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Environment

Rick Perry Blames Climate Change on Oceans Instead of Humans

Flickr/Gage Skidmore; Flickr/Navin75

The oceans are a primary buffer against climate change. Yet Rick Perry seems to think that the oceans are to blame for the warming planet.

The US energy secretary said that humans play a role in warming the planet, in an interview on CNBC's "Squawk Box," but that the extent of this impact is unknown,

Take Action: Stand With Climate Change Refugees Around the World

The interviewer invoked a 2010 paper by NASA when asking Perry if carbon dioxide was the “primary control knob” for the environment. Perry responded that “most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in.”

Man-made carbon dioxide “is the most important long-lived ‘forcing’ of climate change,” according to NASA.

It was another instance of deflection and skepticism by a Trump cabinet member on the subject of climate change and shows how the people most responsible for monitoring the environment in the new administration are not making decisions based in science.

The lead author of the 2010 paper took to Twitter to correct Perry’s statement.  

Perry isn’t the primary climate obstructionist within the Trump administration. In fact, he tried to persuade Trump to stay in the Paris climate accord, as Environmental Protection Agency Director Scott Pruitt convinced the president to withdraw.

Read More: US Eliminates Climate Change Office That Helped Other Countries’ Sustainability Efforts

But Perry does oversee the Department of Energy, an agency that manages US energy production and influences which energy sources receive investment. The DOE’s subsidies for wind and solar power, for instance, are largely responsible for the boom in renewable energy over the past several years.

By equivocating on climate change, Perry suggests that there’s no real urgency to reduce fossil fuel use.

This is an opinion shared by the new head of the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Daniel Simmons, a staunch critic of renewable energy.

“We have to look at the track record of the oil and gas industry,” Simmons said last year at a conference. “[Which is] producing low-cost, reliable energy, particularly when the alternative is much, much higher prices.”

Read More: 5 Consequences of Trump Dumping the Paris Climate Agreement

And by saying that more research has to be done, Perry is delaying the climate action that most scientists believe should be happening right now. As governor of Texas, Perry championed the “all of the above” energy approach to maintain the state’s extraction of fossil fuels.  

A related and similarly misleading argument that Perry likes to use is that acting to mitigate climate change would be bad for the economy.

This “economy or climate change” choice is a false dichotomy that rejects real-world evidence. Numerous reports have shown the economic potential of renewable energy.

Read More: Renewable Sector Is Hiring 12 Times Faster Than Rest of US Economy

Yet this is an argument that holds a lot of sway with President Trump. During his announcement to leave the Paris agreement, Trump said that the economic costs of the pact were his main concern.

“The Paris climate accord is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries,” Trump said at the time. “Leaving American workers — who I love — and taxpayers to absorb the cost in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories, and vastly diminished economic production.”