White House Withdraws Climate Skeptic for Top Environmental Job
By Andy Rowell
In another major setback for President Donald Trump, the White House has been forced to withdraw the nomination of a leading climate skeptic to become the chair of the influential Council on Environmental Quality.
The nomination of the skeptic, Kathleen Hartnett White, had been mired in controversy due to her comments on climate change and other environmental issues, and she was struggling to win support even amongst Republicans in the Senate. Her nomination process had dragged on for over a year.
Like many Trump nominees, she is ideologically opposed to environmentalism, and she is a fellow at the conservative, free-market think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation.
But over the weekend, she asked for her nomination to be withdrawn, according to the Washington Post.
She said in a statement: "I want to thank President Trump for his confidence in me and I will continue to champion his policies and leadership on environmental and energy issues of critical importance to making our nation great, prosperous and secure again."
She added that her name should be withdrawn "in the best interest of facilitating confirmation of the President's nominees throughout his administration, as well the needs of my family and work."
She has long said controversial statements. Back in 2011, she asserted that "there is no environmental crisis—in fact, there's almost no major environmental problems" in the U.S.
She also was on record saying renewable energy is "a false hope that simply won't work" and called scientists' climate findings "the dogmatic claims of ideologues and clerics."
In September last year, Hartnett White had described believing in "global warming" as a "kind of paganism" for "secular elites."
Her extreme views were also on show in November at her nomination hearing at the Senate committee on environment and public works, where she struggled to answer basic questions about carbon dioxide and climate:
"CO2 in the atmosphere has none of the characteristics of a pollutant that, you know, contaminates and fouls and ... can have a direct impact on human health," she replied when asked if she was worried by rising CO2 levels. "As an atmospheric gas it's a plant nutrient," she added.
When asked whether she was aware of any problems in the oceans relating to fossil fuel emissions, she replied: "there are probably a number of them." When probed to name a few, she said she had a "very superficial understanding" of the issues.
She could not answer the question by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) about how much of excessive heat from rising CO2 emissions had been captured in the oceans.
She was also taken to task by Senators for writing an article that said that "signing the Paris agreement was the worst way to celebrate Earth Day."
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) criticized her: "It seems to me that you don't believe that climate change is real." She started to reply "I am uncertain," before clarifying her remarks, saying, "Climate change is of course real," but added the extent to which human activity was causing global warming is "very uncertain."
When asked whether she would rely on scientists to give her that answer, she replied, "No, I have had that question for a very long time."
It is not surprising that to coincide with the hearing, more than 300 scientists had signed a letter urging the Senate to reject her nomination, arguing, "This is not a partisan issue; it is a matter of defending scientific integrity."
Confirming Harnett White, the group said, "would have serious consequences for people and the ecosystems of the only planet that can support us."
The news of her withdrawal was welcomed by scientists: Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told the Post, "A while ago, I wrote that many Trump appointees to science-based positions could be considered to either have deep conflicts of interest, to be fundamentally opposed to the mission of the agency they were to lead or totally unqualified. Hartnett-White was all three—a trifecta," he said.
The news was also welcomed by Democrats: Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, added in statement that "Withdrawing Kathleen Hartnett White's nomination is the right thing to do, and I believe it is past time for this administration to nominate a thoughtful environmental and public health champion to lead this critical office in the federal government."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Oil Change International.
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With more than 1.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and more than 100,000 deaths from the virus, physicians face unprecedented challenges in their efforts to keep Americans safe.
They also encounter what some call an "infodemic," an outbreak of misinformation that's making it more difficult to treat patients.
