Energy Secretary: Debate on Climate Change Should Center on How Much Man Impacts Climate and What to Do About It

By Melanie Arter | June 27, 2017 | 10:44pm EDT
Energy Secretary Rick Perry (Screenshot of White House video)

( - Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Tuesday that he believes climate is changing and man is having an impact on it, but how much much effect that is and what the U.S. is going to do to affect that is up for debate.

During a White House press briefing on the president's energy policy, Perry was asked if he believes climate change is happening and that human activity has made it worse.


"Here’s what I believe -- and I’m pretty much on the record but I love getting the opportunity to talk about it again -- is the climate is changing.  Man is having an impact on it.  I’ve said that time after time. The idea that we can’t have an intellectual conversation about just what are the actual impacts," Perry said.

He pointed to former Obama administration Energy Undersecretary Steve Koonin, who has said that Obama administration officials spun scientific data to sway public opinion on climate change, as a reason why there should be a conversation about the issue.

“What you saw coming out of the press releases about climate data, climate analysis, was, I’d say, misleading, sometimes just wrong,” Koonin said, according to an April 24 article in the Daily Caller. 

"I mean, as late as this last week, an undersecretary for the Obama administration, Steve Koonin -- he believes that we need to have a sit-down and have a conversation. That the data is not, from his perspective -- and obviously he was a good enough scientist to be asked by the Obama administration to come in and be an undersecretary at the DOE -- he doesn’t think that the science is settled. So why not have a conversation about that?" Perry asked.

"I mean, what is the other side?  The people who say the science is settled, it’s done -- if you don’t believe that you’re a skeptic, a Luddite.  I don’t buy that. I don’t think there is -- I mean, this is America.  Have a conversation. Let’s come out of the shadows of hiding behind your political statements and let’s talk about it. What’s wrong with that? And I’m full well -- I can be convinced, but let’s talk about it." Perry added.

"You said that you do believe that climate change is happening and you do believe that human activity is contributing to it. So the discussion you’re asking for is just what to do about it?" a reporter asked.

"Sure. Is that okay? I mean, don’t you think we ought to do that?" Perry asked.

When asked later in the briefing to clarify his stance on climate change, Perry said there needs to be a debate on how much man affects the climate and what to do about it.

"You are saying that climate change -- man has affected climate change, and that the discussion is about what we do with it, not whether or not we've affected it. So going forward, that’s resolved," a reporter asked.

"No, what I said was:  Climate is changing, always has. Man at this particular point of time is having effect on it. How much effect is what’s at debate here? And more importantly, what is the United States going to do to affect that? Are we going to sign an agreement with somebody that really doesn’t call anybody to making any changes? You look at that agreement and what China and what India are required to do and they’re nothing," Perry said about the Paris climate agreement.

"How many coal plants? Three hundred plus coal plants we built in India. So why would we sign on to an agreement that is not holding other people to account and asking us to give $3 billion? I mean, that’s the first ante, and the Trump administration said that’s nonsense. I agree with them it's nonsense," he added.

"Now, can we agree we ought to have a conversation as a people? Intellectually engaged, not screaming at each other, and not standing up in the middle of my speeches and saying you’re a climate denier, when the fact is, I just want to have a conversation about this," Perry said.

"Isn’t that what the scientists have done?" the reporter asked.

"No, they haven’t, because when you have a scientist like Steve Koonin who stands up and says the science isn’t settled yet, I can say, okay, well let’s have a conversation and get these guys together. In my Senate committee, I said let’s -- Senate hearing -- I said let’s have a conversation about the blue team and red team getting together and talking this out," Perry said.

When asked whether President Donald Trump shares Perry's view on climate change, Perry said, "I have not had that conversation with him."

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