human-caused climate change as unsettled, to run the Environmental Protection Agency.            

Pruitt is part of a group of state attorneys general who are suing the EPA over its Clean Power Plan, which seeks to trim greenhouse gas emissions related to electricity generation. Part of Pruitt's argument against the regulation is that the science of climate change is unsettled and still subject to “debate.”

“The preponderance of scientific evidence and our understanding of climate change is rigorous,” said Holt, who also serves as executive publisher of the Science family of journals. “Human activities are largely responsible, impacts are already underway, and the sooner we act, the lower the cost and risk will be. This has been well-established by many scientists working from many points of view and accepted by virtually every leading scientific organization in the world. That clarity has continued to increase over the past three decades or so.”

Scientific investigation is inherently skeptical, however, it is dangerous and counter to scientific methodology to completely deny the weight of evidence when it is revealed. “If a person jumped off a building because he said gravitation is only a theory, one would say he is delusional. So too, any policy maker who would base national policy on denial of climate science because there is ‘debate’ would be called dangerously irresponsible,” Holt added.

Research by The Pew Research Center has revealed that a majority of citizens across 40 countries consider climate change to be a serious problem.

The latest National Climate Assessment states that today’s atmosphere has already warmed by 1.5° F in just over 100 years. According to the AAAS What We Know report, “The projected rate of temperature change for this century is greater than that of any extended global warming period over the past 65 million years.” The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that continuing on a path of rapid increase in atmospheric CO2 could cause another 4 to 8° F warming before the year 2100.”

The What We Know report further states that “according to the IPCC, given the current pathway for carbon emissions the high end of the 'likely’ range for the expected increase in global temperature is about 8˚ F by the end of the century. This is similar to the roughly 9° F warming that ended the last ice age. It is important to remember that temperature change due to CO2 emissions is essentially irreversible for several hundred years because this CO2 is removed from the atmosphere only very slowly by natural processes.”

NASA’s Global Climate Change Program has reported that “the 10 warmest years in the 134-year record all have occurred since 2000, with the exception of 1998. The year 2015 ranks as the warmest on record.”

Warming is happening more quickly at the poles. Scientists at the Alaska Climate Research Center have found that average temperatures there have increased by 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit (1.9 degrees Celsius) over the last five decades and by 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit (3.5 degrees Celsius) over the winters.

For more information, see the related news coverage by the journal Science.

 [Associated image: Trump plans to select Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head EPA. Gage Skidmore/Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0]

Author

Ginger Pinholster

Former Director, Office of Public Programs