Rick Perry loses his cool when confronted by Sen. Franken on climate science

When told “humans are entirely the cause” of recent warming, Perry said, “I don’t buy it.”

Energy Sec. Rick Perry. CREDIT: AP/Andy Wong, File

After a week full of misleading and inaccurate statements, Energy Secretary Rick Perry remained incredulous and defiant when confronted with climate science-related facts in a budget hearing Thursday.

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) informed Perry that scientists have concluded that “humans are entirely the cause” of recent warming, to which Perry responded, “I don’t believe it” and “I don’t buy it.”

And when Franken reminded him this was the conclusion of a team of climate science skeptics funded by conservative petrochemical billionaires Charles and David Koch, Perry raised his voice and said: “To stand up and say that 100 percent of global warming is because of human activity, I think on its face, is just indefensible.”

CNBC allows Rick Perry to spout nonsense on live TV without any fact checking

What is indefensible is that the U.S. Secretary of Energy continues to reject established climate science and remain completely impervious to facts — which was made all too clear by a review of this week’s events.

Monday on CNBC, Perry falsely claimed that carbon dioxide was not the primary cause of recent global warming, along with a bunch of other nonsense. He also defended his right to be a “skeptic.”

On Wednesday, the American Meteorological Society (AMS) wrote Perry a letter informing him that he was simply wrong. The central role of greenhouse gases — of which CO2 is the “most important” — is “based on multiple independent lines of evidence that have been affirmed by thousands of independent scientists and numerous scientific institutions around the world,” the letter read.

The AMS called these “indisputable findings,” and pointed out, “we are not familiar with any scientific institution with relevant subject matter expertise that has reached a different conclusion.”

The AMS also explained that while some aspects of climate science are not fully resolved, this wasn’t one of them, adding, “skepticism that fails to account for evidence is no virtue.”

On Thursday, at an Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing, Franken asked Perry to defend downplaying the role of CO2 — and Perry reiterated his denial. Oblivious, Perry repeated, “what’s wrong with being a skeptic?”

Franken vs. Perry on climate science

Perry went on to call for a so-called “red team” exercise where scientists argue back and forth with a “blue team” on the issue. “But that is exactly how science works,” replied Franken, with teams of scientists pushing back and forth on one another until a consensus is reached.

Franken then pointed out that the Koch brothers had actually helped set up a “red team” of skeptics to take a new look at all of the historical data on global surface temperatures. He then quoted what the head of that team, Dr. Richard Muller, said in the New York Times about their findings:

Call me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.

At that moment in the questioning, Perry lost his composure, not merely rejecting this scientific reality but asserting angrily that it is “just indefensible.”

For the record, not only is it defensible, but in 2013, the world’s leading climatologists concluded in their summary of the latest science that “the best estimate of the human-induced contribution to warming is similar to the observed warming over this period.”

To clarify this science-speak from U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the best estimate is that humans are responsible for all of the warming we have suffered since 1950. Every major government in the world signed off on this conclusion back in 2013.

But the U.S. Energy Secretary is not just unaware of the science; when presented with it, he’s sure it can’t be true. That’s what makes him a denier and not a skeptic.


Rick Perry loses his cool when confronted by Sen. Franken on climate science was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Zinke screws up 3 denier talking points while dodging Franken’s climate question

Sen. Franken just wanted Zinke to answer a simple question on warming. He got a bunch of nonsense instead.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, March 29, 2017. CREDIT: AP/Molly Riley

The President’s cabinet may be filled with science deniers aimed at destroying America’s livable climate — but they still don’t have their talking points down cold.

On Tuesday, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s dodged questions from Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) with nonsense answers that one climate scientist called “stupid and ignorant.”

At an Energy and Natural Resources Committee budget hearing, Franken first debunked Zinke’s false claim that the vanishing glaciers at Glacier National Park have undergone a “consistent melt” since the end of the last ice age — explaining that “scientists who work for you” have found the melting has “dramatically accelerated” in recent decades.

Then Franken tried to get Zinke to answer one question: “Can you tell me how much warming government scientists predict for the end of the century under a business-as-usual scenario?”

Zinke’s non-answers repeat many of the standard falsehoods we’ve heard from the President and his team — but he still mangles most of them.

