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Perry sees climate denial as evidence of being 'intellectually engaged'

It's not just Rick Perry's rejection of climate science that rankles; it's how he chooses to explain reality in a willfully ignorant way.
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry waits to speak during a campaign stop at the South Carolina Military Museum, June 8, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/AP)
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry waits to speak during a campaign stop at the South Carolina Military Museum, June 8, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. 

In the Obama administration, the first Energy Secretary was Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate and a physics professor at Berkeley. He was succeeded by Ernest Moniz, who led the physics department at MIT.

In the Trump administration, things are a little ... different.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry told CNBC on Monday he does not believe carbon dioxide emissions from human activity are the main driver of climate change, joining the EPA administrator in casting doubt on the conclusion of some of the government's top scientists.Asked whether CO2 emissions are primarily responsible for climate change, Perry told CNBC's "Squawk Box": "No, most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in."

In an apparent attempt to drive the reality-based community batty, Perry added that his skepticism towards climate data is a sign of a "wise, intellectually engaged person."

It's not just the cabinet secretary's rejection of climate science that rankles; it's also Perry's explanation. He not only fails to accept the effects of carbon pollution, Perry believes climate change is the result of oceans "and this environment."

What does that mean? I have no idea, but just as importantly, there's no reason to believe Perry has any idea, either.

This reminded me of a New York Times piece from a couple of weeks ago, which I've been meaning to mention:

The campaign ad appeared during the presidential contest of 2008. Rapid-fire images of belching smokestacks and melting ice sheets were followed by a soothing narrator who praised a candidate who had stood up to President George W. Bush and "sounded the alarm on global warming."It was not made for a Democrat, but for Senator John McCain, who had just secured the Republican nomination.It is difficult to reconcile the Republican Party of 2008 with the party of 2017, whose leader, President Trump, has called global warming a hoax, reversed environmental policies that Mr. McCain advocated on his run for the White House, and this past week announced that he would take the nation out of the Paris climate accord, which was to bind the globe in an effort to halt the planet's warming.

In the Obama era, denying climate science became part of what it means to be a Republican. The more evidence emerged, pointing to a global crisis, the more GOP officials, candidates, and pundits announced their preference for dangerous, willful ignorance.

Several years ago, Mother Jones' Kevin Drum wrote a memorable item about the trajectory of climate denial:

1. The world isn't warming.2. OK, it's warming, but it's not man-made. It's just natural climate variability.3. Fine, people are responsible. But it's not economically worth it to do anything about it.

As Perry's on-air comments to CNBC reminded us, contemporary Republicans have regressed, finding themselves split between numbers 1 and 2.

History's judgment will be brutal.