Rick Perry, Climate Expert

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It’s no secret: Rick Perry is a climate change denialist. Unlike even George W. Bush, Perry’s views on climate change haven’t evolved at all during his time in office. If anything, the governor has amped up the economic fear-mongering and become even more wrapped up in conspiracy theories as primary season unfolds.

Today, the EPA released its long-expected finding that greenhouse gasses endanger the public’s health and welfare. There is a long and wending road that led to this day involving the Supreme Court, years of delay and suppression of evidence by the Bush administration, and years of regulatory review.

But the long and the short of it is that the EPA finally recognized that climate change poses a threat to Americans in the form of heat waves, drought, increased ozone, rising sea-levels, etc.

Perry had a predictable response to the decision. Here’s the first part of the statement released by the governor’s office:

It is unconscionable that unelected bureaucrats at the EPA have declared carbon dioxide a public danger despite a lack of scientific evidence to support their ruling. This action should be of grave concern to all Americans, especially Texans, in light of the recent ‘Climategate’ scandal, which uncovered data had been manipulated and destroyed in order to falsely show a preordained result.

Actually, the EPA ruling deals with six greenhouse gasses, not just carbon dioxide.

But then Perry isn’t really interested in facts. Who believes that the governor actually consults with any of the state’s many climate scientists? (None that I’ve spoken to have been contacted.)

Or, that he or his key staff people have spent any time reading the nearly 500 page EPA endangerment finding, which includes 210 pages of detailed technical background, itself based on Lord-knows how many man-hours of research and analysis by scientists and governments around the world?

The governor is doing what the governor does: Tending to his base in the Republican grassroots, with its nasty anti-scientific streak. According to recent polling, the public’s recognition of human-caused global warming is slipping as the issue has become politicized. 

As the Washington Post has noted, “The increase in climate skepticism is driven largely by a shift within the GOP.”

The horrible irony of this trend is that – pseudo-scandals like “Climategate” notwithstanding – the scientific evidence for global warming has only grown. If anything, scientists are increasingly worried that the effects of global warming could be more catastrophic and happen more quickly than thought just a few years ago.

Perry is partially responsible for reinforcing the worst tendencies of his base. It’s a deeply irresponsible thing for any politician to do.

 

Update: I ran across this quote in a story about climate researchers receiving death threats. Sad to think that the governor of the nation’s second-largest state falls into this camp.

“We have always had a very vocal minority of people who have long since decided to ignore the science and the data and take a deliberately and completely contrarian view, and who have always and constantly accused (all) climate scientists of falsehood and being in it for the money,” said Andy Ridgwell, a climate scientist at the University of Bristol.

“They have been playing Chicken Little and claiming the sky is falling in on climate science for a decade. There is nothing left that is new or different that they can (falsely) claim or accuse us of.”

Forrest Wilder, a native of Wimberley, Texas, is associate editor of the Observer. Forrest specializes in environmental reporting and runs the “Forrest for the Trees” blog. Forrest has appeared on Democracy Now!, The Rachel Maddow Show and numerous NPR stations. His work has been mentioned by The New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Yorker, Time magazine and many other state and national publications. Other than filing voluminous open records requests, Forrest enjoys fishing, kayaking, gardening and beer-league softball. He holds a bachelor's degree in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin.