WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump's environmental chief has been trying to clear the air about why his boss is pulling out of the Paris climate accord, but some of the claims he's making are as solid as smoke. A look at a some of the statements Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt made over the weekend:
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PRUITT, pushing back on whether the president is overstating his ability to bring back long lost coal-mining jobs, credited Trump with creating almost 50,000 jobs "in the coal sector" since the fourth quarter of last year. "In the month of May alone, almost 7,000 jobs," Pruitt told NBC's "Meet the Press."
THE FACTS: He's wildly off base. Instead of adding almost 50,000 jobs in the last few months, coal mining accounted for a total of only 51,000 jobs nationally at the end of May. That's only up about 400 jobs from the prior month, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Asked about Pruitt's claim of 50,000 new coal jobs, his staff on Monday pointed to statistics encompassing seven months of job gains across the far broader "mining" sector. That includes not just coal but also oil and gas extraction, metal ore mining, stone quarrying and other unrelated jobs. Three of the months Pruitt's staff is counting were while Barack Obama was still president.
PRUITT, arguing that the U.S. had no alternative but to pull out of the Paris accord because it couldn't otherwise change its terms, said the deal "can only be ratcheted up," not softened. The Obama administration had pledged to reduce carbon emissions by about a quarter within eight years.
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FACTS: The U.S. and all other targets are voluntary, determined by individual nations and can be modified in any direction — stronger or weaker — said people involved in negotiating the deal.
Laurence Tubiana, France's climate ambassador who was a key negotiator, tweeted: "Of course US government CAN legally downsize its contribution but SHOULD Not."
"Scott Pruitt is wrong," Nigel Purvis, who was a State Department climate negotiator under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. "They are just hiding behind a falsehood because it is convenient."
Purvis said the Paris agreement calls for nations to make their targets progressively tighter every five years because the agreement doesn't do enough to prevent dangerous warming levels, but that provision doesn't prevent a country from submitting a weaker target now.
PRUITT: Asked whether carbon dioxide is the primary cause of man-made climate change, Pruitt declined to answer directly, saying only it's one cause of many. "It's a cause like methane and water vapor and the rest."
FACTS: The overwhelming majority of climate scientists say carbon dioxide is by far the primary cause of global warming. The Nobel Prize-winning United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change calculated that about 73 percent of the human-caused warming since 1750 is from carbon dioxide. Water vapor and methane contribute much smaller amounts.
A joint statement from the National Academy of Sciences and Royal Society in Britain said "human-induced increases in CO2 (carbon dioxide) concentrations have been the dominant influence on the long-term global surface temperature increase."
Last week, Pruitt also repeatedly refused to say whether Trump still believes climate change is a "hoax."
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