Hurricane Irma: Pruitt Still in Denial Over Role of Climate Change

Tillerson in trouble as Environment Protection Agency Chief Pruitt Attempts to Maintain Denialist Agenda

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Scott Pruitt has hit the international headlines once again over Climate Change Denial. This time in connection with his widely quoted from telephone interview with CNN on Thursday September 7th, in which he attempted to evade questions relating to the possible role of Climate Change in the Hurricane Harvey Disaster. As speculation mounted as to the exact point of landfall that Hurricane Harvey’s successor, Hurricane Irma, was due to make, as well as the exact extent of the impact she was likely to have on the State of Florida, the head of the EPA continued to attempt to switch the topic of discussion away from the subject of Climate Change and into a more manageable arena.

In the meantime, Pruitt’s own department had caused a major furore over the course of the previous weekend when it had attacked an accurate exclusive from the Associated Press in connection with the damage sustained by a number of Superfund Toxic Waste management sites in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Worse still, and to add insult to injury, following US Attorney General and fellow Climate Change denier Jeff Sessions’ announcement on September 5, that the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is due to come to an end, Hurricane Harvey hero, paramedic Jesus Contreras, could face deportation in the coming months.

In spite of the fact that, as Clare Foran, writing in ‘The Atlantic‘ under the heading ‘Donald Trump and the Triumph of Climate-Change Denial’, had previously pointed out before Trump had even been sworn in, ‘Denial of the broad scientific consensus that human activity is the primary cause of global warming could become a guiding principle of Donald Trump’s presidential administration’, no one either inside or outside of the Trump Administration had any idea that all of this was going to happen; on the scale of Harvey and Irma at any rate. Meanwhile, Pruitt, Sessions and others close to the President seem incapable of acknowledging that something is going very wrong indeed. A fact that the mercurial founder and editor of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, was swift to pick up over the course of the succeeding weekend.

As Assange tweeted his reponse to an earlier Trump tweet in which the US President claimed that ‘The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive’, Hurricane Irma had already torn its way through Barbuda, St Barts and the Virgin Islands, leaving chaos in its wake. And, with Hurricane Jose already on the way, threatening further chaos and destruction in New Jersey and Long Island in the coming days, a situation that is only likely to make matters worse, Climate Change Denial appears to have little or no credibility in the scientific world at least. So why, as Assange has previously attempted to clarify through social media, is ‘This reality….a US taboo’?

The week before last this website revealed that, in the days immediately before Hurricane Harvey hit, the publication of a controversial report by a group of academics indicated that ExxonMobil, a Fossil Fuel multinational with which Secretary of State Tillerson has himself a longstanding association, had deliberately misled the public on a range of issues directly related to Climate Science. And, earlier in the year, we also revealed that ExxonMobil was under investigation by the New York Attorney General’s Office for ‘wildly distorting’ its own figures in relation to how it calculates the overall financial impact of Global Warming on its assets.

Then, last Tuesday, in a landmark ruling which appears to have been completely ignored by the mainstream media, the New York Court of Appeals denied ExxonMobil’s request to withhold documents previously sought by the New York Attorney General’s office in relation to its still on going investigation: thus upholding two previous judicial rulings in the lower state courts. According to InsideClimate News, one of only two news services that have thus far picked up on the story, Schneiderman’s subpoena seeks records from Price Waterhouse Cooper, ExxonMobil’s auditor, dating from 2010 to the present. A report on the EcoWatch website, which is the only other source to have covered the story thus far, the documents that are currently being sought relate to ‘risks to Exxon’s profits from regulations limiting the emission of greenhouse gases, policies discouraging the use or development of fossil fuels; and the potential effects of climate change on the price of oil, gas, and other hydrocarbons.’

So, on the face of this evidence it is by no means impossible that Pruitt’s current stance on the role of Climate Change, not only in relation to Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, but also in connection with the Wild Fires presently sweeping across the Western States, may have something to do with an attempt to avoid some sort of self incrimination. In an article that appeared on the BBC website on August 29th, whilst the situation in Houston Texas created by the arrival of Hurricane Harvey was still on going, Roger Harrabin, the Corporation’s Environment analyst, pointed out that lawsuits ‘seeking to apportion responsibility for climatic events’ could be making their way through the courts thanks to ‘a new branch of knowledge called attribution science’. This has led ‘lawyers from the firms Client Earth in London and Earth and Water Law in Washington’ to conclude that ‘in future governments and firms risk being successfully sued if they don’t cut their emissions.’

With this in mind, it should perhaps be noted that directly after his election to the office of Attorney General of Oklahoma, a position that he held from January 10, 2011 until February 17, 2017, following the November 2010 election, Pruitt dissolved the Environmental Protection Unit in the Attorney General’s Office. Following his successful re-election for a second term of office in 2014, it was revealed that the oil and gas industries had contributed to some $300,000 in total to Pruitt’s political campaigns. This led to a successful application to the courts by the Center for Media and Democracy, a liberal watchdog group, for the release of thousands of emails relating to his office’s dialogue with fossil fuel companies in compliance with a series of Freedom of Information Act requests filed over the previous two-year period. As the story continues to unravel we can only guess as to what is likely to happen next.

Photo: GOES-16 Sees Hurricanes Katia, Irma and José courtesy of NOAA Satellites. Public Domain

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Rupert Ferguson

Journalist at Distract The Media
Rupert Ferguson is a published author, journalist and radical film maker with specialist interests in local government, politics, environmental issues and Traditional English and Scottish Folk Music. His academic work has been endorsed by the likes of Sir Melvyn Bragg, the late Sir James Watt KBE and the former head of Humanities at Bingley College in Yorkshire, England; James Reed.

Having begun his career as a junior researcher at Thames Television in London, he has written for a wide range of publications including 'The Brighton Reporter', 'Durham Town and Country', 'The Brighton and Hove People' and 'The New Celtic Review'. As an exhibited film maker he has been a regular contributor and award nominee at the Portobello Film Festival in London; and has seen his work shown at the annual London Film Makers' Convention at the prestigious Round House Theatre.

As well as receiving enthusiastic reviews from BBC Radio 4 and others for his book on Sir Walter Scott, his pioneering work as an Underground Film Maker on the fledgeling Goa Trance Scene has set him in a field of his own amongst many of his contemporaries; both in the UK, where he presently resides, and elsewhere. Current projects presently in hand include a book centred on his 'Legendary London' series of documentary films, which have stimulated an enthusiastic response from the likes of Glenda Jackson and others; and a novel set in France and Edinburgh during the eighteenth century Scottish Enlightenment.

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