EPA Head Says Carbon Dioxide Not the Primary Contributor to Global Warming

EPA head Scott Pruitt.

EPA head Scott Pruitt. Reuters/Joshua Roberts

The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, said Thursday morning that he doesn’t think carbon dioxide is “a primary contributor” to climate change.

“I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact,” Pruitt said on CNBC’s show Squawk Box. “So no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see. But we don’t know that yet … we need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis.”

Pruitt’s statement is at odds with the vast scientific research on climate change, including the consensus of U.S. scientific agencies such as NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as well as the EPA itself. Contrary to Pruitt’s statement, CO2 is a known greenhouse gas and scientists have been precisely measuring carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii since the 1950s. Pre-industrial CO2 levels were about 280 parts per million (ppm) and have soared from about 315 ppm in 1960 to 407 today.

Temperatures have followed CO2 increases, and all but one of the hottest years on record have occurred this century. NOAA reported this week that the U.S. had its second-warmest February, and sixth-warmest winter, on record.

Pruitt told CNBC he would like to see Congress review the EPA’s 2009 decision to classify carbon dioxide as a danger to public health. He also called the 2015 Paris climate accords, an international effort to reduce carbon emissions, a “bad deal.”