At first, Zinke dodged the question entirely. “The Paris accord” he began. “In the president and my judgement, it wasn’t about climate change, it was about a bad deal.” (In reality, Paris is an amazingly good deal for America.)

https://medium.com/media/46fb64b758e416894bb6e9156cd3d6b4/href

Franken interrupted to ask Zinke to answer the question. In response, Zinke claimed, “I don’t think the government scientists can predict with certainty. There isn’t a model that existed it can predict today’s weather given all the data.”

This was “a stupid and ignorant answer,” climatologist Kevin Trenberth told ClimateWire. Yes, long-term weather prediction is hard because on any given day months from now the possible temperature range could span tens of degrees Fahrenheit. But the climate is much easier to predict precisely because climate is the long-term statistical average of the weather. Greenland is going to be much colder than Kenya during the course of a year and during almost every individual month. The Amazon is going to be much wetter than the Sahara desert virtually year-round. The global climate is getting warmer.

Zinke didn’t even get this standard denier talking point right. Rather than talking about the difficulty of long-term weather forecasting, he said models can’t “predict today’s weather given all the data.” Actually, as NASA’s Gavin Schmidt told ClimateWire, weather forecasting is “excellent at the 1 to 5 day range.”

As the exchange went on, Zinkes continued to ignore the original question. Instead, he repeats an erroneous claim that “if everyone adhered to the Paris climate accord, that change would be roughly 0.2°, which is insignificant.”

“No, no, no,” Franken countered, while Zinke lamely interjected, “That was an MIT study.” (Both MIT groups that worked on the study in question debunked this erroneous understanding of the data when Trump first made the claim.)

“I just want you to answer the question that I asked you,” Franken said. “That’s all I want you to do.”

Trump falsely claims Paris deal has a minimal impact on warming

Zinke’s last dodge is to completely screw up a talking point, still fail to answer the question, and then make an impossible promise.

“Can you tell me, sir, whether or not China increased its co2 between now and 230 [sic] under the agreement and by what?” Zinke asks. “I’ll be glad to give you that answer.”

Zinke was probably trying repeat one of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s favorite (again, erroneous) talking points — claiming that in the Paris deal, China “didn’t have to take steps until 2030.” That is false. China pledged to peak in emissions by 2030 — and “to make best efforts to peak early.” That requires a lot of effort by the developing country, which is why even before the Paris agreement, China agreed to peak coal use by 2020.

Zinke appears totally ignorant of the fact that China’s coal use peaked back in 2013–2014 — and that the country is already plateauing in CO2 emissions.

Still, Zinke cannot possibly give the answer to the question of “by what” amount China increased its CO2 between now and 2030 — unless he has prophetic powers. He told the senator he would provide the answer in written follow up.

Trump Even Gets Climate Denial Wrong

But none of this should come as a surprise. Zinke’s confirmation hearing made clear he is a garden variety climate science denier. And the guy who he works for also routinely screws up denier talking points.


Zinke screws up 3 denier talking points while dodging Franken’s climate question was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

A carbon-free grid is unstoppable. So why did a nasty debate about it just erupt?

The U.S. power grid can, must, and will be largely renewable by 2055. Let’s discuss the details — without bickering.

CREDIT: AP/Sandy Huffaker

By 2055, the U.S. power grid can, must, and probably will be virtually carbon free — with lower electricity costs than today.

But a nasty and unproductive debate has bizarrely erupted between high-profile scholars who basically agree on this reality. Why? The devil, as always, is in the details.

In the lead up to Energy Secretary and climate science denier Rick Perry’s expected release of his own grid study — which many clean energy experts are expecting to be a hit job — it is worth exploring the argument.

Renewable energy groups rebut ‘faulty premise’ of Rick Perry’s electric grid study

Back in 2015, four energy experts, led by Stanford’s Mark Jacobson, published a paper arguing it is feasible to deliver “low-cost solutions to the grid reliability problem with 100 percent penetration of WWS [wind, water and solar power] across all energy sectors in the continental United States between 2050 and 2055.”

It was a bold claim at the time. But, as I’ve written, I think there’s little doubt the stunning advances in the past few years in renewables, batteries, electric vehicles, and other key enabling technologies support the general finding that we can have a stable and virtually carbon-free grid by mid-century — a grid that also powers much of our transportation needs.

