White House chief of staff John Kelly killed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt ’s plan for a public debate on climate change science, according to a New York Times report Friday.
Pruitt for months has been talking publicly about organizing a government “red team, blue team” exercise among climate change experts and skeptics, possibly on television, and President Trump was receptive.
But at a December meeting that included representatives from the White House and the EPA, Rick Dearborn, Kelly’s deputy, relayed that the concept is “dead” and Kelly would not allow the idea to take flight, the Times reported, citing three people familiar with the meeting.
Administration officials were worried that the exercise would be too politically risky and draw negative attention to Trump’s aggressive mission to undo the Obama administration’s climate policies.
White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah told the Times that the administration “will ensure that any climate science review will be conducted through a robust, interagency process, consistent with federal law,” while the EPA did not respond to a request for comment.
The idea came from Steven Koonin, a New York University physicist and former Energy Department official during the Obama administration.
“The American people deserve an honest, open, transparent discussion,” about climate science, Pruitt said last year. “What do we know? What don’t we know? Does it pose an existential threat, what can be done about it?”
Pruitt has said that the climate is changing and humans have played some role. But he has questioned whether humans are the dominant cause or whether global warming would be harmful to humans, two questions that scientists widely answer in the affirmative.
E&E News reported after the December meeting that officials had put the debate idea on hold.
But when lawmakers asked Pruitt about that report later, he said it was “untrue,” and that he was still planning the exercise.