Secretary of Energy Rick Perry has asserted that man-made carbon emissions are not the primary contributor to climate change. While President Donald Trump's administration has questioned humanity's role in warming temperatures, climate scientists and government employees maintain that carbon emissions must be reduced to avoid disaster.
On June 19, Perry was asked during an interview whether carbon dioxide emissions were the largest contributor to climate change.
"No, most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in," Perry told CNBC.
Perry did not dispute that mankind's activities contributes to climate change but asserted that there was still debate over how to address the problem.
"The fact is this shouldn't be a debate about, 'Is the climate changing, is man having an effect on it?'" Perry continued. "Yeah, we are, the question should be just how much, and what are the policy changes that we need to make to effect that?"
On March 9, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt offered a similar assessment on carbon emissions.
"I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there's tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it's a primary contributor to the global warming that we see," Pruitt said.
Pruitt's stance on climate change is at odds with his own department. The EPA's webpage explicitly stated: "Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas that is contributing to recent climate change."
The EPA recently removed that statement.
Both Perry and Pruitt's attitudes toward climate change is rapidly translating into policy. The Trump administration is set to reduce funding for the Department of Energy (DOE) and completely close down its Office of International Climate and Technology.
Climate science director Shaye Wolf of The Center for Biological Diversity swiftly blasted Perry's assertion that the oceans were the primary contributor to climate change.
"Perry has the science exactly backward," Wolf told The Washington Post. "Far from being climate change's key cause, the world's oceans are actually another victim of greenhouse pollution."
Wolf added that the Earth's oceans were becoming increasingly acidic because they have absorbed "most of man-made global warming's excess heat, putting tremendous stress on marine life."
In October 2016, a Pew Research Center poll found that 48 percent of national adults believed that climate change was primarily caused by human activity; 31 percent said it was spurred by natural causes and 20 percent said there was no evidence that global warming existed.
The survey also found a profound partisan split on climate change, with 69 percent of Democrats agreeing that human activity was the main culprit while only 23 percent of Republicans agreed.