WASHINGTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency added eight members on Thursday to its scientific advisory board tasked with providing independent input for agency policy, a list that includes at least one vocal climate-change doubter.
The EPA said John Christy, an atmospheric science professor at the University of Alabama, was among the new appointees to the advisory body, which now numbers 45 people and includes several appointees from past administrations.
Christy has downplayed the threat of climate change in congressional hearings and media appearances, arguing that scientific models overestimate warming, and that major steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions are not warranted.
Those views place him outside the mainstream scientific consensus, including from U.S. federal agencies, that global warming will have devastating consequences if not urgently addressed. But they dovetail with President Donald Trump's policy of rolling back Obama-era climate-change regulations to free up more drilling and mining.
Christy did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Other new appointees include Hugh Barton, a toxicology and risk assessment consultant who formerly worked for pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc, and Richard Williams, an economics and benefit-cost analysis consultant who previously worked for the Food and Drug Administration.
"In a fair, open, and transparent fashion, EPA reviewed hundreds of qualified applicants nominated for this committee," acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement. They "include experts from a wide variety of scientific disciplines who reflect the geographic diversity needed to represent all 10 EPA regions.”
Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist, has said he believes climate change is occurring, but told senators at his confirmation hearing earlier this month that he did not see it as an urgent problem.
Trump downplays climate change
Trump has also repeatedly downplayed the threat of climate change, and announced his intention shortly after taking office in January 2017 to pull the United States from a global accord to fight it.
The science advisory board was created by Congress to serve as a check on EPA policies and research.
The EPA in 2017 barred scientists who have won agency-awarded grants from serving on the panel, a move the administration said was aimed at reducing conflicts of interest, but which environmental groups said would keep qualified scientists out of contention.