Slide Show: In Denial: The GOP's Climate Science Skeptics | The Nation

Slide Show: In Denial: The GOP's Climate Science Skeptics

  • GOP Senators in climate change denial (1 of 9)

    A recent Pew Research poll found that 53% of Republicans now say they don’t believe in global warming, a significant shift compared to 2007, when the majority agreed that climate change was happening (62%), and climate science deniers were in the minority (31%). This means that in just a few years, both Republican voters and GOP politicians have turned sharply against the scientific community’s consensus on climate change. 


    Among 2011’s incoming freshman Senators are many who deny global warming outright, or doubt that it’s a man-made phenomenon, and in January they will join a number of Congressional Republicans who have been bashing attempts to deal with climate change for years. A few are former advocates of climate legislation and green technology who seem to be caving to party pressure. Nearly all are plugging a similar rhetorical line: that climate legislation will hurt the economy, and the concern over climate change is based on bad science. Both points are misleading and based on dishonest premises.


    With world leaders meeting in Cancun this week to work out global policy on climate change, the importance of a fact-based approach to the climate science debate has never been more important. Take a look at some of these GOP climate deniers and the problems with their talking points.


    [h/t Wonk Room]


    Credit: AP Images

  • Marco Rubio (2 of 9)

    Incoming Florida senator Marco Rubio was once an advocate of cultivating alternative energy sources. In a speech he made as Speaker of the Florida State House in 2007, he articulated a vision for making his state the Silicon Valley of green energy innovation. “Today Florida has the opportunity to pursue bold energy policies, not just because they’re good for the environment, but because people can actually make money off them,” he said then.


    But he’s since fallen in with the GOP party line on climate change: that whether it is anthropogenic—that is, man-made—is up for debate, and that climate legislation will hurt the economy. Quite a 180-degree turn from when he was talking up the economic benefits of developing green jobs and green industry. Critics say it’s a purely self-interested political move.


    Credit: AP Images


  • Dan Coats (3 of 9)

    Indiana’s Dan Coats pointed to a recent snowstorm in Washington as a sign that climate change is overhyped. Never mind that scientists predict more extreme weather patterns all around as part of global climate change, not just warmer temperatures. But he might just be playing dumb—during his time as a lobbyist in Washington, he advocated for a big emissions-cutting bill.


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  • Rand Paul (4 of 9)

    Get out your tin foil hats—Kentucky’s Rand Paul thinks there’s a socialist conspiracy behind all this climate change talk, and Osama bin Laden is in on it, too. Sen. Paul should win a prize for dishonest uses of rhetoric. According to Paul, efforts to control climate change will destroy American jobs, ally us with capitalism-hating dictators and promote terrorism.


    He’s also using a manufactured scandal to discredit all climate science. Climate scientists are “making up their facts to make their conclusions,” he said in a speech right after winning in his Senate primary. He was referring to an incident last year when leaked emails from British scientists sparked suspicion that the numbers in major climate change studies were rigged. Three independent investigations have since shown that these accusations were totally unfounded, but that hasn’t stopped the GOP from using it to their political advantage.


    Credit: AP Images

  • Pat Toomey (5 of 9)

    The midterms delivered a major blow to prospects for the success of any climate legislation, no matter how incremental in scope. For instance: instead of being represented by Joe Sestak in Congress—a strong advocate of climate action and comprehensive energy reform—Pennsylvania will have Patrick Toomey, who thinks it’s doubtful that humans caused climate change, and says that cap and trade legislation will cost his state “tens of thousands of jobs.” He’s also publicly blamed climate legislation for wrecking the economy, despite the fact that no legislation addressing climate change has been passed yet.


    As Sestak knew, climate legislation would in fact create tens of thousands of green jobs in Pennsylvania over the long term—over 70,000, according to projections from academics at Yale, the University of Illinois and the University of California.


    Sestak also argued that Toomey’s concern for the livelihoods of working people is disingenuous, considering his close ties with Wall Street and corporate lobbyists. "Congressman Toomey will always side with big business, Wall Street, big corporations,” said Sestak during his campaign. “Recklessness is what causes joblessness." Toomey was the head of the Club for Growth, the influential “billionaire boy’s club” that funds candidates who favor tax cuts and unregulated markets.


    Credit: AP Images


  • Ron Johnson (6 of 9)

    What’s causing the extreme weather patterns of the past few years? Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson says it’s just sun spot activity. He also thinks global warming has saved his state from being trapped under a glacier, and that there’s nothing particularly special about the fact that this has been the hottest decade on record.


    “The Middle Ages was an extremely warm period of time, too,” he told the Milwaulkee Journal Sentinel. “It wasn't like there were tons of cars on the road.”


    This is the guy who beat Russ Feingold, by the way. (Feingold: “Global warming will have serious and possibly irreversible impacts in both the near and distant future.”)


    Credit: AP Images

  • John Hoeven (7 of 9)

    North Dakota’s John Hoeven thinks the planet is warming, though the cause of this is a “matter of opinion,” and if Congress tries to do anything about it, it will just make life harder and more expensive for average Americans.


    Or, more realistically, it will create new jobs and keep the money we’re spending on foreign oil inside the country. It’s too bad that once a Republican calls something “job-killing,” it sticks.


    Hoeven has opposed enabling the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate emissions, and thinks this should be the sole jurisdiction of Congress. Because it’s a great idea to put the people getting donations from businesses with a vested interest in restricting emissions as little as possible in charge of setting our environmental regulations, and not the people with backgrounds in science.


    Credit: AP Images

  • Rob Portman (8 of 9)

    Rob Portman is also big on this “job-killing” talking point. The incoming Senator from Ohio released a particularly fearmongering anti-carbon tax ad over the summer.


    “We're taxed turning on a light, using our computer, or even cooking dinner,” the ad ran. “And our factories are hit particularly hard. It could cost Ohio a hundred thousand jobs we cannot afford to lose. There's a better way to have a cleaner environment, stop our dangerous dependence on foreign oil and add jobs.”


    Media Matters refuted the ad point by point, citing studies that show climate change legislation would actually boost GDP, create millions of jobs nationwide, cost pennies a day and be a boon to national security.


    Credit: AP Images

  • Roy Blunt (9 of 9)

    Missouri’s Roy Blunt has been hailed for his political savvy and unique ability to win friends and influence people. He’s sat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee for years. And—gulp—he’s a big climate change denier.


    According to Blunt, "there isn’t any real science to say we are altering the climate path of the earth." He’s been blocking climate change legislation in the House for years, and opposing the EPA getting more power to regulate emissions, too.


    Research for this slide show provided by Braden Goyette


    Credit: AP Images

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