Stunning drops in solar and wind costs turn global power market upside down

Just last week, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) projected that, by 2040, Germany’s grid will see nearly 75 percent renewable penetration, Mexico will be over 80 percent — and Brazil and Italy will be over 95 percent. BNEF was not looking at what could theoretically happen by mid-century if countries pushed as hard as required by the Paris climate goals. They were just looking at business as usual for 2040.

Nonetheless, 21 leading energy researchers have just published a detailed rebuttal of the Jacobson et al. paper, “Evaluation of a proposal for reliable low-cost grid power with 100% wind, water, and solar.” It purports to show that “this work used invalid modeling tools, contained modeling errors, and made implausible and inadequately supported assumptions.” Jacobson and his team respond in the same journal, “Clack et al.’s analysis is riddled with errors and has no impact on Jacobson et al.’s conclusions.”

But to give you an idea of just how odd this debate is, the very first line of the rebuttal begins, “A number of studies, including a study by one of us, have concluded that an 80 percent decarbonization of the US electric grid could be achieved at reasonable cost.”

In fact, the “study by one of us” is a January 2016 paper coauthored by Christopher Clack, the lead author of the rebuttal. NOAA’s own news release for Clack’s 2016 study begins, “The United States could slash greenhouse gas emissions from power production by up to 78 percent below 1990 levels within 15 years while meeting increased demand.”

Now you may be thinking that if we could cut GHG emissions from power production 78 percent in 15 years while meeting increased demand, then certainly we could cut the grid’s GHG emissions down to nearly zero if given another 25 years (to 2055).

Indeed, the NOAA news release quotes Clack as saying, “In the future, [utilities] may not need to” back up renewables with gas-fired generators and other reserves. And it even quotes Jacobson, whose study he is rebutting now, as praising the finding.

So what exactly are these scholars arguing about? Well, the original Jacobson et al paper was really a theoretical exercise that asked if you could just do a carbon free grid by 2055 that powered most of the U.S. economy under certain narrow constraints — using wind, solar and hydropower almost exclusively: “No natural gas, biofuels, nuclear power, or stationary batteries are needed.” They also rejected using electric car batteries to provide power to enhance grid stability. Instead, they believe hydrogen will somehow be more cost-effective as a storage medium and fuel.

I don’t see the point of all those assumptions, especially the ones about batteries and biofuels and hydrogen. It was pretty clear two years ago that battery prices were plummeting as performance was soaring and that hydrogen simply was not going to be able to compete. It’s now really beyond debate.

Chart of the month: Driven by Tesla, battery prices cut in half since 2014

On the other hand, I don’t see the point of all these scholars spending so much effort debunking a piece that, frankly, is quite out of date. All of these researchers understand how the reality of climate change and rapidly improving technology makes it both essential and indeed inevitable that the electric grid will be essentially carbon free by 2055. That’s the forest we mustn’t miss for the trees.

It would be vastly more productive to examine how the clean energy revolution enables such a grid. And the rebuttal does identify some interesting areas for discussion — such as just how much pumped storage could we add to our existing fleet of dams. But it doesn’t at all look at the unprecedented advances in batteries and electric cars. BNEF, on the other hand, projects that battery prices will continue to plummet over the next decade — and over half of new car sales by 2040 will be electric. So the pumped storage issue could be moot.

Also, the new study is critical of Jacobson et al. for rejecting nuclear power as an option in 2055. Yet it never acknowledges the economic reality that that half of existing U.S. nuclear power plants are no longer profitable — so it’s no surprise that new nuclear plants are wildly unaffordable. I think it would be wonderful if safe and affordable nuclear power plants could contribute to the grid in the 2050s, but right now there’s not much evidence they will.

Rather than more bickering, “I would love to get all of these people in a room for two days to brainstorm this problem,” as I told E&E News on Monday.


A carbon-free grid is unstoppable. So why did a nasty debate about it just erupt? was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

CNBC praises Energy Secretary Perry for denying CO2 is main cause of warming

Rick Perry spouted nonsense Monday morning on “Squawk Box” that even Fox News has debunked.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry. CREDIT: CNBC

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry denied basic climate science Monday. Perhaps worse, CNBC’s host failed to perform the most basic fact checking and just smiled in agreement.

