Al Franken gets climate-denying Trump appointee to admit his talking point is nonsense

When dumb talking points happen to smart people

Sadly, it appears that no matter how obscure a nominee is to the Trump administration, he is expected to repeat the same tired talking point about the human role in climate change — namely, that the climate is always changing and humans play some role, but darned if you know what it is.

Yet another Trump appointee has been exposed by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) as a climate change (and science) denier during confirmation hearings — in this case, Bruce J. Walker, who has been picked to be Assistant Secretary of Energy for Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.

“Mr. Walker, do you believe that human activity accounts for the majority of climate change since  the Industrial Revolution,” Franken asked during Walker’s nomination hearing in front of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. (Full video of hearing is here, and Franken’s questioning begins at about 1:07:33)


Unlike some Trump appointees, Walker is actually a knowledgable guy. He has a B.S. in electrical engineering and a law degree from Pace University, where “he was the technical editor on the Environmental Law Review,” reports. He worked for two decades at Consolidated Edison, the electricity supplier for New York City, becoming director of corporate emergency management and later control center manager during the 9/11 terrorist attack.

But even if he were a Nobel Prize winner in physics, Walker apparently must repeat the administration mantra when asked such a question:

“Thank you for the question, Senator. I believe the climate has been changing and will continue to change as long as we’re on the planet. I think there is a contribution from man. I couldn’t quantify exactly what that is.

No, Mr. Walker, we know you can’t quantify exactly what it is. That’s why we have climate scientists — to let us know that the majority of the warming since 1950 is due to humans. Not only is there a 95 percent to 100 percent likelihood of this fact, there is also an overwhelming consensus among scientists. Indeed, the best estimate is that humans are responsible for all of the recent warming.

“You know that there is a consensus among climate scientists,” Franken said. “You are aware of that, right?”

Walker replied sheepishly, “Yes, I am.” In other words, Walker knows what all the experts think, but he’s not buying it. Imagine if scientists told health officials that smoking dramatically increases chances for cancer and other serious diseases of the heart and lungs. Wouldn’t you expect officials to believe the science? Maybe even put warning labels on cigarette packages?


Such an answer really should be disqualifying for any Senate-confirmed position, but it has become de rigueur for all of Trump’s appointees. Back in June, Franken dismantled Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Energy Secretary Rick Perry on this same question.

After that exchange, Franken moved on to his main line of questioning that because of climate change and extreme weather we need a more resilient grid using microgrids and clean energy. It seems the Trump administration permits its nominees to agree with that reasoning, since Walker did.

Of course, when EPA administrator Scott Pruitt tried the “some role” talking point on Fox News this summer, host Chris Wallace pounced. “‘Mr. Pruitt, all kinds of studies contradict you,” he said.

Seriously, deniers, this talking point is so tired it needs to be retired.