Human actions have contributed to climate change, according to the majority of climate scientists — and now, apparently, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller.
Asked specifically if he believed human beings have played a role in climate change, Miller said he's come to believe so, especially after seeing the level of air pollution in Beijing and Shanghai during a recent trip to China.
“You know, after going to China, I think so,” Miller told Texas Tribune Editor Emily Ramshaw as part of a one-on-one conversation during the Texas Tribune Festival.
Over the course of his 11-day trip, Miller said, he only saw the sun a handful of times because of the smog. Still, Miller said he is decidedly not worried about America’s role in shaping the global climate — again, judging primarily by air quality.
“I don’t think America plays much of a part,” he said. “American farmers and ranchers are very conscious of that.”
Miller, a Republican, said his primary focus when it comes to the environment is sustainability. He has not addressed climate change in a significant way during his first year as agriculture commissioner. In a post on his Facebook page last year, Miller shared a story about Kansas experiencing an unusually early frost, adding “Well, so much for global warming. Someone should alert Al Gore!”
And Miller has strongly opposed federal environmental regulations, saying there’s “no doubt” they infringe on the agriculture department's duties. “To make more rules, to make regulations more stringent — you can go to China and move the needle on that,” Miller said. “But in the United States, to put in those erroneous oversights and rules, you can’t move the needle.”
Family farmers, Miller said, have incentive to leave their lands in good shape for future generations and don’t need federal prodding.
“Their No. 1 goal is to pass that farm onto the next generation better than they found it,” Miller said. “We understand what sustainability is.”
And Miller said he disagrees with characterizing the Democratic Party as more environmentally conscious than Republicans.
“I’m a great champion of the environment, always have been,” he said. “I think conservatives, Republicans, have given that subject over to the liberals, when actually we are the ones that embrace it — that’s our subject. The root word ‘conserve’ comes to mind, in conservative.”
Miller also said he supports genetically modified organisms, also known as GMOs, because they’re necessary to feed a growing global population. He said his office wants to be more efficient in certifying organic farmers, making sure their products “are organic, we don’t want any of that hanky-panky going on.” And he said was proud of his focus on school nutrition programs, where he’s lifted bans on deep-fat fryers, soda sales, and other sugary products.
“If they want to put up a deep fryer and throw in a potato, put in some vegetables, we’re just giving them that option,” Miller said.
Miller came under fire in August after his Facebook page included a post depicting a mushroom cloud framed by two statements: “Japan has been at peace with the US since August 9, 1945” and “It’s time we made peace with the Muslim world.”
"I don't have any animosity toward Muslims ... we're more focused on the agriculture," Miller said Saturday. "You know, we're going to say things not everybody agrees with, and then we're going to move on."