In response to CNBC anchor Joe Kernen’s question, “Do you believe CO2 is the primary control knob for the temperature of the Earth and for climate?” Perry, who oversees much of our nation’s climate science research, replied with classic climate science denial — plus some tautological gibberish:

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

To paraphrase, Perry apparently said that the environment is the control knob for changes in the environment. That’s impressive blather even for the guy who famously said, “Oops,” in 2011 when he couldn’t remember the third federal agency he wanted to shut down — which turned out to be the Department of Energy, where he is now in charge.

Perry’s denial of the role of CO2 in global warming is wrong, according to science.

How carbon dioxide controls earth’s temperature

A 2010 study by NASA scientists that was published in Science concluded that CO2 is “the principal control knob that governs the temperature of Earth” and “within only the past century, the CO2 control knob has been turned sharply upward toward a much hotter global climate” by humans.

In reality, the overwhelming majority of climate scientists — over 97 percent — understand that human-caused CO2 is the primary cause of climate change, and, thus, the primary solution to dangerous climate change is to slash CO2 as quickly as possible. Scientists are as certain of that as they are that cigarette smoking is dangerous and that slashing your use of tobacco is the best way to minimize health risks.

“The idea that science is just absolutely settled… that is so inappropriate from my perspective,” Perry said.

Equally remarkable was Kernan’s final comment on Perry’s nonsensical answer, reassuring Perry he wouldn’t be attacked as a denier after this interview: “That’s a pretty good answer that you gave there, I think you’re going to be fine.”

Ironically, when EPA chief Scott Pruitt defended his absurd claim that CO2 is not “a primary contributor to the global warming that we see” on Fox News Sunday in early April, anchor Chris Wallace rebuked him: “Mr. Pruitt, there are all kinds of studies that contradict you.” Wallace quoted the key finding of the world’s top climatologists in a 2013 assessment that there is a 95 to 100 percent chance “human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”

Screenshot of FoxNews Sunday graphic debunking Scott Pruitt on April 2.

Indeed, the best estimate by scientists is that humans are responsible for all of the warming we have suffered since 1950. Every major government in the world signed off on this conclusion back in 2013.

The media should remember that the next time someone on team Trump tries to blow smoke in their face. In his CNBC interview, Perry conceded that the climate is changing and that man is having “an effect” — but then quickly added the “question should be just how much and what are the policies changes we need to make to affect that.”

That disclaimer is denier-speak for “the scientists really don’t know what’s going on or how to stop it, so let’s just burn more fossil fuels and kill all domestic and global climate action.”


CNBC praises Energy Secretary Perry for denying CO2 is main cause of warming was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

CNBC praises Energy Secretary Perry for denying CO2 is main cause of warming

Rick Perry spouted nonsense Monday morning on “Squawk Box” that even Fox News has debunked.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry. CREDIT: CNBC

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry denied basic climate science Monday. Perhaps worse, CNBC’s host failed to perform the most basic fact checking and just smiled in agreement.

In response to CNBC anchor Joe Kernen’s question, “Do you believe CO2 is the primary control knob for the temperature of the Earth and for climate?” Perry, who oversees much of our nation’s climate science research, replied with classic climate science denial — plus some tautological gibberish:

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

To paraphrase, Perry apparently said that the environment is the control knob for changes in the environment. That’s impressive blather even for the guy who famously said, “Oops,” in 2011 when he couldn’t remember the third federal agency he wanted to shut down — which turned out to be the Department of Energy, where he is now in charge.

Perry’s denial of the role of CO2 in global warming is wrong, according to science.

How carbon dioxide controls earth’s temperature

A 2010 study by NASA scientists that was published in Science concluded that CO2 is “the principal control knob that governs the temperature of Earth” and “within only the past century, the CO2 control knob has been turned sharply upward toward a much hotter global climate” by humans.

In reality, the overwhelming majority of climate scientists — over 97 percent — understand that human-caused CO2 is the primary cause of climate change, and, thus, the primary solution to dangerous climate change is to slash CO2 as quickly as possible. Scientists are as certain of that as they are that cigarette smoking is dangerous and that slashing your use of tobacco is the best way to minimize health risks.

“The idea that science is just absolutely settled… that is so inappropriate from my perspective,” Perry said.