When Leaders and Doctors Spread Misinformation<p>When people in charge of towns, cities, states, and countries spread misinformation, the potential for belief in misinformation to result in policies can have harmful effects.</p><p><a href="https://www.northwell.edu/find-care/find-a-doctor?q=Bruce+E.+Hirsch%2C+MD&insurance=&location=&query_type=provider&physician_partners=false&default_view=list&gender=&language=&sort=relevancy" target="_blank">Dr. Bruce E. Hirsch</a>, attending physician and assistant professor in the infectious disease division of Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York, says an example of this is when President Trump informed the public he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure.</p><p>"To approach this enormous challenge, we need some intellectual honesty and clarity, and to disregard expertise and to make decisions and model decisions based on hunches is inviting us to handle challenges on the basis of rumor and uninformed opinion. The magnitude of that error is epic," Hirsch told Healthline.</p><p>Stukus agrees, noting that the harm of this proclamation is documented.</p><p>"Early on when the president touted the benefits of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, people started to hoard this medicine, and state boards had to shut it down because they were getting so many prescriptions for this unproven therapy that it was not available for those who truly needed it, such as those who have lupus and autoimmune conditions," Stukus said.</p><p>He adds that calls to poison control centers increased after the president suggested using disinfectant to prevent contracting the new coronavirus.</p>
Listen to Science, Even When it Changes<p>When recommendations change or evidence flip-flops, skepticism may arise. However, Stukus says change is the beauty of science.</p><p>"That shows us that we can evolve, and if the evidence shows that our prior thoughts were incorrect, we need to be able to change our recommendations and advice based upon the best quality of evidence at the time," he said.</p><p>Pierre agrees.</p><p>"Science is an iterative process, whereby we arrive at facts and truth through repeated and controlled observations. That means that it's inherently self-correcting as we revise conclusions based on ongoing research. Scientific facts aren't immutable dogma chiseled on a tablet. They change based on the best available evidence we have at a given point in time," he said.</p><p>Because research of COVID-19 has only been underway for 6 months, information is evolving rapidly, and new information may contradict old.</p><p>"There's still much we don't know about exactly how [COVID-19] spreads, what effects it has on the body, or how to best treat it. That means that the best available evidence is preliminary, but that doesn't mean that we should ignore it or turn to other sources of information or opinion as if they're just as valid," Pierre said.</p><p>He explains that conspiracy theories based on mistrust lead to vulnerability to misinformation.</p><p>If people mistrust science because it sometimes "changes its mind," Pierre said, "that shouldn't be used to embrace other opinions based on no evidence at all, which are typically selected based on confirmation bias: what we want to believe rather than what the objective evidence supports."</p>
Where to Find the Best Information<p>Stukus says to start with the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html" target="_blank">CDC</a> and <a href="https://www.nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus" target="_blank">NIH</a>. Then check with your local health officials, because COVID-19 guidelines may vary depending on where you live.</p><p>If you can't find information you need or have questions specifically related to you, call your primary care doctor.</p><p>"Your personal doctor should always be a resource for individual specific questions because they know best how to apply all the nuances retaining to your health, and how to incorporate all the other general [COVID-19] recommendations," Stukus said.</p><p><a href="https://www.eehealth.org/find-a-doctor/b/boyd-laura-b/" target="_blank">Dr. Laura Boyd</a>, primary care physician at Edward-Elmhurst Health Center in Elmhurst, Illinois, says her clinic receives a lot of calls about COVID-19.</p><p>"Most doctors' offices are receiving calls and answering questions, and doing phone or video visits to help clarify and/or order testing over the phone based on patients' symptoms. It is always best to call your doctor's office first instead of worrying about symptoms and waiting too long to seek treatment," she told Healthline.</p><p>If your primary care doctor has limited testing, she suggests looking on your state's public health website for available testing sites.</p><p>With a lot of unknowns related to this virus and disease, Boyd says many patients are feeling overwhelmed and anxious for a treatment.</p><p>"Unfortunately, there is no specific medication recommended for COVID for outpatient. There are a lot of ongoing studies with various drugs going on within the hospital setting. Patients should always contact their doctors about their specific symptoms as they can treat the symptoms that go along with COVID, but there is no cure," Boyd said.</p><p>While we wait for treatment and a vaccine, Hirsch, who treats patients hospitalized for COVID-19 complications on a daily basis, says everyone can do their part by washing hands, wearing a mask, and staying 6 feet apart.</p><p>"As an infectious disease doctor working in the hospital, I see the damage of the pandemic and the worst cases of what's happening. We are trying to get the best possible outcome and confronting this overwhelming biologic reality of this terrible epidemic the best we can," Hirsch said.</p><p>Everyone at home can help in the fight too, he adds.</p><p>"Follow information that is science- and evidence-based, and avoid that which is not," he said.</p>
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