An environmental nominee of President Donald Trump who had dismissed the threat of climate change and labeled carbon dioxide plant food, abandoned those positions Wednesday under questioning from Senate Democrats.
Kathleen Hartnett White, Trump’s pick for the White House’s top environmental position, also said her earlier comments comparing the belief in global warming to paganism had been taken out of context.
"Climate change is, of course, real," White said in her nomination hearing at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. "It’s likely that CO2 emissions from human activity have some impact on climate."
She also said, however, that the link between human activity and climate change, remains unproven.
“I’m not a scientist, but in my personal capacity, I have many questions that remain unanswered by current climate policy,” White said. “I think we indeed need to have more precise explanations of the human role and the natural role.”
In speeches and articles in 2015 and 2016, White, a senior fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, made the comments about climate change and paganism and warned that solutions in Pope Francis’s 2015 climate encyclical would lead to poverty, socialism and concentration camps.
She had also called renewable energy a parasitic "false hope" and said ozone isn’t harmful to human health "unless you put your mouth over the tailpipe of a car for eight hours," according to Delaware Senator Tom Carper.
Democrats on the panel said those and other comments made White unfit for the role of head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. If confirmed, White would be in charge of overseeing and coordinating environmental and energy policies across the government.
"Ms. White has shown a disdain for science, a disregard for the laws and regulations already on the books, and a staggering disrespect for people who have views with whom she disagrees," said Carper, the committee’s top Democrat. “Her tone, her words and her actions are simply unacceptable."
Republicans on the committee praised White’s tenure as the chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and said that showed she was right for the White House job.
"While you were at Texas CEQ the Texas air quality dramatically improved," Oklahoma Senators James Inhofe said.