After Donald Trump’s decision to thumb his nose at the world by reneging on America’s Paris climate commitment, U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt took to the Sunday talk shows to defend the action with a falsehood. A senior American diplomat in China resigned his post rather than deliver his government’s decision. And most Americans surveyed thought Trump made the wrong call—but appeared resigned to it.
Pruitt followed a familiar script to sell the administration’s retreat during several Sunday appearances: he lied and raised inflated fears. According to Utility Dive’s review, Pruitt doubled down on Trump’s unfounded assertion that the Paris agreement would harm America’s economy, alleging that it would cost some 400,000 jobs. By contrast, he repeatedly took credit for what he claimed were 50,000 new jobs added in the U.S. coal sector “including 7,000 in May”.
The inflated figure—the sector employs about that many people altogether, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics added just 400 jobs last month—was quickly challenged. On Monday, an EPA spokesperson “walked back” the claim, according to E&E News [subs req’d], explaining that “Pruitt had been referring to the broader mining sector that includes other industries.”
Pruitt, who has a long history of collaboration with oil companies, stood by another dubious assertion, however—that clean energy poses a threat to grid security. Pruitt told interviewers that the American power grid needs “solid hydrocarbons” as a bulwark against outages due to the alleged unreliability of renewable sources. The U.S. Department of Energy, now run by ex-Texas governor Rick Perry, is believed to be developing a similar narrative with a review of America’s baseload generation, seeking evidence that renewables threaten its stability.
Meanwhile, two opinion surveys confirmed that Trump is out of step with most of his fellow citizens. But a strong partisan divide—and other popular priorities—mean it may not matter to him very much.
In polling by the Washington Post-ABC News, “opposition to Trump’s decision outpaces support for it by a roughly two-to-one margin, with 59% opposing the move and 28% in support,” that newspaper reports. A Reuters/Ipsos survey produced the less dramatic finding that Americans who disapprove of Trump’s decision outnumber those who approve by 49% to 38%. Among Republicans polled by both groups, however, a decisive majority supports the Paris pullout.
Reuters also exposed a gap between Americans’ expressed values on climate change and their urgency about acting on it. While “68% of Americans want the United States to lead global efforts to slow climate change, and 72% agree ‘that the United States should take aggressive action to slow global warming’,” its survey found, “only about 4% believe the ‘environment’ is a bigger issue than health care, the economy, terrorism, immigration, education, crime, and morality.”