'Smoking is good for you' and other deadly lies

Imagine you knew nothing about climate change and wanted to learn the basics. What would you do? Many people would search the internet. When I google "climate change," the first page of results includes the NASA and EPA websites on climate change. Exploring the EPA website, I quickly found A Student's Guide to Global Climate Change where I read the following:

"The Earth is getting warmer because people are adding heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere, mainly by burning fossil fuels. These gases are called greenhouse gases. Warmer temperatures are causing other changes around the world, such as melting glaciers and stronger storms. These changes are happening because the Earth's air, water, and land are all linked to the climate. The Earth's climate has changed before, but this time is different. People are causing these changes, which are bigger and happening faster than any climate changes that modern society has ever seen before." [emphasis added]

On the same website there is a simple animation showing how human-produced carbon dioxide is contributing to global warming. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt should check out his own agency's website. He might learn a thing or two before hitting the delete key.

Pruitt -- and the rest of the GOP climate change deniers -- are not cautiously skeptical of climate science, as they would have you believe. They are willfully ignorant of it. In the most egregious and deadly case of privatized profits and socialized costs since Big Tobacco, Pruitt and Company are handing the fossil fuel and car industries billions of dollars in profits at the expense of our children's lives.

Climate change is already affecting the health of children around the world: increased morbidity and mortality from extreme weather events, new exposures to vector-borne infectious diseases such as malaria, food insecurity as a result of crop failure, increased morbidity and mortality from allergic and respiratory disease as air pollution increases and warm seasons lengthen, mental health impacts of increased migration and social strife due to climate change.

Big Tobacco has taught us that corporations -- and their shareholders -- are willing to lie and cheat their way to bigger profits, even if it means their customers are getting sick and dying from using their product. Big Tobacco lied about the health impacts and addictiveness of cigarettes. They aggressively marketed (and continue to market) to youths to get them hooked on tobacco. They manipulate their product to maximize addictiveness. And they spend millions of dollars lobbying to keep the rules in their favor.

Meanwhile, 480,000 Americans die each year (1,300 per day) of tobacco-related causes and we spend $170 billion annually in tobacco-related health care costs and lose $156 billion in lost productivity due to illness and premature death. This is after decades of work by scientists, physicians, and public health advocates fighting Big Tobacco and making significant progress to expose their lies.

Big Oil is Big Tobacco's protégé. Aided by mouthpieces and enablers like Pruitt and Company, Big Oil is peddling lies about greenhouse gases and climate change. They are spending millions on lobbying for favorable rules and subsidies. They are making huge profits while making us sick.

But, whereas tobacco has the power to sicken individuals and families, fossil fuels -- and the global warming they cause -- are sickening whole populations and our planet.

So when Pruitt says, "there's tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact [of carbon dioxide], so no, I would not agree that it's a primary contributor to the global warming that we see," what he really means is, "my fossil fuel buddies' billions in profits disagree with overwhelming scientific evidence that we are causing climate change."

His willful ignorance is killing us.