The United States’ top environment official under George W Bush has condemned Donald Trump’s decision to appoint a renowned climate science denier as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Christine Todd Whitman said she could think of no other EPA head as “disdainful of the agency and the science” as Scott Pruitt.
Mr Pruitt, who has close ties to the fossil fuel industry, sued the EPA 13 times in five years in his role as Oklahoma’s attorney general and is currently involved in a case against Barack Obama’s flagship policy on climate change, the Clean Power Plan.
Speaking to environmental news website Grist, Ms Whitman, a Republican who was in charge of the EPA from 2001 to 2003, predicted trouble ahead.
“I don’t recall ever having seen an appointment of someone who is so disdainful of the agency and the science behind what the agency does,” she said.
“It doesn’t put us in a good place, in my mind. And he’s going to have trouble within the agency if he does convey that kind of disdain to the career staff.
“He obviously doesn’t care much for the agency or any of the regulations it has promulgated.
“He doesn’t believe in climate change; he wants to roll back the Clean Power Plan.”
She said she feared experienced EPA staff might decide to leave because of Mr Pruitt’s appointment.
“I worry about people retiring and losing institutional knowledge,” Ms Whitman said.
However others might stay to oppose their new boss.
“They can slow things down, but he could too, and put a hard stop to regulations,” she said.
Mr Pruitt has said the science behind climate change is “subject to considerable debate”.
But this debate no longer exists in the scientific community, with researchers from an array of different fields – from climate scientists to geologists and biologists – finding concrete evidence that it is already causing negative effects after about one degree Celsius of warming since the 1880s.
Dr Rush Holt, the chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), has suggested climate denial is like disputing the existence of gravity.
“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,” he said.
Mr Trump is expected to pick former Texas Governor Rick Perry, also a climate change sceptic, to run the US Department of Energy.
While trying to become the Republican presidential candidate, Mr Perry said he would scrap three government departments, including Energy, but embarrassingly forgot this during a TV debate.
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