US Energy Secretary Rick Perry told he lacks 'fundamental understanding' of climate science

'Scepticism that fails to account for evidence is no virtue'

Ian Johnston
Environment Correspondent
Friday 23 June 2017 08:57
Comments
Hands up if you don't understand climate science
Hands up if you don't understand climate science

The American Meteorological Society has told Rick Perry he lacks a ‘fundamental understanding’ of science after the US Energy Secretary claimed carbon dioxide was not a primary cause of climate change.

The former governor of Texas told CNBC TV that “the most likely the primary control knob [for climate change] is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in”, rather than greenhouse gas emissions produced by human activity.

Becoming the latest of Donald Trump’s administration to dispute established science without any attempt at reasoned argument, Mr Perry also said it was “quite all right” to be a sceptic about climate change, suggesting the trait was one held by any “wise, intellectually engaged person”.

In a letter, Keith Seitter, executive director of the American Meteorological Society, agreed that scepticism and debate were “critically important to the advancement of science”.

However he added: “In climate science unresolved questions remain – issues that currently lack conclusive evidence.

“However, there are also very solid conclusions that are based on decades of research and multiple lines of evidence.

“Scepticism that fails to account for evidence is no virtue. As noted above, the role of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as the primary driver for the warming the Earth has experienced over the past several decades is extremely well established.”

Scientists discovered that carbon dioxide has a warming effect on the atmosphere in the 1800s with the Nobel-prize winning Swedish scientist Svante Arrenhius predicting the world’s average temperature would rise as a result of human emissions in 1895.

As carbon dioxide has risen from about 280 parts per million at that time to more than 400 parts per million, the world’s average temperature has risen by nearly one degree Celsius. This rise in atmospheric carbon has been directly linked to the burning of fossil fuels because it has a different signature to ‘natural’ carbon. No other plausible explanation exists for the increasing temperature.

Mr Seitter told Mr Perry: “It is critically important that you understand that emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are the primary cause [of climate change].

“This is a conclusion based on the comprehensive assessment of scientific evidence. It is based on multiple independent lines of evidence that have been affirmed by thousands of independent scientists and numerous scientific institutions around the world.

“We are not familiar with any scientific institution with relevant subject matter expertise that has reached a different conclusion.”

He added that these “indisputable findings” were reflected in the society’s statement on climate change.

“Without this fundamental understanding of the science, it is impossible to discuss potential policy changes in meaningful ways,” Mr Seitter said.

“Department of Energy programmes have a major role to play in developing and informing the solutions for our nation’s future energy needs, so it is especially important that the best possible science and understanding is applied to policy issues with respect to Department of Energy programmes.”

Mr Perry is not the only Trump official to receive such a letter. Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, was accused of "mischaracterising the science" after claiming there was "tremendous disagreement" about climate change and saying he did not believe carbon dioxide was a primary cause.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in