In an interview with CNN on Thursday, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said that now is not the time to talk about climate change.
“Here’s the issue,” he said. “To have any kind of focus on the cause and effect of the storm, versus helping people, or actually facing the effect of the storm, is misplaced.”
Fortunately this is not a choice that need be made. There is vulgarity in politicizing tragedies for the sake of gaining power, and crassness in pointing fingers and placing blame instead of mourning a tragedy. But of course these aren’t the only options. In the interest of minimizing harm to people, it’s always an important time to talk about climate change. We don’t have to choose between helping current victims and working to prevent the next tragedy.
This is a false dichotomy of the sort that’s commonly used to silence talk of prevention and public health that implicates powerful industries. In the wake of mass shootings, for example, the supposed choice is between mourning loss of life and talking about the instruments of violence. In this case the choice is supposedly between rescuing people and talking about climate change.
Pruitt doesn’t seem to favor talking about climate change much at all. Even before arriving at the EPA, as attorney general of Oklahoma, he led the fight against the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. And already, his EPA appears to be limiting study of the subject. The agency now reportedly has a Trump campaign aide monitoring research-grant applications for “the double-C word.”