President Donald Trump has blasted a U.S. government report warning about devastating economic costs from climate change.
But EPA Chief Andrew Wheeler is striking a different tone.
On Wednesday, he praised the work that went into developing the U.S. government’s latest National Climate Assessment and said it presented “interesting” findings that merit follow-up.
“There’s a lot of interesting things we need to follow up on and ask more questions about,” Wheeler said. “Certainly a lot of hard work went into it.”
The congressionally mandated report, released Friday, warns that the U.S. could shoulder hundreds of billions of dollars in costs from unchecked climate change, as floodwaters swamp coastal communities and droughts devastate crops.
Wheeler, the acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, faulted the report for downplaying technological innovations that could help combat climate change and check greenhouse gas emissions that are driving it. And he said the assessment didn’t give enough credit to a 14 percent reduction in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions since 2005, a trend partly driven by increasing use of natural gas in lieu of coal to generate electricity.
Wheeler also suggested the next climate assessment — which is required every four years — should take a different approach.
“We need to take a look at the modeling that is used for the next assessment” and its assumptions about technology, Wheeler said at an energy event hosted by the Washington Post on Wednesday. The analysis shouldn’t assume technological innovation will be frozen in time, Wheeler stressed.
Wheeler’s comments were notably more measured than those of other top Trump administration officials. Trump dismissed the report’s dire economic predictions, saying he didn’t “believe it.” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday said the assessment is “not based on facts” and reflected on “the most extreme version” of climate change.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke also has insisted that the U.S. Geological Survey — which helped write the government’s climate report — has concerns with it. Zinke told an NBC affiliate in Sacramento, California, that it appears government scientists “took the worst-case scenarios and they built predictions upon that.”