Mr. Pruitt, we do know our ideal temperature

Jim Probst: Mr. Pruitt, we do know our ideal temperature (Gazette)

OP-ED March 19, 2018

In a recent interview, Scott Pruitt, the head of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, questioned if global warming is “necessarily a bad thing.” He went on to say that it is fairly arrogant of us to think that we know what the ideal surface temperature should be in 2100.

Well Mr. Pruitt, there are things that are known and commonly accepted when it comes to “ideal” surface temperature. As head of the EPA, it seems that you should be aware of these facts. Our earth is classified as a “Goldilocks Planet,” that is a planet that is not too hot or too cold to allow for liquid water. We fit that classification because of our distance from the sun and because we have an atmosphere whose composition helps to retain a portion of the energy we receive from our sun.

Human activity is changing the makeup of our atmosphere so that more of the sun’s energy is being retained and our planet is warming. It’s pretty basic stuff.

Responding to the question of an “ideal” temperature, climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe responded, “there is no one perfect temperature for the earth, but there is one for us humans, and that’s the temperature we’ve had over the past few thousand years when we built our civilization, agriculture, economy and infrastructure. Global average temperature over the past few millennia has fluctuated by a few tenths of a degree, today, it’s risen by nearly 1 degree centigrade, [1.8 degrees Fahrenheit] and counting.”

Mr. Pruitt also continues to advocate for what he calls a red team-blue team exercise that would somehow establish a consensus on the “key” issues surrounding climate change. The thing is that this work has already been done by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which was established in 1989, during the George H.W. Bush administration, to “assist the nation and the world to understand, assess, predict and respond to human-induced and natural processes of climate change.”

This group released its fourth report in 2017, and the following Trump administration departments participated: Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Interior, State, Transportation, NASA, National Science Foundation, Smithsonian, U.S. Agency for International Development and, last but not least, the EPA.

It seems like you might have been provided a copy of the report, Mr. Pruitt. A short list of some of the conclusions reached in this report includes:

n The period from 1901-2016 is now the warmest in the history of modern civilization.

n Emissions of greenhouse gases are the dominant cause of the observed warming.

n Thousands of studies from around the world have documented changes in surface, atmospheric and oceanic temperatures — melting glaciers, diminishing snow cover, shrinking sea ice, rising sea levels, ocean acidification and increasing atmospheric water vapor.

n Heavy rainfall is increasing in intensity and frequency across the U.S. and globally and is expected to continue to increase.

n Heat waves are becoming more frequent and the incidence of forest fires has become more frequent since the 1980s.

n Without major reductions in our greenhouse gas emissions, we could be looking at as much as a 9 degree increase in global average temperature by the end of this century.

Already, we have seen more than 3,500 people die in a heat wave in India and Pakistan in 2015. Can you imagine what we will be witnessing with that level of increased temperature?

In 2014, the Department of Defense stated that climate change “will likely lead to food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe.”

In closing, I would like to respond to one last statement from Mr. Pruitt. In the same interview, he is quoted as saying that, “this agency for the last several years has been more focused on what might be happening in 2100, as opposed to what is happening today.”

With all of the information we have available as to what kind of a world we are leaving for those that come behind us, I find that statement to be the very definition of short-sightedness.