Rick Perry says carbon dioxide is not a primary driver of climate change

Rick Perry says carbon dioxide is not a primary driver of climate change

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US Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry addresses employees for the first time at Energy Department headquarters in Washington, DC, March 3, 2017. Image courtesy Ken Shipp/US Department of Energy. (Photo via Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)


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In an interview with CNBC on Monday, Energy Secretary Rick Perry said that carbon dioxide emissions from human activities weren’t the primary driver of climate change. Instead, the former Texas governor responded that “most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in.”

It’s unclear how Perry envisions this “control knob” and how it works; a generous analysis of his answer would be that he misunderstood the question. Ocean waters absorb carbon dioxide and are changing, much like climate, because of it. And the oceans have short-term cycles that influence equally short-term temperature trends. But those cycles can’t drive the ever-upwards trend in temperature.

Oddly, Perry continued by affirming that climate change is happening and that we have to do something about it. The secretary told CNBC: “The fact is, this shouldn’t be a debate about, ‘Is the climate changing? Is man having an effect on it?’ Yeah, we are. The question should be just how much, and what are the policy changes that we need to make to effect that?”

Explaining away Perry’s muddled response as confusion won’t cut it, because he’s now the most important figure in energy development in the US, and energy use is a primary driver of climate change.

Perry also has a long history of unfounded climate change doubt. In fact, he seems to be badly parroting a clearer and more concise (if ignorant) response given to the same question offered by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt on the same channel in March.

Perry went on to give a defense of ill-informed skepticism more generally. “This idea that science is just absolutely settled and if you don’t believe it’s settled then somehow you’re another Neanderthal, that is so inappropriate from my perspective,” he said. This perspective apparently sees little distinction between the well-informed skepticism that’s central to science and raw contrarianism.

But Perry’s political style has been to shoot from the hip on matters he appears to know little about. Years before his appointment to the Energy Secretary position, Perry ran in a presidential primary and promised to shut down the Department of Energy (although when asked about it on the spot he couldn’t name the department). In his recent Senate confirmation hearing, Perry contritely admitted “My past statements made over five years ago about abolishing the Department of Energy do not reflect my current thinking. In fact, after being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination.”

In the past, the Energy Secretary has also denied that climate change is happening, once writing that the Earth was going through a “cooling trend,” according to January testimony from Senator Al Franken. Perry admitted in the same confirmation hearing that he does now believe in climate change, but he never admitted that humans are significantly responsible for the changing climate.

TECH|SCI

via Ars Technica https://arstechnica.com

June 20, 2017 at 09:55AM

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