Reality imitates satire; smoking, climate change, and EPA chief Scott Pruitt

Jim (seated) consults Sir Humphrey

Wishing, as I recall, to evade the scientific consensus on smoking and lung cancer, Yes Minister‘s Jim Hacker turned for advice to his Civil Servant Sir Humphrey Appleby. The conversaton went something like this (I would be glad of a link to the exact transcript):

Sir Humphrey: Say the scientists disagree. Say that more research is needed.

Jim: But I thought the science was settled …

Sir Humphrey: Those scientists are always disagreeing about something, and there is  always a need for more research.

Now this, from Science magazine’s online website:

Pruitt testifyimg (NBC)

Asked if CO2 is the “primary control knob for climate,” Pruitt said he wouldn’t agree with that assessment.

“I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do, and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,” Pruitt said.

“We don’t know that yet. We need to continue the debate and to continue the review and analysis.”

Which, no doubt, is why the administration of which Pruitt is part is cutting the budget for climate science.

Global temperature, by NASA Goddard  via Wikipedia

About Paul Braterman

Science writer, former chemistry professor; committee member British Centre for Science Education; board member and science adviser Scottish Secular Society; former member editorial board, Origins of Life, and associate, NASA Astrobiology Insitute; first popsci book, From Stars to Stalagmites 2012

Posted on March 13, 2017, in Climate, Global warming, Politics, Science and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Thank you, Paul, for all you do.


  2. Scott Pruitt has definitely got a vested interest in the industries that are hampered by climate change regulations. I expect his argument may be that all Americans are poorer because of these regulations and this is undoubtedly true not just in America but globally. This is why developing countries see this as unfair since the developed nations were not hampered by such regulations. America has a big problem now Donald Trump has promised prosperity at all costs to his nation. Growth has been, and still is, the global mantra but some voices are speaking of limits to growth as you will find on their website. Limiting growth could be essential for our survival as a global community.


  3. It is dismaying that the public relations technique of saying “the scientists disagree and more research is needed” still takes so many people unawares. I believe the technique has been around 60 or more years, and yet I wonder if even a simple majority recognizes it for what it is yet.


    • I fear you’re right. It’s a special case of making ignorance seem more respectable than knowledge. Compare the way creationists, and even more dangerously warming denialists, claim to strengthen science education by deanding the teaching of the “weaknesses” of those bits of established science that they don’t like.


  4. Couldn’t find transcript.

    5 mins to 11 mins in? There are always arguments against everything – even the truth – “There are no proven causative links” (as long as you don’t want to see them).


  1. Pingback: Truth imitates satire (again) at the Environmental Protection Agency | Primate's Progress

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