Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt rejected allegations June 2 that he is a climate change denier, but stated that in his opinion there were "climate exaggerators" who overestimate the impact of global warming.
Pruitt spoke at the White House press briefing on June 2, a day after President Donald Trump announced the U.S. was withdrawing from the Paris Agreement on climate change, The Hill reported.
"All the discussions we had through the last several weeks had been focused on one singular issue: Is Paris good or not for this country?" Pruitt said.
Pruitt avoided commenting on Trump's views on climate change, but alleged a global debate about its impact was taking place.
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Trump's press secretary, Sean Spicer, stated May 30 that he would get back to reporters with information about Trump's views on the matter.
"I have not had an opportunity to have that discussion," he said June 2 when asked about Trump's opinion.
Trump said little about his views on climate change during his June 1 address on the Paris Agreement. The BBC reported that the lack of information was causing speculation about whether Trump is a climate change skeptic.
In November 2012, Trump tweeted that he thought climate change was a Chinese plot to make the U.S. less competitive, and in December 2015 he described it as a money-making "hoax," the BBC reported.
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Trump's position seemed to shift in 2016, though. During a televised presidential debate with Hillary Clinton, Trump denied ever having blamed the Chinese for climate change, and in a New York Times interview after his election, Trump declared that he thought there was "some connectivity" between human actions and climate change.
Pruitt said that his statements during his Senate confirmation hearing demonstrated that he accepted global warming as a reality.
"I indicated that in fact global warming is occurring, human activity contributes to it in some manner," Pruitt added.
But he did have some critical comments about advocates for more action to deal with climate change.
"Measuring with precision, from my perspective, the degree of human contribution is very challenging, but it still begs the question: What do we do about it? Does it pose an existential threat as some say?" Pruitt said.
Pruitt cited a New York Times article by Bret Stephens to back up his argument. Stephens is a controversial figure who has come under criticism from environmentalist groups because of his skepticism towards climate change.
"People have called me a climate skeptic or a climate denier," added Pruitt. "I don't even know what it means to deny the climate. I would say that there are climate exaggerators."