Before he became EPA acting administrator, Andrew Wheeler was tweeting about "climate alarmists."
On April 6, 2009, Wheeler wrote in a tweet, "Climate alarmists refuse to debate or leave their facts at home when they do."
The tweet linked to a piece in the American Thinker titled "No Wonder Climate Alarmists Refuse to Debate."
In the piece, blogger Marc Sheppard accused former Vice President Al Gore and Joe Romm, the founding editor of ClimateProgress, of not being able to defend their beliefs about climate change.
Sheppard also dismissed the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — whose findings are widely accepted by scientists around the world — as "overly venerated" and "politically motivated."
That year, the IPCC had released its Fifth Assessment Report, which had found: "Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen."
In contrast, Sheppard argued that the Earth had just experienced a "decade of zero-discernable warming," citing "recent reliable predictions of multi-decadal cooling."
Kevin Trenberth, a distinguished senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and a co-author of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report, told E&E News that the blog post presented some "extremely misleading" claims.
The global surface temperature did, in fact, increase from 1999 to 2009, the decade that Sheppard was referring to, Trenberth said.
"But there was a massive El Niño in 1997-98," he said. "If you start off around then, of course you’re not going to get much warming through 2009 on a global basis. So the key thing about that statement is [Sheppard] is very carefully choosing the beginning and endpoints. It’s an extremely misleading statement. It’s cherry-picking."
‘I do believe climate change is real’
EPA’s press office didn’t respond to a question about whether Wheeler still believes the claims made in the piece, which is now 9 years old. But his recent public remarks show that his views on climate science and the endangerment finding for greenhouse gases have evolved.
Wheeler, a former principal at Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, was previously quoted on the law firm’s website suggesting in 2010 that the EPA endangerment finding — which created a basis for regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant — was vulnerable to legal challenges (Climatewire, Feb. 8).
The quote has since been removed from the website. And in February, Wheeler told Delaware Sen. Tom Carper in a meeting that the endangerment finding has been legally settled, according to Carper, the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
More recently, Wheeler elaborated on his views on climate change in a lengthy interview Friday with The Washington Post.
"I do believe climate change is real," he told The Post’s Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin. "I do believe that people have an impact on the climate."
Asked about the endangerment finding, Wheeler said, "On the endangerment finding, I was very critical of the method that the agency used to come up with the endangerment finding, that they did not do independent analysis, that they relied upon the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change]. And that was litigated; it was taken to the U.S. Circuit Court, and the Circuit Court upheld the EPA position.
"So I consider that to be settled law. There would have to be a major, compelling reason to try to ever reopen that," he said. "I don’t think that’s an open question at this point."