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At town hall, Perry doubles down on climate skepticism

September 30, 2011|By Paul West
  • Presidential candidate Rick Perry wields a prop at a town hall event Friday in Derry, N.H..
Presidential candidate Rick Perry wields a prop at a town hall event Friday… (Brian Snyder / Reuters )

Reporting from Derry, N.H. — Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry may have backed down on tuition breaks for illegal immigrants, but he’s doubling down on his skepticism of climate-change science.

At a New Hampshire town-hall style meeting, his first of the campaign, the Texas governor sparred Friday evening with a questioner who tried to pin him down on the issue.  The man, whom Perry addressed as “Mike,” began by noting a 2011 report from a panel of experts chosen by the National Academy of Sciences, which concluded that climate change is occurring and “is very likely caused primarily by the emission of greenhouse gases from human activities.”  The man noted that Perry had ducked—twice--when asked at the Reagan Library debate this month to name the scientists he found most credible on the subject.

“Great,” replied Perry, strolling with a hand-held microphone in front of a crowd at the Adams Memorial Opera House in Derry, N.H.  “I’m ready for you this time.”

Perry said that “just within the last couple of weeks, a renowned Nobel laureate” had said that it was “not correct” to say that there was “incontrovertible” evidence that global warming is man’s fault.  “There are scientists all across this country who are saying that,” Perry said, adding to that his own conclusion that climate change science “frankly is not proven.”

The scientist, whom Perry never named, is Norwegian physicist Ivar Giaever, a 1973 Nobel laureate for work involving superconductors. A longtime skeptic of global warming, which he has described as “a new religion,”  Giaever resigned recently from the American Physical Society after it issued a policy statement that “evidence is incontrovertible: global warming is occurring."

Giaever told the London Sunday Telegraph,  "Incontrovertible is not a scientific word. Nothing is incontrovertible in science."

Echoing those words, Perry told the town-hall questioner: “He said there is not incontrovertible evidence, and here’s my point. The climate has been changing … for thousands of years, and for us to take a snapshot in time and say…‘The climate change that is going on is man’s fault, and we need to jeopardize America’s economy [to fix it.]’ I’m a skeptic about that.”

When the questioner followed up, in that vein, by suggesting that the link between smoking and cancer is not incontrovertible, the governor shot back, “I would suggest to you that [it] is pretty settled.”

As for greenhouse emissions, Perry said that Texas had done a much better job than other states in cleaning up its air, lowering ozone and nitrous oxide pollution.  But the governor disagreed strongly when the questioner said those gains had come in response to air-quality standards imposed by the federal government, the very "centralized, all-knowing, one-size-fits-all" environmental regulations emanating from Washington that Perry condemns and is promising to halt if he’s elected president.

“No, it wasn’t the EPA regulations,” responded Perry.

During the event, Perry repeated his claim that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme and hinted at ways he would consider changing the federal program to make it solvent.  Those include raising the retirement age, providing “private options” for younger workers “to decide how [their contribution] is going to be invested, and allowing states to “opt out of Social Security and create their own programs” for government workers and retirees.

Perry indicated that those 55 and older would not be affected by future changes and warned voters not to let anyone “try to scare you” by claiming “this guy,” meaning himself, “is taking your Social Security away.”

Perry, who encouraged the moderator to “turn ‘em loose” at the start of the question-and-answer session, was asked what he would do to help seniors who are on food stamps and welfare and are still finding a hard time making ends meet.

The solution, he responded, was to reduce the cost of energy, including home heating oil that many New Englanders rely upon, by “freeing up” domestic energy production and “removing those onerous regulations” from the EPA “that are job killers.” 

When a questioner asked Perry if he has “the stones to take it to” Obama in the 2012 election, the Texan repeated a line from his stump speech, quoting Ronald Reagan, that this is “the time for bright colors, not pale pastels.”

“Let me tell you,” said Perry,  “I am that bright color.”

paul.west@latimes.com

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