We’ll Never Know How Many Will Suffer Thanks to Scott Pruitt–And Those Who Continue to Support Him

Five years ago today–and damn, does that seem like a lifetime ago–New York magazine writer Jonathan Chait declared that President Obama wasn’t getting enough credit from climate activists for his leadership on reducing emissions. Back then, Chait observed:

The assumption that Obama’s climate-­change record is essentially one of failure is mainly an artifact of environmentalists’ understandably frantic urgency. The sort of steady progress that would leave activists on other issues giddy does not satisfy the sort of person whose waking hours are spent watching the glaciers melt irreversibly. But there is a difference between failing to do anything and failing to do enough, and even those who criticize the president’s efforts as inadequate ought to be clear-eyed about what has been accomplished. By the normal standards of progress, Obama has amassed an impressive record so far on climate change…

What has he done? He has done quite a bit, probably far more than you think, and not all of it advertised as climate legislation, or advertised as much of anything at all. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was many things—primarily, a desperate bid to shove money into enough Americans’ pockets to prevent another Great Depression—but one of them was a major piece of environmental reform. The law contained upwards of $90 billion in subsidies for green energy, which had a catalyzing effect on burgeoning industries. American wind-power generation has doubled, and solar power has increased more than six times over. As Time magazine’s Michael Grunwald detailed in his book The New New Deal, the new law suddenly transformed the Department of Energy, previously a sclerotic backwater charged mainly with overseeing the nuclear-weapons cache, into a massive new engine of cutting-edge environmental science…

The administration has also carried out an ambitious program of regulation, having imposed or announced higher standards for gas mileage in cars, fuel cleanliness, energy efficiency in appliances, and emissions from new power plants. In aggregate, they amount to a major assault on climate change. Some environmentalists judge them to be insufficient—a fair critique—but many more Obama supporters aren’t even aware that they exist. This is likely because none of these regulations produced any political theater. There was no legislation, no ponderous Sunday-morning talk-show chin-scratching, no dramatic wrangling of votes on the House floor. Just the issuing of a new regulation, a smallish one-day story.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s efforts to undo on Obama’s “ambitious program of regulation” will undoubtedly be remembered as among the most pernicious aspects of the Trump legacy. The sociopathic nature of Pruitt’s actions–his blithe disregard of the need to reduce emissions that threaten the existence of our civilization–shocks the conscience. This is a man who clearly does not care about his own children and the health of the world they will inherit, yet he surely thinks of himself as “pro-life.”

Of course, Pruitt isn’t the only one with a sociopathic view of the climate issue. Late last month, Robert Redford wrote a powerful op-ed for the Washington Post about Pruitt’s depraved behavior during his tenure at EPA Administrator. How many Americans immediately dismissed Redford’s strong and accurate words because they view him as an “out-of-touch elitist Hollywood liberal”? How many Americans refuse to even read the Washington Post because they regard the paper as “fake news”?

Remember how the mainstream media whined, moaned and complained last weekend over Michelle Wolf’s condemnation of the malevolence of the Trump administration? Wolf does deserve criticism for her remarks–because she wasn’t harsh enough, especially towards the likes of Pruitt and those who continue to defend his decimation of the EPA. This month marks a dozen years since the release of An Inconvenient Truth. Now more than ever, we must rededicate ourselves to fighting Pruitt’s convenient lies.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.