Interior Chief: We Have No Global-Warming Litmus Test

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell testifies before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. (National Journal)

Sen. James Inhofe thinks climate change is a hoax, but that doesn't mean the Oklahoma Republican would be disqualified from a job at the Obama administration's Interior Department.

"There is no litmus test [on climate change] for people at the Department of the Interior," Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Thursday.

She spoke at a House hearing after coming under fire from Louisiana Republican and climate skeptic John Fleming, who brought up Jewell's 2013 remark that "I hope there are no climate-change deniers in the Department of Interior."

"Is that a purity test for someone to work for you in the Department of Interior, which is a very large department? That means that in your opinion everyone should agree with you that there is such thing as man-made climate change?," Fleming said at a Natural Resources Committee hearing on Interior's budget.

But Jewell responded "absolutely not," and added that she "didn't talk about causes of climate change" in her 2013 remarks. During the exchange Jewell also reminded Fleming of her other comments in her summer 2013 address to Interior employees.

According to Environment and Energy Publishing, Jewell said in the speech that if there are climate deniers at Interior, they should travel to lands the agency manages affected by climate change, such as melting permafrost in Alaska.

Jewell picked up on that theme Thursday.

"In context I said I have been on the lands and waters around the Department of the Interior and it would be very difficult to see the lands that I have seen and deny that climate change is going on," she said.

"Every place I have gone on public lands, I see droughts, I see wildfires, I see coastal erosion, I see the impact of storms and that is a reality that we are facing in this country," said Jewell, whose prepared remarks touted Interior's efforts to improve "resiliency" to climate change.

Fleming used the hearing to reiterate his doubt about human-induced climate change. "There is controversy over that issue and disagreement, even among very excellent scientists," he said.

However, the scientific consensus is that global warming is occurring and that human activities are driving the changes. An extremely small minority of scientists disagree or call the evidence inconclusive.