On Wednesday, the Chief Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy, told members of the American Meteorological Society that “[s]cience is under attack like it has never been before.”
Speaking at the Phoenix Convention Center, McCarthy urged the scientific community to not “hide or…be more quiet” but to continue speaking to the public about climate change.
In the scientific community, there is a 97.1 percent consensus that humans are having an effect on the global climate. McCarthy alluded to this fact in her speech, but she also called out the obviousness of its effects by using herself as a witness: “There is some advantage to being 60 and part of that is I can remember how the world was when I was a child,” she said. “If you don’t think it’s changed you’re kind of nuts.”
McCarthy’s comments reflect an essay former vice-president Al Gore wrote in 2011, in which he described climate denial as “functionally insane.”
McCarthy told her listeners that it was necessary to emphasize the economic urgency of acknowledging climate change, as doing so has already put countries like China and India, the first and third top-polluting nations respectively, at more advantaged positions over the U.S.
“What you see happening in China and in recent conversations in India are going to make people comfortable that if the largest greenhouse polluters say this is where they’re going to be in 2030, you are then going to trigger a range of investments – not costs, but investments,” said McCarthy. “I think that will get us more in 2030 than we ever required and put us on a better trajectory moving forward.”
The rising health risks of China’s runaway pollution has pushed its government to begin cracking down on polluters. Last year, the country announced that it would implement a national cap-and-trade program by 2016. Though India has not yet agreed to limiting its carbon emissions, it has pledged $100 billion to adapting its infrastructure to climate change.
Meanwhile, the American Congress remains gridlocked on climate change and energy efficiency issues.
“We need to move in a way that’s not based on fear, but opportunity,” said McCarthy. “That’s the way you engage people when change is happening. Or else they’ll hunker down and do what many are doing now, denying it.”
Prior to her appointment as EPA Chief, McCarthy fielded an unprecedented number of over 1,100 questions by Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee. All but 25 of them came from Republicans. McCarthy’s appointment was opposed by both the coal industry and conservatives with close ties to conventional energy interests, their argument being that the EPA has already attempted to regulate business too much without McCarthy’s help.
“My fight is with President Obama and the EPA, the regulatory agency that has consistently placed unreasonable regulations and unobtainable standards on energy production, rather than focus on efforts to develop a domestic all-of-the-above energy strategy for the future,” said Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the single Democrat who voted against her.