On Wednesday, Kathleen Hartnett White made some ridiculous statements about climate change during her confirmation hearing for the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).
If confirmed, Hartnett White will be responsible for leading a team that will recommend and develop national policies to the White House in order to "promote the improvement of environmental quality."
But again and again Hartnett White has denied the robust science behind climate change, and actively worked against policies that could help mitigate it.
"The Council on Environmental Quality has a critical role in making sure federal policy is carried out in accordance with laws that protect our health, safety and the environment," said Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
"[Hartnett White's] record and public statements place her far out of the mainstream, and raise grave doubts about her fitness for this position."
Wednesday's hearing did nothing to quell these concerns. On five different occasions, Hartnett White revealed that her understanding of climate science and climate policy is seriously limited, and - often - completely wrong.
1. "I am uncertain - no I'm not. I'm sorry. I jumped ahead of myself."
This was Hartnett White's bumbling response when asked by Senator Cardin if she thought climate change was real. When Hartnett White finally found her place again, she remained loyal to conservative talking points. She said that although she agrees that climate change is real, she is not sure to what extent humans are to blame.
When asked if she had a background in science, Hartnett White replied, "No, I'm not a scientist, but in my personal capacity I have many questions that remain unanswered by current climate policy. I think we indeed need to have a more precise explanation of the human role and the natural role."
Apparently, Hartnett White was unconvinced by the extensive government climate report that found there is "no convincing alternative explanation" for climate change.
2. "CO2 in the atmosphere has none of the characteristics of a pollutant ... "
In the past, Hartnett White has claimed that greenhouse gases have "no adverse environmental impacts on people."
"Whether emitted from the human use of fossil fuels or as a natural (and necessary) gas in the atmosphere surrounding the earth, carbon dioxide has none of the attributes of a pollutant," she wrote in a 2014 paper, where she argued that climate change alarmists are misleading the public about emissions.
On Wednesday, Hartnett White doubled down on these scientifically inaccurate statements. The nominee assured Senator Cardin that she gets scientific information on climate change from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But her statement that CO2 is just "a plant nutrient" directly contradicts IPCC findings.
The IPCC has reported that humans have raised atmospheric carbon dioxide levels from 280 parts per million to 400 parts per million in the last 150 years. The panel also concludes there's a better than 95 percent probability that "human-produced greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide have caused much of the observed increase in Earth's temperatures over the past 50 years."
3. "I think science should overwhelmingly guide assessments ... but I don't think they [should] dictate policy results."
This was said by the very person who will be responsible for recommending national environmental policies to the President.
Hartnett White's statements directly contradict the mission of the CEQ, which is tasked with implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA was enacted by Congress to "promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere" and "to enrich the understanding of the ecological systems and natural resources important to the Nation."
Hartnett White did not say how she intends to develop policies that uphold this Act without science.
4. "There are many credible differences of opinion among climate scientists."
Hartnett White drew on this hackneyed response multiple times during her hearing. When Senator Merkley asked what she thought about the recent government climate change report, Hartnett White said she needed a more "precise explanation" for human contributions to climate change.
Not only do 97 percent of scientists accept the science behind climate change, the report under question is based on the best available science and was meticulously peer-reviewed.
"This assessment concludes, based on extensive evidence, that it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century," the report reads.
"For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence."
In the hearing, Hartnett White dismissed the report as the work of the past administration, even though it was released by the current White House. She did not say what further scientific evidence was needed for a "precise explanation."
5. "I do not have any kind of expertise or even much layman study of the ocean dynamics and the climate change issue."
This shockingly honest response was given when Senator Whitehouse began to grill Hartnett White on ocean science.
Senator Whitehouse began by asking Harnett White how much of the additional atmospheric heat, captured by greenhouse gas emissions, has been absorbed by the ocean. Hartnett White was unable to answer the question. When he asked if it was more or less than 50 percent, Hartnett White said she believed there was serious scientific opinion that it was below 50 percent.
"Wow," said Whitehouse.
In actuality, scientists estimate that as much as 90% of the extra heat heads straight into our oceans.
Whitehouse went on to ask the nominee whether the law of thermal expansion applied to seawater. It was then that Hartnett White admitted to her complete lack of expertise.
When a nominee openly admits to being underqualified, there isn't much else to say.