As expected, one of the questions in last night’s GOP debate concerned Rick Perry’s views on certain scientific matters, specifically global warming:
HARRIS: Governor Perry — Governor Perry, Governor Huntsman were not specific about names, but the two of you do have a difference of opinion about climate change. Just recently inNew Hampshire, you said that weekly and even daily scientists are coming forward to question the idea that human activity is behind climate change. Which scientists have you found most credible on this subject?
It was a totally expected question, and one that could have been easily answered. Unfortunately Rick Perry rather muffed it (more so than is evident in the transcript):
PERRY: Well, I do agree that there is — the science is — is not settled on this. The idea that we would put Americans’ economy at — at — at jeopardy based on scientific theory that’s not settled yet, to me, is just — is nonsense. I mean, it — I mean — and I tell somebody, I said, just because you have a group of scientists that have stood up and said here is the fact, Galileo got outvoted for a spell.
But the fact is, to put America’s economic future in jeopardy, asking us to cut back in areas that would have monstrous economic impact on this country is not good economics and I will suggest to you is not necessarily good science. Find out what the science truly is before you start putting the American economy in jeopardy.
Harris followed up, giving Perry a second chance:
HARRIS: Just to follow up quickly. Tell us how you’ve done that.
Are there specific — specific scientists or specific theories that you’ve found especially compelling, as you…
Again Perry failed to answer the question, or put the issue to rest:
PERRY: Let me tell you what I find compelling, is what we’ve done in the state of Texas, using our ability to regulate our clean air. We cleaned up our air in the state of Texas, more than any other state in the nation during the decade. Nitrous oxide levels, down by 57 percent. Ozone levels down by 27 percent.
That’s the way you need to do it, not by some scientist somewhere saying, “Here is what we think is happening out there.” The fact of the matter is, the science is not settled on whether or not the climate change is being impacted by man to the point where we’re going to put America’s economics in jeopardy.
Again, Perry really failed to address the issue decisively. The sad thing is that this issue really isn’t that hard to answer; in fact credible scientists have already done the work for him. This is how Perry should have answered:
“A scientist I find credible on the issue is Richard Muller, Professor of Physics at Berkeley and author of the book Physics for Future Presidents. He has been critical of some of the data and methodology used to support theories of climate change in favor anthropogenic warming. I further agree with his view that the biggest threat to the environment comes not from activity in the US and Europe, but from manufacturing activities in China and India, countries not covered by the Kyoto treaty.
I also find interesting recent findings by European scientists at CERN, the group which works with the Hadron collider, that have determined some of the warming we are seeing is the product of cosmic radiation.
So rather than strap the American economy to a science which is still being debated by scientists and which has become a political hammer used by self-interested liberals who have no solutions for our economic problems, I prefer to approach the problem from a position of economic strength, which gives us greater leverage to face the challenges global warming could present in the future.”
I don’t expect to hear such an answer from any of the candidates (though they are free to borrow mine 🙂 ) because it isn’t sound-bite friendly and would require said candidate to put some actual thought into an answer – but this is the answer they should give if they want to put the issue to bed.