Turn to the nation's most objective and informative daily environmental news resource to learn how the United States and key players around the world are responding to the environmental...
By Abby Smith
The Senate environment panel’s top Democrat wants EPA acting chief Andrew Wheeler to explain the basis for his recent comments questioning a federal climate science report.
Wheeler, acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, in Nov. 28 remarks downplayed projections in the Nov. 23 federal report that the effects of climate change could cost the U.S. tens of billions of dollars. The report’s modeling froze technology development and didn’t account for innovations that could reduce emissions further, Wheeler told The Washington Post in a live interview.
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, rejected Wheeler’s claims about the report in a statement Dec. 4. He wants Wheeler to provide the basis for his remarks, and he is accusing the EPA head of deliberately misrepresenting climate science.
The report—the fourth installment of the National Climate Assessment—was written by scientists at 13 federal agencies, including the EPA, and nonfederal scientists. It takes a comprehensive look at the science of climate change and the impacts of global warming on the U.S.
The assessment explicitly links global warming to human-caused greenhouse gas increases, and it outlines both economic and public health damages that are more severe the less that emissions are curbed.
“We will respond to the ranking member through the proper channel,” Molly Block, an EPA spokeswoman, told Bloomberg Environment in an email.
Carper’s request is similar to those Democrats made of former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt when he cast doubt on mainstream climate science.
It could be a preview of oversight on climate science that Wheeler—whom President Donald Trump has said he will tap as the EPA’s permanent chief—may face in the next Congress when Democrats will control the House. Incoming chairmen of three House committees have announced they will schedule hearings on climate change early in 2019.
“We may not all agree about what to do to address these dire warnings, but it disturbs me greatly that counter to the commitment you made to me during your confirmation hearing, you seem to be actively working to undermine and distort the scientific evidence itself,” Carper wrote in a Dec. 3 letter, referring to Wheeler’s Nov. 8, 2017, hearing, when he was the nominee as deputy administrator.
Wheeler, as well as other Trump officials such as Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, also said the assessment looked at worst-case scenarios at the direction of the Obama administration, which started work on the report. The assessment is required by Congress every four years by a 1990 law, and the Obama administration released the third installment in 2014.
The report considered a number of scenarios, Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist and political science professor at Texas Tech University who helped write the report, told reporters Nov. 26. Those scenarios varied in how much the U.S. and other countries reduced greenhouse gas emissions and the severity of climate change impacts.
“Climate models tend to be biased in the direction of underestimating instead of overestimating” impacts, Hayhoe added, noting that modelers will only include climate effects and trends they are certain of how to represent.
That means some impacts aren’t included in projections, even though scientists may be observing them. For example, scientists know the Antarctic is warming faster than other areas of the globe, but they don’t have exact numbers that they feel confident enough to include in models projecting sea level rise and other impacts, Hayhoe said.
Wheeler and other officials’ public doubts about the economic numbers in the climate assessment echo Trump’s views—though his comments even more starkly oppose the report’s conclusions.
“I don’t believe it,” Trump told reporters Nov. 26 of the assessment’s economic forecast.
Carper is asking Wheeler to provide all briefing materials prepared for EPA officials related to the National Climate Assessment by Jan. 15, saying he wanted them to “understand the basis for EPA’s views and involvement in shaping the Trump Administration’s response to its own report.”
The materials Carper requested included briefings in May 2018 with various EPA officials, including air chief Bill Wehrum, water official Lee Forsgren, and former deputy in the EPA’s research office Richard Yamada.
Wheeler said Nov. 28 he has asked EPA staff to brief him on the economic projections in the climate assessment.
The acting EPA chief also said he hasn’t been briefed specifically on the agency’s climate research, but has spoken with individual scientists during visits at EPA labs about the work they are doing.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)