Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told lawmakers Thursday that his agency is doing research on climate change, but it will be focused in one division of the sprawling department instead of four or five.
"So, on the climate issue … we saddled it in one division because I want to know from a division what's going on," Zinke told the House Appropriations Committee's panel on Interior and related agencies.
He said all of Interior's climate research will be done at the U.S. Geological Survey. He said the change was done partly for budget reasons, but also because too many agencies were getting involved, which was making the effort confused and unfocused.
Zinke noted that the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service, with numerous other Interior sub-agencies, all have been doing separate action on climate change and muddying the waters. "We need to be on the same page, so we can address what the conclusion is," Zinke said. "And I invite you to work with us on that."
Zinke was responding to questions from the full committee's top Democrat, Rep. Nita Lowey of New York, on whether the agency will be continuing climate research given President Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.
"I have been pretty consistent on climate change," Zinke said. "I don't believe it's a hoax. I think man has had an influence and climate is changing."
"The problem is, we don't understand what the effects are," he added. "And USGS has some terrific scientists [but] there's no model that can predict [the effects] from all the data we collect. But certainly the climate is changing in ways we don't understand," he said.
"Man has had an influence. But man has had a negative influence, not only on CO2, but you look at arsenic, chemicals, we have looked at agriculture... So man hasn't been a particularly good influence anyway on a lot of things. And CO2 is a concern," he continued. Many climate scientists blame carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted from burning fossil fuels for driving manmade climate change.
He does say, however, that the Paris agreement was a bad deal for the nation.
"I think it's a bad negotiated deal," Zinke said. "It lets China, India, Russia walk. The CO2 in China actually increases until 2030 because it's structured on people. And China has more people. So, the world's greatest polluter gets to walk until 2030."