Trump's EPA head Scott Pruitt on Irma: Now is not the time to talk about climate change

Hurricane Irma has already killed 19 people in the Caribbean 

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Saturday 09 September 2017 01:11 BST
St Martin is one of the Caribbean islands to have been hit by Hurricane Irma
St Martin is one of the Caribbean islands to have been hit by Hurricane Irma (AFP)

US environmental chief Scott Pruitt has said that now is not the time for discussion about climate change, even amid record-breaking hurricanes Irma, Jose, and Katia.

"To have any kind of focus on the cause and effect of the storm; versus helping people, or actually facing the effect of the storm, is misplaced," Mr Pruitt told CNN.

"To discuss the cause and effect of these storms, there's the... place (and time) to do that, it's not now."

He said the focus should be on getting the people of Florida clean water, fuel, and cleaning up Superfund sites.

The agency's Superfund programme is responsible for cleaning the country's most contaminated areas and responding to environmental emergencies, oil spills and natural disasters.

However, when the Associated Press visited a Superfund site in Houston, Texas after Hurricane Harvey, no staff were there for cleanup.

The EPA said the sites were inaccessible to its response team and issued a press release attacking the Associated Press reporter who wrote the story.

Critics panned Donald Trump for the former Oklahoma politician's appointment given his many lawsuits against the agency he now leads as well as his belief that human action does not necessarily cause climate change.

Mr Pruitt held the administration's stance that the Paris Agreement on climate change, signed by nearly 200 countries in an attempt to reduce carbon emissions and contain global warming, was not in the best economic interests of the American worker despite evidence of growing renewable energy markets in the country.

Mr Trump, who has begun the withdrawal process for the US to leave the agreement, once called climate change a "hoax" perpetuated by the Chinese.

In the meantime, Hurricane Irma continues its course and will likely cause flooding and massive damage in low lying areas of Florida.

Florida Governor Rick Scott has warned that Hurricane Irma "is wider than our entire state and is expected to cause major and life-threatening impacts from coast to coast". The state is approximately 360 miles (580 km) wide.

Winds are expected to reach up to 155 mph (250 kmh).

The hurricane, a Category 4, has already devastated Caribbean islands like Barbuda and left more than a million people without power in Puerto Rico. The death toll has reached 19.

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