Yes, Pennsylvania legislators, Michael Krancer, secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, does think that climate change is real.
He said he agrees with the science, and he feels mitigation is important.
This was in question after a budget hearing last Tuesday.
Two democratic state representatives who were there — Greg Vitali of Delaware County and Steve Santarsiero of Bucks County — sent out emails saying that Krancer had “refused to acknowledge the reality of climate change.”
“It is shocking that the state's chief environmental official does not have a position on this issue,” Vitali said.
In his summary of the hearing, Vitali said that Krancer “evaded” the topic and “repeatedly told the lawmakers that he does not acknowledge the validity of climate change.”
Santarsiero recalled that while Krancer acknowledged that fewer carbon emissions were better, “he could not say why he believed that to be the case.”
The issue is becoming ever-more relevant, especially after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said that climate change is an “esoteric question” when it comes to whether Superstorm Sandy was caused or worsened by it.
“Maybe in the subsequent months and years, after I get done with rebuilding the state and getting people back in their homes,” Christie said, “I'll have the opportunity to ponder the esoteric question of the causes of the storm.”
So it seemed important to find out: What does Krancer think?
I got in touch with his office, and we had a conversation last week. Here’s the salient part:
“I’ll tell you what I believe. I start by saying I’m not a scientist. I’m not an expert. I certainly know and realize that scientists say reducing carbon emissions is a good thing to be doing because they say the emissions have an adverse effect on the atmosphere and are causing warming.
“They are saying human activity is contributing to that.
“I agree with both of those positions,” Krancer said.
The way he recalled the budget hearing, “I didn’t refuse to say what I believe. I wasn’t asked what I believe. I was presented with some statements that were … rather lengthy. I was asked to agree or disagree.”
He said he didn’t know where the statements were coming from, and “I don’t like words put in my mouth.”
However, according to one account of the meeting, this was one exchange:
Rep. Matt Bradford (D- Montgomery County): “Climate change. Is it real?”
Krancer: “Representative, I couldn’t be more clear, the lowering of greenhouse gases and carbon emissions is a good thing.”
Bradford (shouting): “You couldn’t be more opaque!”
“I care about this issue,” Krancer later told me. “I have two young kids and two older kids. I care about their future.”
He did say "there is no unanimity" among scientists about the how much the planet is warming, over what period of time, and what portion of it we can lay at the doorstep of humans. That's debatable. I think scientists would say they have a pretty clear picture of what's already happened; they just don't know precisely how the future will play out.
He also said — and undoubtedly there will be plenty of debate about this as well — that solutions have to be market-based, not via government mandates or subsidies.
He said Pennsylvania is doing a lot, and will do more.
“I’ve repeated many, many times,” he said, “that reduction in carbon emissions is an important goal.”