Vice President Mike Pence gave viewers whiplash Sunday when he promised the Trump administration would “always follow the science” and then refused to acknowledge that man-made climate change is a threat to the United States, as scientists have repeatedly warned.
After quoting Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who said climate could fuel a slew of health and economic issues nationwide, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Pence on “State of the Union” whether he believes the “climate emergency” is indeed a threat.
“Well, what I will tell you is that we’ll always follow the science on that in this administration,” Pence said.
Tapper noted that “the science says it is,” in fact, a threat, but Pence quickly moved on to bashing an Obama-era climate rule that sought to significantly reduce carbon emissions in an effort to combat human-induced climate change.
The Trump administration rolled back that key provision in the Obama administration’s 2015 Clean Power Plan last week, which targeted coal plants by setting specific greenhouse gas emissions cuts for each state.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s recently announced rule allows state regulators to decide how utilities can limit carbon emissions and does not require companies to switch from coal to more sustainable energy sources.
Experts say the new rule cuts carbon emissions from power plants by less than half of what is needed to avoid catastrophic global warming, reported The Washington Post.
Pence on Sunday complained that the Clean Power Plan was “hamstringing energy in this country” while countries like China and India have failed to do their part in reducing carbon emissions.
“You know, the truth of the matter,” Pence said before making several demonstrably false statements, “is with the advent of natural gas, with the natural gas explosion that is developing, with clean coal technology, we’re seeing a significant reduction in carbon emissions all across this country.”
Not only does “clean coal” not exist, carbon emissions in the U.S. actually surged last year. The emissions had been decreasing over the last several years, but jumped 3.4% in 2018 ― the second largest increase of this type since 1996, reported ProPublica.
Tapper on Sunday continued to press Pence about whether he believes man-made climate change is a threat, but the vice president danced around the question.
“I think the answer to that is going to be based upon the science,” Pence said. “Look, what the president has said, what we have said is that we’re not going to raise utility rates.”
“OK, so you don’t think it is a threat?” Tapper asked.
Pence then declared that “America has the cleanest air and water in the world,” prompting the CNN host to burst into laughter.
“That is not true,” Tapper said. “We don’t have the cleanest air and water in the world. ... You get back to me with some statistics that show it.”
The Environmental Performance Index, compiled in 2018 by top researchers in the country in conjunction with the World Economic Forum, ranked the U.S. 10th on air and 27th on water.
The U.S. ranks toward the bottom compared with other wealthy democracies, PolitiFact reported, citing an Environmental Performance Index investigator.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.