Equally remarkable was Kernan’s final comment on Perry’s nonsensical answer, reassuring Perry he wouldn’t be attacked as a denier after this interview: “That’s a pretty good answer that you gave there, I think you’re going to be fine.”

Ironically, when EPA chief Scott Pruitt defended his absurd claim that CO2 is not “a primary contributor to the global warming that we see” on Fox News Sunday in early April, anchor Chris Wallace rebuked him: “Mr. Pruitt, there are all kinds of studies that contradict you.” Wallace quoted the key finding of the world’s top climatologists in a 2013 assessment that there is a 95 to 100 percent chance “human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”

Screenshot of FoxNews Sunday graphic debunking Scott Pruitt on April 2.

Indeed, the best estimate by scientists is that humans are responsible for all of the warming we have suffered since 1950. Every major government in the world signed off on this conclusion back in 2013.

The media should remember that the next time someone on team Trump tries to blow smoke in their face. In his CNBC interview, Perry conceded that the climate is changing and that man is having “an effect” — but then quickly added the “question should be just how much and what are the policies changes we need to make to affect that.”

That disclaimer is denier-speak for “the scientists really don’t know what’s going on or how to stop it, so let’s just burn more fossil fuels and kill all domestic and global climate action.”


CNBC praises Energy Secretary Perry for denying CO2 is main cause of warming was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Trump tells mayor of vanishing island ‘not to worry about sea level rise’

Trump denies the key reason Tangier Island is doomed, but the mayor still loves him.

Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay. CREDIT: AP/Steve Helber, File

President Donald Trump’s supporters have been the subject of countless stories just since November on the fact that they seemingly “vote against their economic interests.” But few stories note that they voted against their existential interests as well.

Trump’s refusal to accept the scientific consensus on the reality and urgency of climate change poses a serious threat to communities across the U.S. currently grappling with its effects. The latest example involves a tiny island that voted overwhelmingly for the president and its mayor, a vocal Trump supporter.

Last week, CNN aired a story about Tangier, an island in the Chesapeake Bay so low-lying that a mere 83 acres can support its inhabitants.

The story had three key points: First, the island is vanishing so rapidly that “the Army Corps of Engineers tells CNN that erosion and sea level rise alone will make this historic crabbing community uninhabitable in as little as 20 years.”

CREDIT: Screenshot/CNN

Second, the residents are desperate for government help, like an expensive seawall, which they believe could save their vanishing island if it came quickly enough. Mayor James Eskridge made this on-air plea: “We’re saveable, right now. Donald Trump, if you see this, whatever you can do, we welcome any help you can give us.”

Third, the island voted 87 percent for Trump, and the mayor told CNN, “I love Trump as much as any family member I got.”

Trump viewed the CNN story after staffers brought it to his attention, DelMarva Now reported. Trump called a shocked Eskridge, who said the president explained he “had to call” such a strong supporter. Trump added, “You’ve got one heck of an island there.”

“This is a Trump island; we really love you down here,” Eskridge replied. “The stuff you are doing is just commonsense… I believe you came along for such a time as this.”

The subject of the call then turned to the island’s fate. Trump “said not to worry about sea-level rise,” Eskridge explained. “He said, ‘Your island has been there for hundreds of years, and I believe your island will be there for hundreds more.’”

Screenshot of CNN story.

The Army Corps says the island will be uninhabitable in perhaps 20 years — or much sooner if it gets struck directly by a major storm — but the president dismissed the primary cause, rising seas.

“Like the president, I’m not concerned about sea level rise,” Eskridge told the Washington Post. “I’m on the water daily, and I just don’t see it.” According to Eskridge, it’s just erosion that is destroying Tangier.

Also, “it doesn’t bother” residents that Trump pulled out of the Paris climate deal, CNN explains: “The residents on Tangier look at the decision as more money it will free up to help them build the infrastructure they need to save their island.”

In reality, Trump’s proposed budget would end federal support of the Chesapeake Bay Program and zero out NOAA’s major coastal protection and adaptation program.

Trump budget goes after 50-year-old coastal protection program

Reflecting on the call, mayor Eskridge said, “So, Donald Trump knows about Tangier Island — that’s going to be the peak of my career.”


Trump tells mayor of vanishing island ‘not to worry about sea level rise’ was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.