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Trump's EPA chief talks up benefits of climate crisis

Scott Pruitt's old line was that the climate crisis isn't real. His new posture is that it might be real, but it might also be good for us.
In this March 10, 2016 photo, Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma Attorney General, gestures as he speaks during an interview in Oklahoma City, Okla. (Photo by Sue Ogrocki/AP)
In this March 10, 2016 photo, Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma Attorney General, gestures as he speaks during an interview in Oklahoma City, Okla.

In October 2007, Dr. Julie Gerberding, the then-director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was poised to testify before a Senate panel on the impact of climate change on public health. The Bush/Cheney White House, however, intervened, "eviscerating" Gerberding's draft testimony before lawmakers could see it.

When reporters asked then-White House Press Secretary Dana Perino for an explanation, she said, in her best passive voice, "[T]he decision was made on behalf of CDC to focus that testimony on public health benefits" associated with global warming. Perino added at the time, "There are public health benefits to climate change."

More than a decade later, Republicans are still trying to make the case that we should try to focus on the silver linings of a planetary disaster. E&E News reported yesterday:

U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt questioned yesterday if rising global temperatures are harmful to humans, a claim that adds new insight to his alternative views on climate change.In an interview with KSNV television in Nevada, Pruitt suggested that global warming could be seen as a good thing for people. He said civilizations tend to flourish when it's warm."I think there's assumptions made that because the climate is warming, that that necessarily is a bad thing," Pruitt said.

"Is it an existential threat, is it something that is unsustainable, or what kind of effect or harm is this going to have?" Donald Trump's EPA chief added. "We know that humans have most flourished during times of, what, warming trends?"

Jon Chait was understandably unimpressed: "This is an old and not very well-reasoned talking point by people who want to continue unregulated carbon pollution.... Drastic, severe changes in the temperature of the oceans and air will lead to extinctions, famines, and disease, not to mention the abandonment of coastal cities, of which many humans have grown rather fond."

And while that's certainly true, I wonder if Pruitt's absurd posture might offer hints of possible hope.

Indeed, if you're willing to tilt your head and close one eye, there's some good news lurking behind the nonsense. Ordinarily, Pruitt and his cohorts are content to ignore the evidence and argue that climate change isn't real at all. This week, however, Pruitt seemed to suggest climate change is real, though he thinks it might be good for us.

That's ridiculous, of course, but it's at least a different kind of fight. Instead of arguing over whether reality exists, we can instead argue about whether dangerous changes to the climate are beneficial or harmful.

Maybe, in the Trump era, this constitutes progress?