Crossposted from Greenpeace’s blog, the EnvironmentaLIST: VIDEO: Quotes from Climate Denial Candidates
And there's more out there, if you can bear it. I promise that the end of this blog will not be as pessimistic as what follows.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner has said "I'm not qualified to debate the science over climate change," when asked about climate change, as if he was unable to have his staff ask climate scientists for him, or as if he hasn't heard anything about the issue over the last 25 years. This is the top politician in the House of Representatives talking, whose party holds the House majority.
Worse than Rep. Boehner is New Hampshire Senate candidate Scott Brown, a former Massachusetts Senator who now denies climate change after previously claiming he recognized the crisis.
In a 2013 debate, Scott Brown said "I absolutely believe that climate change is real, and I believe there's a combination between man-made and natural." This was misleading, since it's the unnatural climate change that matters. But at least it wasn't outright denial like this year, when Scott Brown said, "no," after being asked if climate change is "scientifically proven" at a debate hosted at Exeter. Ack...did he think nobody would notice this clear self-contradiction?
The same problem exists among Governors who are failing to show leadership on climate change in their states.
Like Congressman Boehner, Florida Governor Rick Scott plead ignorance with the "I'm not a scientist" line. This poor excuse gave Florida scientists the opportunity to ask to meet with Gov. Scott, and they did just that. Watch scientists brief Rick Scott on climate change to his face, met by Scott's weird stare and hollow acknowledgement of the assistance.
Meanwhile, NJ Governor Chris Christie has gone backwards on acknowledging climate science. In 2011 Christie recognized that "climate change is real and it's impacting our state," and urged, "When you have over 90 percent of the world’s scientists who have studied this stating that climate change is occurring and that humans play a contributing role, it’s time to defer to the experts." Christie repeated his convictions just a year ago, affirming in a debate, "I think climate change is real and I think human activity plays a role."
Now, in the 2014 election year, Governor Christie won't discuss climate. The closest he has come is his recent dismissal of climate change's role in making hurricane Sandy worse--something climate scientists have actually affirmed (with careful fine print, as is usually the case with science). Note Christie's close ties to the billionaire Koch brothers: the governor has met with David Koch in private, entertained guests at the Kochs' secretive political summits without telling his own constituents, and caved to their political campaigning against climate change programs.
For the crazy flank, enter Maine Governor Paul LePage. Watch Gov. LePage claim that climate change would be good for Maine. Such gibberish not only ignores the specific threats climate change poses to Maine, but ignores peer-reviewed projections that the costs of inaction on climate change outweigh the costs of addressing the problem $8 trillion by 2100.
Gov. Paul LePage's fantasy mimics that of climate deniers at The Heartland Institute. Heartland's false remarks have been used by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and other front groups coordinated through the State Policy Network, whose Koch-funded members have pushed LePage to undermine clean energy in Maine.
Sigh. Campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry still buy too much blind loyalty, at the expense of constituents, who themselves are constantly being bombarded with disinformation peddled by the same fossil fuel companies.
It's not just Republicans who have this problem of campaign cash. While Democrats (and their voting base) are more likely to acknowledge the reality of global warming, Democrats continue to demonstrate a willingness to cater to the corporations that pollute (and employ) in their districts.
The New York Times just reported how election advertisement spending from environmental groups and billionaire Tom Steyer has forced climate change into this election unlike previous elections. Painfully, industry-funded candidates in coal states like Kentucky and West Virginia continue to support dirty energy, regardless of which political party they belong to. Same with Louisiana and Alaska, where Big Oil maintains a tight grip on Democrats and Republicans alike, including Senator Mary Landrieu.
But the fact that climate change is a conversation that Americans in these key states are now part of is extremely important, especially in the lead up to the 2016 elections, when far more people will be paying attention.
The dialog certainly faces intense push back from the usual detractors. Koch Industries and its executives bankroll candidates directly, with help from other fossil fuel kingpins. Charles Koch continues to coordinate hundreds of millions of dollars in outside spending to continue making the political system work for his company, regardless of what impact that has on working people.
For those of us who didn't inherent millions of dollars made by their father, and the political influence of such wealth, it's not hard to get discouraged and entirely avoid the polls, turn off the news, and mute the onslaught of TV ads. And that common disillusion isn't helping the climate this election season, since voter turnout is crucial for the climate. As ever, climate activists and concerned constituents alike will have to exercise a lot of patience if we want to finally take comprehensive action as a country to address global warming.
And we do, so we will.
In spite of seemingly endless reasons to be depressed by these issues, the reality is that climate change denial is slowing going extinct, with a majority of voters--Republican, Democrat, and Independent--increasingly understanding the problem. As clean energy becomes more affordable, homeowners and small businesses are become energy independent. Outdated fossil fuel industries become less appealing each year. This has led to unlikely alliances between Tea Party activists and environmental groups, progress that deserves celebration.
Progress remains painfully slow on the activist and scientist time scale, but we must still acknowledge that progress as we push for more. Charles Koch can't spend his way to an authentic and sustained grassroots movement, and money can't hide the truth forever. As we focus on countering the damage of his spending in both the short and long term, we don't pause often enough to celebrate the ways in which he is not meeting certain goals that undermine the public.
We can't assume, but we can hope, and better yet, we can act.