Reader's View: Pruitt right to call for climate debate
Democrats oppose the nomination of Scott Pruitt as Environmental Protection Agency administrator because of his position on climate change. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., summed up their concern when he said the Oklahoma attorney general "denies the sum...
Democrats oppose the nomination of Scott Pruitt as Environmental Protection Agency administrator because of his position on climate change. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., summed up their concern when he said the Oklahoma attorney general "denies the sum of empirical science and the urgency to act on climate change."
But Pruitt does no such thing. He merely calls for open debate about the issue. Writing in the National Review in May 2016, Pruitt explained: "Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind. That debate should be encouraged. Dissent is not a crime."
Because they believe the science of climate change is "settled" in favor of their position, Democrats find Pruitt's stance repugnant. They trust United Nations climate reports that often label science conclusions "unequivocal," in other words, statements that cannot be wrong.
But this is irrational. Science, especially in a field this new, is never unequivocal. It's merely today's opinions of experts based on their current interpretations of empirical data and theoretical considerations. Those interpretations change as we learn more.
Testifying before the Canadian House Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development in 2015, Carleton University geology professor Tim Patterson explained, "In the legal system there is a mechanism to reopen cases when new evidence comes to light. In science this is the norm as well - questioning, re-examining, changing ideas and rejecting old ones when reputable new information surfaces. If Canada's government is to base climate policy on real science, then they must accept that their policy decisions should be changeable as climate science advances. Otherwise, policy becomes disconnected from science, and we may waste billions of dollars going in entirely the wrong direction."
The same applies in the U.S. Pruitt's right to try to open up debate.
The writer is executive director of the International Climate Science Coalition (climatescienceinternational.org).