EPA chief criticizes climate report over ‘worst-case scenario’

EPA chief criticizes climate report over ‘worst-case scenario’
© Anna Moneymaker

Acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler joined others in the Trump administration Wednesday in criticizing last week’s major climate change report for describing a “worst-case scenario.”

At a Washington Post event, Wheeler said the report “was written in 2016, and was at the direction of the previous administration,” speculating that the Obama administration “told the report’s authors to take a look at the worst-case scenario for this report.”

“I think a lot of the worst-case scenario information in that assessment is what’s concerning a lot of people in this administration,” he said.

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Wheeler said the latest National Climate Assessment, released last week by the federal government, largely ignored the likelihood that innovations in the future would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, instead assuming that emissions will remain steady.

“I don’t think the assessment really took into account the innovation that we’ve seen and the technological advancement that we’ve seen in recent years. It basically freezes technology going forward,” he said.

The assessment forecast that by 2100, climate change could cause billions of dollars in economic losses — as much as a 10 percent loss of gross domestic product (GDP) — and kill thousands of people, among other impacts.

Wheeler’s critique largely reflects recent comments by President TrumpDonald John TrumpFamily says Trump travel ban preventing mother from seeing dying son Saudi Arabia rejects Senate position on Khashoggi killing Five things to know about the Trump inauguration investigation MORE, Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeTrump visits Arlington National Cemetery for wreath-laying Zinke blames 'false' attacks in resignation GOP lawmaker jokes about Trump's next Interior chief: It's going to be Mulvaney MORE and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

The EPA chief on Wednesday acknowledged that the worst case was just one of many scenarios the report examined, but he criticized the media for focusing on the worst case.

He argued that even the better cases “downplay innovation, innovation we’ve already seen in the marketplace."

Wheeler also said the report’s GDP predictions were based on research funded by liberal environmental activist Tom Steyer.

The 2017 research was conducted by scientists from institutions like the University of California Berkeley, Rutgers University and University of Chicago. Steyer’s Next Generation funded it in part, as well as the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and others.

The acting EPA head, whom Trump said this month he will nominate for Senate confirmation to the post, said he did not look at the report before it was released, though he is in the process of reading through it now.

For future reports, Wheeler wants researchers to use methods that reflect less-dire scenarios.

“We need to take a look at the model that’s used for the next assessment. I think we need to get some more realistic projection on technology and innovation.”