Pennsylvania's environmental protection chief found himself on the hotseat on climate change this week during legislative hearings on his agency's budget.
In hearings before the House and Senate appropriations committees, Democratic lawmakers pressed DEP Secretary Michael Krancer on the issue of climate change, specifically did he believe it was real?
At the House hearing on Wednesday, Rep. Greg Vitali (D., Delaware) asked Krancer whether he agreed with the following statement from a National Academy of Sciences report:
Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for–and in many cases is already affecting–a broad range of human and natural systems.
“It is a compound statement,” he said. ”I’d have to study it and look at it myself.”
Krancer later clarified his position in an interview with StateImpactPA, a public radio project focusing on natural gas drilling and the environment.
“[Scientists have] concluded that the world is getting warmer,” he told State impact. “They’ve also concluded that human activity contributes to greenhouse gas and carbon emissions to the atmosphere. I agree with that.”
But he maintained there was no scientific consensus about the role of humans in climate change.
“There is no uniformity within the scientific community on how much the warming is occurring,” said Krancer, “And there’s no agreement about how much is attributable to the human part of it and how much is attributable to other factors.”
Environmental advocates begged to differ.
"It's disheartening to have the top enviromental official say this," said David Masur, executive director of PennEnvironment, a statewide environmental advocacy group. "On the one hand he says he wants to make decisions around science, yet here we have a pretty broad and deep consensus that climate change is real and it's caused by human activity and effects will be disasterous."
Masur went on to say, "what he’s saying is out of touch with the public with our own academics and with even the biggest CO2 emitters."
A Bucks County lawmaker said he was surprised that Krancer agreed that reducing carbon emissions was a good thing, but did not say why.
"It's amazing to me that the highest environmental official in Pennsylvania cannot offer an opinion about the issue of global warming despite acknowledging that it would be better for our environment to have lower carbon emissions,” said Steve Santarsiero, a Democrat. “The constraints on the secretary are yet another example of how environmental protection is not a priority of this governor.”
Gov. Corbett did not mention the environment at all in his 2013 budget address earlier this month.