Rick Perry Is in Charge of Nuclear Safety—Too Bad He Doesn’t Understand Science

Trump’s energy secretary embraces climate denial.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry told CNBC Monday morning that he doesn’t believe carbon dioxide is primarily responsible for global warming, contradicting the overwhelming scientific consensus on the causes of climate change.

When asked by interviewer Joe Kernan whether CO2 is the “primary” driver of changing temperatures, Perry responded, “No, most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in.”

Perry downplayed human impact on the climate and argued that it’s just fine to say the science behind global warming is not settled. “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?” he said. “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.”

Perry’s climate denial is well established. “I don’t believe that we have the settled science by any sense of the imagination to stop that kind of economic opportunity…Calling CO2 a pollutant is doing a disservice the country, and I believe a disservice to the world,” he said in 2014.

Perry’s comments on Monday follow similar statements made by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt,  “I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do, and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact,” Pruitt said on the same CNBC program, Squawk Box, in March. “So no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see. But we don’t know that yet. We need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis.”

Pruitt and Perry are contradicting the scientific consensus on global warming, including the work produced by US government agencies. Up until recently, the EPA’s own website stated that “carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas that is contributing to recent climate change,” but the agency has since taken down that section of the website, pending a “review.”

NASA says that among the greenhouse gases contributing to manmade warming of the Earth, CO2 “is the most important long-lived ‘forcing’ of climate change.”

Still, there might be a kernel of truth in Perry’s comments: The oceans are indeed a big deal when it comes to global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that “ocean warming dominates the increase in energy stored in the climate system, accounting for more than 90% of the energy accumulated between 1971 and 2010.” Of course, that ocean warming is being driven largely by manmade greenhouse gases, chiefly CO2.

The CNBC interviewer, Joe Kernan, went on to praise Perry’s answer. “Mr. Secretary,” he said, “pretty good answer that you gave there, and I think you’re going to be fine with that.”

Watch Scott Pruitt’s comments from March below:

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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