Energy Secretary Rick Perry told CNBC on Monday that he doesn't believe CO2 emissions from human activity are the primary cause of climate change.
The interview was disappointing for two main reasons. Firstly, because our Energy Secretary denies robust scientific evidence in favor of his own opinion. But perhaps more disappointing was the way the question was phrased and the answer was then applauded by CNBC news anchor, Joe Kernen.
"I was wondering, do you believe CO2 is the primary control knob for the temperature of the Earth and for climate?" asked Kernen.
Someone needs to remind Kernen that the opinions of politicians do not matter in science. What they believe has no impact on scientific consensus. Instead, we should be asking our Energy Secretary whether he accepts the science behind climate change. Or better yet, actually interviewing experts in the field on the most recent climate science research.
Nonetheless, Rick Perry was given the opportunity to give his scientifically uninformed belief.
"No. Most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in," he explained in the most evasive and obtuse way possible.
While Perry did concede that the climate is changing, he quickly added that the "question should be just how much and what are the policies changes we need to make to affect that."
"This idea that science is absolutely settled, and if you don't believe it's settled then you're somehow a neanderthal…that is so inappropriate from my perspective," Perry lamented.
"I think that if you're going to be a wise, intellectual person, being a skeptic about some of these issues is quite alright."
Perry's response was immediately applauded by Kernen.
"Alright, Mr. Secretary, that's a pretty good answer," replied Kernen, before joking, "I don't know what the actual penalty is for not believing. I think it's heretical — I know that — if you're a denier. But you did well there. Thank you. I appreciate it, Mr. Secretary."
Yet being skeptical about science does not make you a critical thinker, and it certainly doesn't make you right. In order to be a wise, intellectual person surely you must accept the scientific method and the robust scientific evidence that suggests climate change is caused by humans.
Next time we can only hope that CNBC will fact-check their interviewees. Or — here's a crazy idea — actually ask a real scientist whether carbon dioxide is the primary control knob behind climate change.
Watch the full and disappointing interview here.