Interior Chief: We Have No Global-Warming Litmus Test

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell testifies before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
National Journal
Ben Geman
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Ben Geman
April 3, 2014, 10:53 a.m.

Sen. James In­hofe thinks cli­mate change is a hoax, but that doesn’t mean the Ok­lahoma Re­pub­lic­an would be dis­qual­i­fied from a job at the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s In­teri­or De­part­ment.

“There is no lit­mus test [on cli­mate change] for people at the De­part­ment of the In­teri­or,” In­teri­or Sec­ret­ary Sally Jew­ell said Thursday.

She spoke at a House hear­ing after com­ing un­der fire from Louisi­ana Re­pub­lic­an and cli­mate skep­tic John Flem­ing, who brought up Jew­ell’s 2013 re­mark that “I hope there are no cli­mate-change den­iers in the De­part­ment of In­teri­or.”

“Is that a pur­ity test for someone to work for you in the De­part­ment of In­teri­or, which is a very large de­part­ment? That means that in your opin­ion every­one should agree with you that there is such thing as man-made cli­mate change?,” Flem­ing said at a Nat­ur­al Re­sources Com­mit­tee hear­ing on In­teri­or’s budget.

But Jew­ell re­spon­ded “ab­so­lutely not,” and ad­ded that she “didn’t talk about causes of cli­mate change” in her 2013 re­marks. Dur­ing the ex­change Jew­ell also re­minded Flem­ing of her oth­er com­ments in her sum­mer 2013 ad­dress to In­teri­or em­ploy­ees.

Ac­cord­ing to En­vir­on­ment and En­ergy Pub­lish­ing, Jew­ell said in the speech that if there are cli­mate den­iers at In­teri­or, they should travel to lands the agency man­ages af­fected by cli­mate change, such as melt­ing per­ma­frost in Alaska.

Jew­ell picked up on that theme Thursday.

“In con­text I said I have been on the lands and wa­ters around the De­part­ment of the In­teri­or and it would be very dif­fi­cult to see the lands that I have seen and deny that cli­mate change is go­ing on,” she said.

“Every place I have gone on pub­lic lands, I see droughts, I see wild­fires, I see coastal erosion, I see the im­pact of storms and that is a real­ity that we are fa­cing in this coun­try,” said Jew­ell, whose pre­pared re­marks touted In­teri­or’s ef­forts to im­prove “re­si­li­ency” to cli­mate change.

Flem­ing used the hear­ing to re­it­er­ate his doubt about hu­man-in­duced cli­mate change. “There is con­tro­versy over that is­sue and dis­agree­ment, even among very ex­cel­lent sci­ent­ists,” he said.

However, the sci­entif­ic con­sensus is that glob­al warm­ing is oc­cur­ring and that hu­man activ­it­ies are driv­ing the changes. An ex­tremely small minor­ity of sci­ent­ists dis­agree or call the evid­ence in­con­clus­ive.

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