Perry's skepticism over global warming strikes a nerve

Posted Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011

By Aman Batheja

Gov. Rick Perry found himself at the center of attention again on Wednesday, this time after reiterating his skepticism over climate change and his belief that some scientists have manipulated data to keep the issue alive.

Two days after drawing fire for blunt comments regarding Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Perry decried the global warming issue as "politicized" and questioned the science behind it while speaking at an event in New Hampshire.

Perry has been outspoken on the issue for years, but his comments are getting attention like never before now that he's a front-running Republican presidential candidate.

On Wednesday, it started when Drew Cline, a New Hampshire Union Leader editorial page editor, quoted Perry via Twitter as saying at the event that "a substantial number of scientists (have) manipulated data to keep the money rolling in."

Along with drawing outrage from environmentalists, the remarks put Perry at odds with Republican rival Mitt Romney on an issue that has become a litmus test for some conservative voters. Romney has said repeatedly that he believes global warming is real and that humans contribute to it.

"I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that," Romney said at a New Hampshire event in June, according to Reuters.

While most climate scientists believe that climate change is real and that fossil fuel combustion is helping warm the Earth, a core group of dissenters, coupled with some conservative groups and activists have challenged that view.

Perry has long counted himself among those with doubts on the issue. His skepticism, along with that of dozens of Republicans in the Texas Legislature, has stymied attempts to pass climate change-related bills in recent years.

Texas environmentalists have long criticized Perry's views on what role government should play in protecting air quality and fighting climate change.

"As Texas experiences one of the most terrible droughts in the state's history, Gov. Perry's comments regarding global warming are irresponsible since global warming only exacerbates droughts," said David Weinberg, executive director of the Texas League of Conservation Voter.

Weinberg continued: "The Lone Star State releases more heat-trapping carbon dioxide pollution - the primary greenhouse gas - than any other state in the union, but perhaps the significant political contributions Gov. Perry has taken from the fossil fuel industry has clouded not only our air but also his vision and understanding of sound science."

Perry's remarks also dovetail with his protracted, high-profile battle with the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The state of Texas is challenging several EPA greenhouse gas-related regulations in court, in part arguing that the federal agency's declaration that greenhouse gases are a public health threat is not based on science.

'Preordained results'

Wednesday was hardly the first time Perry questioned whether the efforts to convince policy makers and the public that climate change is real constitutes a conspiracy.

In 2009, Perry wrote EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson a letter that her agency's plan to regulate greenhouse gases was a certain job killer based on distorted scientific claims.

Perry cited leaked e-mails from British scientists that suggested that data were distorted to overstate the dangers of global warming.

"The disclosure of potentially fraudulent and criminal behavior requires that the EPA conduct an independent and public review of the science prior to implementing these findings," Perry told Jackson in the letter. "It would be unconscionable for the EPA to ignore what appear to be systematic attempts by certain scientists to achieve preordained results."

Subsequent investigations from the British Parliament and the U.S. Department of Commerce into the so-called "Climategate" e-mails found no evidence of a systematic effort to manipulate data on climate change.

It's unclear whether Perry's latest charge that scientists are manipulating climate change data was in reference to the e-mails leaked in 2009 or some other incident. A request to Perry's campaign for further comment was not returned Wednesday.

'Contrived phony mess'

Perry devoted part of his 2010 book, "Fed Up: Our Fight to Save America from Washington," to questioning climate change and criticizing the actions of "the Left" on the issue.

In the book, Perry said his global warming skepticism is based on "doctored data related to global warming" and a recent "cooling trend," and warned that "so-called science may not stand the test of time."

He also described former Vice President Al Gore as a "false prophet of a secular carbon cult" and Gore's work on climate change as a "contrived phony mess that is falling apart under its own weight."

Aman Batheja, 817-390-7695

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