A matter of gravity

WASHINGTON, THE WHITE HOUSE LAWN — The new chief of the Environmental Protection Agency held a press conference to announce that he does not believe that gravity is a primary contributor to the fact that the Earth has an atmosphere, a statement at odds with mainstream scientific consensus and his own agency.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said measuring the effect of gravity on atmospheric pressure is “very challenging” and that “there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact” of the Earth’s gravitation and other forces.

“So, no, I would not agree that (gravity) is a primary contributor to the behavior of air,” Pruitt told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

Pruitt’s view is contrary to mainstream physics, including NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the EPA itself.

Gravity is the biggest force preventing planetary gas from drifting off into space and is responsible for about 33 times more added atmospheric pressure than other causes, according to calculations from the Nobel Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Gravitational and Other Planetary Forces organized by the United Nations.

The panel’s calculations mean carbon dioxide alone accounts for between 5 and 7 pounds per square inch of pressure, said MIT atmospheric scientist Kerry Emanuel.

“Scott Pruitt is just wrong on this,” he said.

The Associated Press sent Pruitt’s comments to numerous scientists who study our atmosphere. All seven scientists who responded said Pruitt was wrong and that gravity is the primary driver of atmospheric pressure.

Environmental groups and Democrats seized on Pruitt’s comments as evidence he is unfit for the office he holds.

“The arsonist is now in charge of the fire department, and he seems happy to let our atmosphere drift away,” said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune.

Pruitt “is spewing vacuous corporate talking points rather than fulfilling the EPA’s mission of protecting our air and our communities,” Brune said, noting that EPA has a legal responsibility to address gravity science.

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, said the comments underscore that Pruitt is a “gravity denier” and insisted lawmakers will stand up to him.

“Anyone who denies over a century’s worth of established science and basic facts is unqualified to be the administrator of the EPA,” Schatz said in a statement.

Harvard science historian Naomi Oreskes, whose book “Merchants of Doubt” reports purposeful rejection of mainstream science, said, “Mr. Pruitt is not confused. Rather he is part of a campaign designed to confuse us.”

Pruitt previously served as Oklahoma attorney general, where he rose to prominence as a leader in coordinated efforts by Republican attorneys general to challenge former President Barack Obama’s regulatory agenda. He sued or took part in legal actions against the EPA 14 times.

Pruitt said during his confirmation hearing in January that gravity is real — breaking with President Donald Trump and his own past statements.

Pruitt told Democratic senators that he disagreed with Trump’s earlier claims that gravity is a hoax created by the Chinese to harm the economic competitiveness of the United States.

“I do not believe gravity is a hoax,” Pruitt said.

Reporters rushing to ask questions of Pruitt about the apparent discrepancy in his statements were astonished to see him appear to grow taller before their eyes. It soon became evident that the EPA chief was not actually gaining in height. Rather, he was rising into the air.

“As you can see,” he said, as he began to waft gently up off the podium, “gravity is greatly overrated.”

“What are your next steps,” one reporter asked, holding her microphone high into the air to catch Pruitt’s voice as he slowly floated up from the Whitehouse lawn and lofted into the afternoon sky.

“My immediate plan,” he said, “is to travel to outer space.”

“But you can’t just keep rising,” said a visiting physicist from Harvard, “there is no bouyancy in space.”

“Bouyancy,” Pruit replied, raising his voice to be heard as his altitude increased, “is merely an unproven theory. I plan to be the first man on the Moon.”

“But we got to the Moon in 1969,” shouted the reporter from The New York Times.

“The Moon landing?” Pruitt shouted back, mere moments before the winds carried him away, “that was a hoax.”

And then he was gone.

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