Jul 27, 2017

Attacks on EPA's climate debate go beyond usual suspects

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's decision to host a public debate (possibly on TV) about climate change science is facing criticism from former heads of the agency and also industry officials who generally back what Pruitt is doing as administrator.

Why it matters: The criticism indicates that many experts outside the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress don't think debating climate change science is a worthy expense of the government's time and money.

Quoted:

  • "You don't debate on TV what are, essentially, solutions to an existential challenge for us, and that's why this proposal is ludicrous," Gina McCarthy, the most recent EPA administrator under Barack Obama, told me Wednesday. "It's not going to compete with Game of Thrones, I'll tell you that."
  • Christine Todd Whitman, an EPA administrator under George W. Bush, said the exercise is "just mind-boggling." She also discouraged scientists, most of whom agree human activity is a driving factor of climate change, from taking part. "It's more dangerous to give credibility to people that really don't deserve it," Whitman told me Wednesday.

Another side: Some fossil-fuel industry officials who are generally backing what Pruitt is doing at the agency--unraveling nearly all of Obama's regulations--said the debate doesn't seem to have a point.

  • "Personally between you and me, I think it's a load of crap," said one longtime energy expert, speaking anonymously given the critical nature of the words. "I don't know why we need to do that."
  • Another industry official said the only reason to do it is to unravel a scientific finding on climate change that Obama's EPA issued in 2009, and that, the official said, "is going to take a heck of a lot of effort and take away from other things they should be doing." (Check out a Harder Line column of mine from a few weeks ago for more on how some in industry don't want EPA to review the scientific finding).

The supporting side:

Myron Ebell, an expert at the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, says he supports Pruitt's plans but doesn't think it should be on TV, given the inherent granularity that is climate change science.

For the record: "Climate science like other fields of science is constantly changing," an EPA spokesperson said in an email. "A new, fresh, and transparent evaluation is something everyone should support doing."

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Coronavirus dashboard

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  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 1 a.m. ET: 664,695 — Total deaths: 30,847 — Total recoveries: 140,156.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 1 a.m. ET: 124,464 — Total deaths: 2,191 — Total recoveries: 1,095.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump announces new travel advisories for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, but rules out quarantine enforcement. Per the CDC, residents of those states must now "refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days," with the exception of critical infrastructure industry workers.
  4. State updates: Alaska is latest state to issue a stay-at-home order — New York is trying to nearly triple its hospital capacity in less than a month and has moved its presidential primary to June 23. Some Midwestern swing voters who backed Trump's handling of the virus less than two weeks ago are balking at his call for the U.S. to be "opened up" by Easter.
  5. World updates: In Spain, over 1,400 people were confirmed dead between Thursday to Saturday.
  6. 🚀 Space updates: OneWeb filed for bankruptcy amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  7. Hollywood: Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have returned to U.S. after being treated for coronavirus.
  8. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Coronavirus updates: Global death toll tops 30,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

The novel coronavirus has now killed more than 30,000 people around the world — with Italy reporting over 10,000 deaths, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: The number of deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. surpassed 2,000 on Saturday. The United States leads the world in confirmed coronavirus infections — more than 124,000 by late Saturday. The number of those recovered from the virus in the U.S. passed the 1,000-mark on Saturday evening.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 3 hours ago - Health

Trump rules out quarantine in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut after pushback

President Trump on the White House grounds on Saturdya. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

President Trump tweeted Saturday night that he's decided not to introduce quarantine enforcement measures fo New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut, but a "strong" travel advisory will be issued for those states. The CDC later announced domestic travel restrictions for the states.

Why it matters: Trump said hours earlier he was considering quarantine measures to combat the rise in novel coronavirus cases. But he received pushback, notably from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who told CNN such a measure would cause "chaos." "This would be a federal declaration of war on states," Cuomo added.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 5 hours ago - Health