It's no secret that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt disagrees with the overwhelming evidence tying human emissions of greenhouse gases to increasing global average temperatures, sea level rise, and a host of other problems for humanity.
He has, after all, moved to scuttle the Obama administration's regulations that would limit such emissions from power plants, ordered the EPA's climate change websites to go dark, and advocated for a televised debate on climate science, among other actions.
Now comes word that on Tuesday, EPA officials distributed talking points about climate science to its top public affairs staff throughout the country, providing eight talking points about the agency's work on helping America adapt to a warming planet.
The talking points, first reported by the HuffPost, are contradicted by both the agency's previous climate science website as well as a federal climate report that EPA scientists contributed to.
The email including the new talking points was sent on behalf of Joel D. Scheraga, the agency's senior advisor for climate adaptation — a program that, ironically, Pruitt has sought to eliminate.
I think it’s only fair that if climate scientists have to explain AGAIN why we’re warming the planet, physicists should have to explain how come stuff falls down https://t.co/CNxwYz60gb
— Kate Marvel (@DrKateMarvel) March 28, 2018
According to the email in the HuffPost report, which the EPA confirmed to them as authentic, two of the bullet points outright contradict and distort the findings of mainstream climate scientists, saying:
"Human activity impacts our changing climate in some manner. 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."
"While there has been extensive research and a host of published reports on climate change, clear gaps remain including our understanding of the role of human activity and what we can do about it."
A federal report published in November, known as the Climate Change Special Report, states clearly and unequivocally that the burning of fossil fuels for energy and other human activities cause global warming.
The report — which is the most which is the most up-to-date and comprehensive guide to climate science findings — states (original emphasis included):
(In the language of the report, "extremely likely" means a greater than 95 percent chance.)
Image: NCA 4, CSSR.
Presumably, these inaccurate EPA talking points will now be parroted by EPA public affairs officials when they deal with the media and the public, since the email was sent to communications directors and regional public affairs chiefs. That could, in effect, spread Pruitt's climate denial around the country under the guise of a respected government agency.
Pruitt has often said it's uncertain how much global warming is natural versus human-caused, a point included in the email that was leaked to the Huffington Post.
However, the November 2017 federal report specified the exact range of what the human contribution is, something that previous climate studies had not done.
It found that human activities have likely contributed between 92 percent and 123 percent of the observed temperature change from 1951 to 2010. (The contribution may be above 100 percent because, absent human activities, it's likely the climate would be cooling over time.)
Image: NASA/GSFC/Scientific Visualization Studio.
"The likely contributions of natural forcing and internal variability to global temperature change over that period are minor," the dozens of scientists who wrote that report concluded.
"This period is now the warmest in the history of modern civilization," the report found.
The EPA's now archived climate change website was also unambiguous about what is causing global warming, stating that "humans are largely responsible for recent climate change." It also explains that global warming "... is caused mostly by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere."
For Pruitt, conceding the reality of human-caused global warming would necessitate pursuing a radically different policy agenda at the EPA. To date, Pruitt's approach has been to try to dismantle the EPA, particularly its work on climate change but also in other areas — the science be damned.
These bullet points mark the spread of his climate science denial beyond EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C., to the agency's offices around the country.