On a recent work-related field trip to Washington D.C., I had the opportunity to pose some questions to EPA Senior Policy Advisor for Oil and Natural Gas, Bob Sussman.
The subject matter of his presentation and the ensuing discussion revolved largely around potential EPA actions regarding fracking, approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and LNG exports, but also included commentary on climate change regulation initiatives that were likely to proceed from the administration.
My question was as follows:
Paul Crovo: “Despite claims by many such as Al Gore that the subject of man-made climate change is settled, there is a substantial and credible body of within the scientific community that has published hundreds of peer reviewed studies that bring such claims into question. Does the administration take dissenting views into account when it formulates its policy decisions on potential climate change regulations?”
Before we get on with it, let me say this: I was expecting the question to elicit a well-reasoned response from Mr. Sussman. But the answer that was given was, frankly, barren of facts and not very well supported. The advisor first took a few steps back by stating that he was not a climate change scientist, so as to apparently qualify his limited knowledge of the science.
He then proceeded to cite studies from the National Academy of Sciences as reasoning enough to support the idea that climate change was being driven by man-made actions. He then concluded by saying he believed that “the debate on the science was largely settled.” I followed up with a question on the president’s State of the Union speech in which he articulated some “facts” that he felt offered proof of anthropogenic global warming. Ok, on with it:
PC: “So you would concur with the President’s claims regarding climate change that he mentioned in his State of the Union Speech?”
Sussman: “What claims are you referring to?’
PC: “Record high temperatures and extreme weather events…”
Sussman: “Again, I am not a climate scientist, but….”
In short, I guess I came away a little surprised that a senior advisor to the EPA, even one who may not specialize in climate change, would be so reluctant to offer any of his own defense of the AGW argument and would be so quick to fall back on NAS studies. Frankly, as someone who is by no means an expert, but has done his share of reading on the subject over the last four years, I came away believing I knew more about the subject than Mr. Sussman.
This little experience actually made me wonder how many people at the EPA actually know that much about the science the agency claims as support for their regulatory efforts.