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Energy Secretary Rick Perry: Carbon dioxide is not ‘primary’ driver of climate change

Energy Secretary Rick PerryRick PerryTomorrow's special election in Texas is the Democrats' best House hope in 2021 Overnight Energy: Michigan reps reintroduce measure for national 'forever chemicals' standard |  White House says gas tax won't be part of infrastructure bill Trump alumni launch America First Policy Institute MORE said Monday that carbon dioxide emissions are not the “primary control knob” behind climate change, a statement at odds with nearly every major climate change researcher inside and outside the federal government.

Asked by CNBC if he believes carbon dioxide is “the primary control knob for the temperature of the Earth and for climate,” Perry said no, and that “most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment we live in.”

“This shouldn’t be a debate about is the climate changing, is man having an affect on it? Yeah, we are,” Perry said. “The question should be, just how much and what are the policy changes that we need to make to affect that?”

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Federal scientists — including researchers at NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — as well as international and private-sector researchers have concluded that increasing greenhouse gas emissions, driven by human activity such as burning fossil fuels, is the leading cause of climate change around the globe. 

Perry’s department is charged, in part, with researching technologies designed to green the energy sector, a leading producer of emissions. 

When asked about climate change during his confirmation hearing in January, Perry said that “the climate is changing” but that he believes “some of it is naturally occurring, but some of it is also caused by manmade activity.”

“This idea that the science is absolutely settled and if you don’t believe it’s settled, then you are somehow another Neanderthal, that is so inappropriate from my perspective,” he said on Monday on CNBC's "Squawk Box." 

“If you’re going to be a wise, intellectually engaged person, being a skeptic about some of these issue is quite alright.”

EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittCourt sets in motion EPA ban on pesticide linked to developmental issues Scientific integrity, or more hot air? OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden proposes billions for electric vehicles, building retrofitting| EPA chief to replace Trump appointees on science advisory panels | Kerry to travel to UAE, India to discuss climate change MORE said on the same CNBC show in March that he “does not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor” to climate change.