The Trump administration’s nominee to lead the Federal Emergency Management Agency repeatedly said Thursday he doesn’t know the reasons behind climate change, despite his agency often being in the position of responding to the crisis’ impacts.
The nominee, Pete Gaynor, made the comments when he was asked at his confirmation hearing whether climate change is real.
“The climate has changed. I cannot attribute the scientific reasons why,” Gaynor, currently FEMA’s deputy administrator, said when questioned by Sen. Tom Carper, a Democrat from Delaware.
Gaynor explained at the hearing that he realizes hurricanes have become “more frequent, more intense, closer together” but that he cannot explain why because he is “not a scientist.”
“I’m not either,” Carper responded. “There are a lot of scientists in the world and they are pretty much in unanimity in what’s going on. What do you think is going on?”
“I don’t know, sir,” Gaynor said.
“That’s not a very good answer,” Carper told him.
Gaynor explained that his job is about “preparing for and responding to disasters, no matter the cause.”
Scientists say hurricanes are becoming more powerful and devastating because of rising sea levels and temperatures, and by causing them to slow down and stall — as did Hurricane Dorian, which sat over the Bahamas earlier this year.
There is broad consensus in the scientific community that human activities are releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide into the environment, which is trapping heat inside the atmosphere. The resulting climate changes will become dire if not acted in in coming years, they warn.
While FEMA does not have a mission to combat climate change directly, it does respond to the natural disasters that experts say have been made worse because of climate change. Recent years have brought devastating hurricanes, wildfires and flooding to the US.