Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt was grilled repeatedly on Sunday by television anchors hoping to get more clarity on President Donald Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Climate Accords this week.
Political talk shows hosts confronted Pruitt about his assertion that the deal, which 156 nations signed in order to curb emissions that fuel climate change, would be damaging to the American economy.
Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace aggressively pushed back against the Trump administration’s assertion that China and India were not seriously committed to reducing emissions, saying “the reality is different from what the president said.”
“Mr. Pruitt, aren’t you focusing on the wrong thing?” Wallace asked, pointing out that the solar industry employed twice as many people as the coal industry, one of the beneficiaries of Trump’s decision.
“Aren’t you and the president protecting the horse and buggy business just as cars go online?”
Pruitt dismissed the question, saying the US needs coal and solid hydrocarbons to address high demand for electricity as well as “attacks on our grid, attacks on our infrastructure.”
“If we have peak demand needs you want a diversity of fuels that generate electricity,” Pruitt said.
Wallace also noted that despite Trump’s promise that his decision would benefit the residents of “Pittsburgh, not Paris,” the Pennsylvania city’s mayor committed to staying in the climate agreement.
“The mayor of Pittsburgh said ‘We’re not a steel town anymore, we’re a green town,'” Wallace said. “And in fact he rejected what the president said.”
“This president has said we need an all of the above approach,” Pruitt said. “We should not penalise sectors of our economy, Chris. Government regulations shouldn’t be used to pick winners and losers.”
The hosts also pushed Pruitt to support his claim that the Paris agreement would not ultimately reduce the effects of climate change.
Multiple anchors, including Wallace and ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, pointed out that the Trump team was misinterpreting data from a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study. Pruitt said the scientists have “short memories,” and attempted to discredit the MIT author’s comments.
“It’s very fishy to me that MIT updated their results after we started citing it,” Pruitt told Wallace.
Pruitt refused to answer again whether Trump still believed that climate change is a hoax.
“Meet The Press” host Chuck Todd pressed Pruitt on whether he still believes that carbon dioxide is not the primary driver of climate change, a belief directly at-odds with the overwhelming scientific consensus.
“You don’t believe that CO2 is the primary cause?” Todd asked.
“No, I didn’t say that. I said it’s a cause,” Pruitt replied.
“Primary?” Todd asked.
“It’s a cause of many,” Pruitt said. “It’s a cause like methane, and water vapour, and the rest.”
Wallace and Stephanopoulos each pressed the administrator four times on their respective shows about whether Trump believed in climate change.
“Doesn’t it matter whether or not the president believes there is man-made climate change, whether he believes it’s a hoax?” Stephanopoulos said. “That is the predicate for the entire decision.”
“The focus is on the efficacy, the merits of the deal, and the demerits of the deal,” Pruitt said, dodging the question by pointing out that the US has reduced carbon emissions substantially in the past two decades.
“I don’t want to beat a dead horse here, but you’re not going to tell me whether or not the president believes climate change is a hoax?” Wallace asked on his show.
“The President has indicated that climate changes,” Pruitt said. “It’s always changing. I’ve indicated the same.”
One of the primary advocates for leaving the agreement, Pruitt has been its primary defender, fielding similar questions at a White House press briefing on Thursday. The Washington Post noted that he has become one of the most influential policy advisers in the Trump administration, rolling back a number of rules regarding emissions, water pollution, and pesticides.
Green activists have pushed back against Pruitt’s claim that many top environmental groups do not support the Paris climate agreement.
“This Administration’s increasingly defensive attempts to spin their disastrous decision to leave the Paris Agreement knows no bounds, no shame, and no respect for reality,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement Sunday. “Contrary to Pruitt’s distortions, the Sierra Club said then and we believe now that the Paris Climate Agreement marks a historic turning point for humanity, and no amount of lies spewed by Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt can ever change that.”
Watch the clips below:
On @ThisWeekABC, EPA chief Scott Pruitt still won’t say whether President Trump believes climate change is a hoax. https://t.co/fB4sCtkQ5E pic.twitter.com/PN0BHx3L30
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) June 4, 2017
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