Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt has previously worked closely with the fossil fuel industry
US President-elect Donald Trump has confirmed that he has nominated Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt to lead the country's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Mr Pruitt has been a vocal critic of President Obama's policies on climate change, and has links to the fossil fuel industry.
The New York Times notes that as attorney general Mr Pruitt took the "unusual step of jointly filing an antiregulatory lawsuit with industry players".
In an article co-authored with Alabama attorney general Luther Strange for National Review earlier this year, Mr Pruitt wrote: "Backed by green-energy interests and environmentalist lobbying groups, the coalition has promised to use intrusive investigations, costly litigation, and criminal prosecutions to silence critics of its climate-change agenda."
"Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind. That debate should be encouraged - in classrooms, public forums, and the halls of Congress. It should not be silenced with threats of prosecution."
Such comments come despite the overwhelming scientific consensus on human-influenced climate change. As NASA notes, 97% of climate scientists "agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities".
The news of Mr Pruitt's appointment drew immediate criticism. Senator Bernie Sanders described the nomination as 'sad and dangerous'.
Trump's nominee to lead EPA, Scott Pruitt, is a climate denier who's worked closely with the fossil fuel industry. That's sad and dangerous.— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) December 7, 2016
New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman described Mr Pruitt as 'a dangerous and unqualified choice for EPA', and vowed to 'aggressively' fight back against any attempts to reverse progress on climate change.
Friends of the Earth Climate and Energy Program Director Benjamin Schreiber said: "Donald Trump has made it clear that he intends to wage war on clean air and clean water. Trump has also put our climate in peril and shown he is out of step with the American people.
"As the Attorney General, Scott Pruitt did the bidding of the oil and gas industry and fought many of the laws he will now be tasked to enforce," he added.
In a statement on the nomination, Mr Trump - who himself has drawn heavy criticism for his previous claim that climate change is a hoax invented by China - said: “For too long, the Environmental Protection Agency has spent taxpayer dollars on an out-of-control anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs, while also undermining our incredible farmers and many other businesses and industries at every turn.
"As my EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, the highly respected Attorney General from the state of Oklahoma, will reverse this trend and restore the EPA’s essential mission of keeping our air and our water clean and safe. My administration strongly believes in environmental protection, and Scott Pruitt will be a powerful advocate for that mission while promoting jobs, safety and opportunity."
Mr Pruitt said: “The American people are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our economy due to unnecessary EPA regulations, and I intend to run this agency in a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses.”
Mr Trump has previously threatened to withdraw from the Paris agreement on climate change, although has since suggested he has an 'open mind' on the issue.
The developments in the US come as environmental groups have reacted angrily to the Irish Government’s first annual transition statement on climate change.
Friends of the Earth called the statement “a damp squib”, adding that if the government cannot commit to real action on climate change “we may as well have Trump as Taoiseach.”