Environmental Protection Agency director Scott Pruitt doesn’t believe decades of increasing temperatures on Earth necessarily have anything to do with the fact that we’ve pumped massive amounts of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere. But just in case there might be some kind of connection between those two things, Pruitt says not to worry, because global warming might be good for us.
“I think there’s assumptions made that because the climate is warming, that that necessarily is a bad thing,” Pruitt insisted in an interview yesterday. “Is it an existential threat, is it something that is unsustainable, or what kind of effect or harm is this going to have?” he said. “We know that humans have most flourished during times of, what, warming trends?”
This is an old and not very well-reasoned talking point by people who want to continue unregulated carbon pollution. It is true that the planet has warmed and cooled in the past, and that warming has coincided at times with thriving human civilization. But those periods of warming occurred over a far more gradual time span. In addition, human life was then far more mobile; in the modern world, people and cultures have adopted settlement patterns that will undergo massive, costly disruption in the face of climate change. Drastic, severe changes in the temperature of the oceans and air will lead to extinctions, famines, and disease, not to mention the abandonment of coastal cities, of which many humans have grown rather fond.
Pruitt would be free to read some science about some of these effects on the website of his own agency — like here and here — except that he took the pages down. Anyway, bottom line, climate change means a lot worse things than putting on some extra sunscreen.