Andrew Wheeler, the nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and its current acting administrator, said he considers climate change an “eight or nine” on a one-to-10 scale of concern but that it is not the greatest crisis.
“I would not call it the greatest crisis,” he said. “I consider it a huge issue that has to be addressed globally.”
At his confirmation hearing Wednesday, Wheeler said he is still reviewing the major climate change report his agency and others released nearly two months ago.
“I don’t disagree with the findings,” he told senators. “I’m still examining the findings. I’m trying to understand what was in it and what was covered by the assessment.”
Wheeler said he has “been briefed once” by career staffers, but plans for additional briefings have been thrown into disarray by the partial federal government shutdown, which resulted in his agency furloughing all but 891 of its 14,000 employees.
“They gave me a number of background information to read, and we’ve scheduled additional briefings on it for early January, and those have been postponed,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler reiterated that he believes climate change is real and is affected by human activity, and distanced himself from past comments from President Donald Trump, who has called climate change a Chinese hoax.
“I have not used the hoax word myself,” Wheeler said.
Democrats on the committee urged Wheeler, a former energy industry lobbyist and Republican congressional aide, to be an advocate for climate-oriented policy changes.
Wheeler cited Trump administration carbon dioxide and methane proposals as evidence of his work to reduce emissions. But those plans are largely rollbacks of Obama-era emission reduction plans.