On Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency released statistics for 2017 greenhouse gas emissions and pointed out that greenhouse gases were down by 2.7 percent in 2017 from the year before.
That stance contradicts EPA and Trump administration officials who have questioned the importance of combating climate change or even its existence. After all, reducing greenhouse gases matters only if you believe that climate change is actually happening and that humans are playing a role in it.
The EPA can’t have it both ways. If you claim that reducing greenhouse gases is a victory, then back that up with policy.
Andrew Wheeler, the current acting director of the EPA and its former deputy director, has spent years advocating for increased coal production in the United States and decreased regulations. Previously, he was a former coal company lobbyist and former chief of staff for prominent climate skeptic Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla.
Although he has recently said that he does believe that some climate change is happening, under his leadership first as deputy director and now as acting director, the EPA has proposed to roll back existing policies that mandated checks of methane leaks, limited emissions for vehicles, and withdrawn from the Paris Climate Accords among other actions.
Trump himself recently questioned climate change in an interview on “60 Minutes.” When asked about climate change, he walked back on an earlier tweet where he alleged that climate change was a “hoax” dreamed up by the Chinese. In his latest remarks, he explained, “I don’t think it’s a hoax. I think there’s probably a difference, but I don’t know that it’s man-made.” He added, “I’m not denying climate change. But it could very well go back.”
There is no evidence that climate change is a reversible process or that it’s heading that direction. In fact, a recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes quite clear that just the opposite is true.
The IPCC report also indicates that greenhouse gases are a prime culprit and must be slashed if we want to avoid some of the worst consequences of climate change. Indeed, the reason that cutting greenhouse gases sooner rather than later is so important is that the impact of global warming is irreversible.
That’s why a reduction in greenhouse gases is a victory for EPA chief Scott Wheeler. If it didn’t matter, it wouldn’t be a talking point.
Trump administration officials can’t claim success for lowering greenhouse gasses while saying they don’t care about climate change and the human role in rising temperatures around the world. That’s what reducing greenhouse gases is all about. The EPA can have its victory, but it can't turn around and defend policies of its deregulatory agenda that increase greenhouse gases.