Tomorrow, congressional hearings begin for President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for EPA Administrator, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt.
The irony of this appointment? Pruitt is a climate change skeptic.
Trump has held questionable stances on climate change in the past, tweeting in 2012 that “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” Although he denied to have ever posted this tweet during the presidential debates last fall, Trump’s pick for his EPA administrator continues the narrative that Trump does not put environmental protection or climate change as high-priority parts of his agenda. He certainly disagrees with President Barack Obama’s current handling of EPA management.
“For too long, the Environmental Protection Agency has spent taxpayer dollars on an out-of-control anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs, while also undermining our incredible farmers and many other businesses and industries at every turn,” Trump said in a December statement.
Trump believes that Pruitt will reverse these trends, and with the new appointee’s history concerning the oil industry and environmental dealings, we will certainly see change. This change, however, may be costly to Americans in more ways than one.
Beginning with Pruitt’s background, it is notable to mention that on his own official biography, he is described as ” a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.”This includes how he is a major proponent for the oil industry, fighting strongly against environmental regulations. He became one of a number of state attorneys to combat the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, aimed at reducing carbon emissions from the electricity sector. Additionally, he has also sued with other attorneys general over the EPA’s regulations seeking to curb methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.
These regulations passed by the EPA are known as the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. This 2011 ruling’s intentions are to protect “the health of millions of Americans by helping states reduce air pollution and meet Clean Air Act Standards.” As the plan estimated to cost $800 million, according to an EPA regulatory impact analysis, conservative politicians, including Pruitt, have aggressively fought against it.
However, not implementing regulations such as this will be costly to the country in the long-term. Failing to combat carbon emissions will only contribute to climate change-related incidents, including desertification, flooding, and rising sea levels damaging coastlines. This will create more infrastructure costs than we already see and will risk the safety of vulnerable Americans
Furthermore, not working to reduce carbon emissions will only continue increasing health-related consequences. According to climate change advocacy group DARA, in 2010 5 million people have died due to climate change-related incidents. Not only do the natural disasters stated above damage American landscapes and communities, but they also harm agricultural production. Take California, for example, which faces depleting aquifers, dry ground water sources, and crises concerning providing fresh water to less empowered Californians. Illnesses from extreme hot and cold temperatures from climate impacts also affect about 700,000 deaths annually. Furthermore, pollution, indoor smoke, and other emission hazards related to industries like the ones Pruitt defends cause the rest of the 5 million deaths DARA cites. These are carried through respiratory ailments like lung cancer.
While Pruitt denies climate change and defends the oil industry, reducing carbon emissions would decrease the costs we see from the impacts of climate change. It is estimated that cutting carbon emissions can save $120 to $280 billion in health savings annually.It could prevent 19,000 hospital and emergency department visits, 400,000 cases of aggravated asthma, 15,000 non-fatal heart attacks, and 34,000 premature deaths. With less illness, work production can also increase, as it is estimated that up to 1.8 million days of work and school are missed due to carbon emission trends today.
Given all of these factors, DARA estimates through its report “that by 2030 the US will suffer the highest total amount of economic losses of any nation on the planet, losing about $40 billion a year by 2030 due to climate change effects.”
Although Pruitt lost his lawsuit against the EPA’s CSAPR in 2014, if he were to head the EPA he would have significant leverage and power in enforcing his agenda, which ignores the dangers of climate change and carbon emissions.
The EPA mission statement states that its “basic mission is to protect human health and the environment — air, water, and land.” It aims to do this through four types of regulations: “controlling the emission discharge of pollution; regulating certain industrial waste and products; public information requirements; and cleanup of contaminated sites.”
Everything Pruitt stands for is against what the EPA stands for. In denying climate change and refusing to reinforce emission regulations, our economy, human health, and environment are all at a significant risk. As Pruitt’s hearings begin tomorrow, it is critical that his stances are challenged. His feet must be put to the fire. Climate change is deteriorating the well being of our ecosystems, our economic integrity, our health, and our world at large. We have so little time to fix the damage that has been done. And we cannot risk to waste anymore time in rectifying it.