Sen. Franken to Rick Perry: ‘I don’t think you’re ever going to be a climate scientist’

Trump’s energy secretary pick was slammed for pretending he has evolved from his long-standing climate science denial.

Energy Secretary-designate, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, pauses while testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. CREDIT: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
Energy Secretary-designate, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, pauses while testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. CREDIT: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Sens. Al Franken (D-MN) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) slammed President-elect Donald Trump’s energy secretary nominee, Rick Perry, for dodging questions about his previous climate science denial in his confirmation hearing Thursday.

Perry wants us to believe he’s a changed man. The former Texas governor wants us to believe he’s not the laughingstock of a 2011 GOP presidential debate who couldn’t remember that the Department of Energy (DOE) was the third agency he wanted to eliminate. And he wants us to think he’s evolved on climate science.

Perry told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee that because he now actually understands what DOE does, he doesn’t want to shut it down. And he has memorized one of the soundbites Trump nominees use to dodge questions on climate change: “I believe the climate is changing. I believe some of its naturally occurring and some of it is caused by man-made activity.”

But the problem with that last dodge is that the most recent review of the climate science — approved by every major government line by line — finds that all of the warming since 1950 is due to human activity.

So Franken and Sanders were having none of it, quoting back at Perry his earlier statements denying climate science. Here’s Franken:

Franken asked Perry to specifically answer the question “How much climate change do you think the science shows is due to human activity?” Perry retreated to the same response interior secretary-designate Rep. Ryan Zinke (and countless other conservatives) have used, that he’s not “claiming to be a climate scientist.”

Franken shot back, “I don’t think you’re ever going to be a climate scientist,” noting that someone who wants to run the DOE can’t keep dodging the question. But Perry does anyway.

And so it was left to Sanders to press the issue, asking whether Perry agrees with the majority of scientists who say climate change is a “global crisis” that “requires massive cuts in carbon.”

Perry dismissed the question — one of the most important questions facing the nation — by calling it an “academic discussion” and “an interesting exercise.”

I will respond that I think that having an academic discussion, whether it is with scientists or whether it’s with you, is an interesting exercise, but do I have a record of affecting the climate in the world and in this country and the answer is yes, when you lower carbon emissions by 17 percent and sulfur dioxide by 66 percent, and NOx by 58 percent 60 percent, don’t you think that is a good thing?

So Perry admits that by lowering carbon emissions he has been “affecting the climate in the world and in this country.”

However, Perry seems to think that lowering emissions of sulfur dioxide and NOx [oxides of nitrogen] are somehow germane to the climate change issue. Hopefully DOE scientists will explain to him that they aren’t greenhouse gases.

It’s worth noting that the reductions in sulfur dioxide and NOx that Perry is now bragging about were due to EPA regulations that Republicans like Perry fought against from the get-go. And now team Trump wants to kill the EPA regulations that would keep lowering carbon emissions.

Finally, Perry’s claims that he will fight for DOE research also ring hollow given that Trump campaigned on killing all federal clean energy development — and his transition team has a budgetary blueprint that would scrap the DOE’s Office of Electricity, Office of Fossil Energy, and its Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.