Rick Perry, Carbon Dioxide, and #Climate

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)

Public Health Warning: Reading about Rick Perry can potentially inflict serious face palming.

Trump appointee, Rick Perry, the energy secretary was interviewed on CNBC’s “Squawk Box”. When asked about the role that Carbon Dioxide play in our warming climate and if it was “the primary control knob for the temperature of the Earth and for climate,”, he answered …

“No, most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in.”

This is not an outright denial that the climate is changing, but instead is a stance the rejects the scientific consensus regarding the cause …

Perry added that “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?”

Perry’s comments fall in line with what Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt said in a March interview on the program. Pruitt said then that he does not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming.

The stance is completely the reverse of what we know is the cause. The oceans are not the root cause of what is happening, but instead are yet another manifestation of the problem. The oceans absorb Carbon Dioxide and also trap rather a lot of the excess heat.

What does Rick Perry really think?

One thing I do have to seriously consider is if he actually believes this, or if this is simply Mr Perry playing yet another role.

He has an ability to adapt to the prevailing political climate. Up until 1989 he was a Democrat. When Texas started going Republican, he switched and so thrived.

Even within recent memory we can see this ability. When he himself dropped out of the 2016 race he not only backed Ted Cruz, but was also very vocal with his anti-Trump rhetoric. As an example, he said this about the orange menace …

“He is without substance when one scratches below the surface. He offers a barking carnival act that can be best described as Trumpism: A toxic mix of demagoguery and mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued. Let no one be mistaken — Donald Trump’s candidacy is a cancer on conservatism, and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded.”

… yet today he is inside Trump’s cabinet, so how did that happen?

By May 2016, once it was clear which way the wind was blowing, he switched to this stance …

“he loves this country and he will surround himself with capable, experienced people and he will listen to them.”

In other words, this is a guy who knows how to brown-nose and has mastered that aspect of the political craft. Being capable of issuing soundbites that people want to hear is a skill that enables him to float to the top.

Department of Energy

He may indeed be the soundbite guy, but scratch and under the surface there is no real substance or thought. Perry is rather famous for an exchange that took place during his attempted presidential run in 2012. It more or less killed his campaign …

With a good head of steam going answering a question from Caterpillar CEO Douglas R. Oberhelman, Perry ground to a halt as he tried to explain the three government agencies he would eliminate. “Let me tell you, it’s three agencies that are gone when I get there. Commerce, Education, and the um, what’s the third one there?”

Mitt Romney tried to help, offering “EPA?”

That wasn’t it, according to Perry. Given another chance to list them by moderator John Harwood, Perry tried again.

“The third agency I would do away with…the…ahh…Education…ahh…Commerce, and, let’s see,” looking down at his podium, “I can’t, the third one. I can’t. Sorry. Oops.”

A few minutes later, Perry did recall the lucky third agency: The Department of Energy. Yeah, how’s the Governor of Texas supposed to remember that one?

Rather ironically, that third agency that he wanted to obliterate, the one he could not remember, is now the agency he is in change of. So yes, Mr Trump does indeed appear to maintain his track record of appointing agency heads that have a history of love, nurture, and support for the various agencies he appoints them to lead. As for Mr Perry, suddenly like magic, he no longer wishes to obliterate the Dept of Energy now that he is in charge.

So what does he really believe?

He has said specific things and can be quoted as taking specific stances …

  • He has played the religious card, and not only stated that he firmly believes in the bible, but that he is “a firm believer in intelligent design as a matter of faith and intellect“, and has expressed support for its teaching.
  • He has also played the anti LGBT card.
  • He supports the death penalty
  • He is also an A+ NRA gun owner who holds a Concealed Carry License
  • His climate change denialism
  • etc..

It is all populist stuff that ticks boxes for the voters within the deep red state of Texas. Anything else would have seen an immediate end to his political career.

Is this who he really is, or is it all an act?

Given his ability to rapidly adapt and switch his position to survive within the political arena, I find that I have quite honestly no idea what he really thinks or believes.

He survives and thrives, because he is a good politician, and that perhaps is not exactly a complement.

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