Climate Change

Big Oil to Pope Francis: We Know What’s Best for the World’s Poor

Photo: Franco Origlia

The analogies that come to mind describing  Big Oil are plentiful…and none too kind.

New Republic

“In other words, an industry driven by profit above all is attempting to rebrand itself as a champion for the poor”.

Over the course of this year, Pope Francis will ramp up his foray into the politically charged debate for action on climate change. It begins unofficially with Tuesday’s Vatican summit, co-hosted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. This summer, Francis will publish his widely anticipated encyclical, a Catholic document that will examine man’s moral relationship with nature.

Unlike the usual discussions of climate change as an economic and scientific issue, Francis conveys it as a moral cause. His past comments—that it “is man who has slapped nature in the face”—frame the issue in vivid and urgent terms. He’s presented the fossil fuel industry with a challenge. Though they have a well-worn playbook for countering the economic, political, and scientific need for climate change action, industry is in relatively new territory with religion. How will they reply? 

Here’s a hint: Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank closely aligned with the fossil fuel industry and climate-change denial, will send its own “experts” to the Vatican to argue against the Pope’s points in a side panel for reporters. These experts will no doubt parrot the usual Heartland line, distorting the scientific consensus of humans’ impact on the climate and its consequences. “The world’s poor will suffer horribly if reliable energy—the engine of prosperity and a better life—is made more expensive and less reliable by the decree of global planners,” Heartland Institute President Joe Bast wrote in a press release. The American Petroleum Institute (API), the oil industry’s lobby arm, reprised a similar theme, telling The Guardian, “fossil fuels are a vital tool for lifting people out of poverty around the world, which is something we’re committed to.”

In other words, an industry driven by profit above all is attempting to rebrand itself as a champion for the poor. If you take this logic a step further, like Alex Epstein, founder of Center for Industrial Progress (and fossil fuel consultant), did in his 2014 book, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, it is the world that owes industry executives a debt of gratitude. “I believe that we owe the fossil fuel industry an apology,” he writes. “While the industry has been producing the energy to make our climate more livable, we have treated it as a villain. We owe it the kind of gratitude that we owe anyone who makes our lives much, much better.” Epstein is confident in fossil fuels’ ability to make the world “wonderful for human life.”

These critics, except maybe for Epstein, do have a point: It is an immense challenge to transition the world to clean energy without heaping burden on the poor, and it would also be unfair to expect countries such as India to make the same drastic cuts to carbon pollution as the United States and Europe.

This is the central divide of ongoing talks for an international climate deal: How much should industrialized nations contribute and how much should the developing world? Because of that gulf, India won’t be identifying a peak date for carbon pollution; China has identified a date after 2030; the United States will bring its emissions down at least 26 percent by 2025. It is not easy to balance the needs of 100-plus countries, and the Kyoto Treaty and Copenhagen both fell apart largely due to this conflict.

That doesn’t mean the fossil fuel industry has the moral high ground. Inaction today guarantees irreversible warming for centuries to come. Far from making the environment “wonderful,” as Epstein says, carbon pollution lands hardest on the people with the fewest resources to adapt. It means more extreme weather, rising food insecurity, an increase in vector-borne diseases, and higher levels of water contamination. Climate change and air pollution already impose a huge cost on the world’s poor, which Heartland and API overlook—the impacts of extreme weather and sea level rise, for example, mean low-lying nations such as Bangladesh have the most to lose. An independent report in 2012 from the group DARA International linked 400,000 deaths per year, worldwide, to climate change.

Fossil fuels are just as dangerous in the immediate term as they will be years from now. The same DARA report attributed five million deaths annually to burning fossil fuels, as carbon-intensive economies see many deaths from outdoor air pollution, indoor smoke from poor ventilation, occupational hazards, and skin cancer. China and India, in fact, should arguably be more motivated to transition to cleaner fuels in the near term. Their citizens are choking on their cities’ polluted air.

In 2013, the world spent $550 billion on direct subsidies for fossil fuels. “On average, the richest 20 percent of households in low- and middle-income countries capture 43 percent of fuel subsidies,” an International Monetary Fund report found. It’s an all-too-typical trend: The rich stay on top, and the rest suffer the consequences. The people most responsible for climate change hardly need Pope Francis on their side.

10 things you need to know today: September 30, 2014

Hong Kong's 'Umbrella Revolution' isn't backing down.

Hong Kong’s ‘Umbrella Revolution’ isn’t backing down. (AP Images/Vincent Yu

The Week

Afghanistan signs a long-delayed security pact, Hong Kong demonstrators defy China crackdown, and more

1. Afghan government signs security pact with the U.S.
Afghanistan’s new government signed a long-delayed security agreement with the U.S. on Tuesday, a day after the inauguration of President Ashraf Ghani. His predecessor, Hamid Karzai, had refused to sign, partly over his anger over civilian deaths. The deal will allow 9,800 U.S. troops to stay behind after foreign forces leave on Dec. 31. Ghani called on the Taliban to join peace talks, saying Afghans are “tired of this war.” [Reuters]


2. Hong Kong demonstrators defy China crackdown
Pro-democracy protesters returned to the streets of Hong Kong on Tuesday, escalating their fight for free elections in the former British colony now controlled by China. Tens of thousands of demonstrators blocked some of the international financial center’s busiest streets on Monday, with many of the protesters holding umbrellas to deflect tear gas fired by police. Hong Kong’s Beijing-appointed leader, Leung Chun-ying, told protesters to end their so-called umbrella revolution “immediately.” [USA Today, The New York Times]


3. Scientists link wild weather to man-made climate change
Man-made climate change increased the odds of nine weather extremes that hit across the world last year, including a heat wave in Australia, intense rain in parts of the U.S., and possibly California’s devastating ongoing drought. Two teams of scientists found no link to California’s water and air temperatures, but another found that rain-blocking high-pressure patterns were three times more likely with man-made global warming than without. “There’s definitely a climate change signal,” lead author Daniel Swain said. [San Jose Mercury News, The Associated Press]


4. Court halts Catalonia independence referendum
Spain’s constitutional court on Monday halted preparations for an independence vote set for November in the powerful Catalonia region. The central government is arguing that the vote would be illegal. The country’s 1979 constitution says all Spaniards must have a vote on all issues of sovereignty, and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said holding the referendum only in Catalonia would be “a grave attack on the rights of all Spaniards.” The court’s unanimous decision to hear the case means it could be months or even years before the vote can proceed. [The Associated Press]


5. Police link suspect in Virginia student’s disappearance to a similar case
The arrest of suspect Jesse Matthew in connection with the disappearance of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham has yielded what police are calling a “significant break” in the 2009 death of another young woman in the same town, Charlottesville, Virginia. Police said Monday there was a “new forensic link” between the Graham case and the murder of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, 20, after she left a Metallica concert. [CNN]


6. Judge holds Argentina in contempt for ignoring orders on paying creditors
A U.S. judge in Manhattan ruled Argentina to be in contempt of court for ignoring his injunction against repaying only the bondholders it chooses. The judge, Thomas P. Griesa, warned that he could impose sanctions if the cash-strapped South American nation does not start following his instructions as the government of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner contends with hedge funds seeking $1.5 billion in payments on bonds Argentina let go into default in 2001. [The New York Times]


7. Armed intruder got farther into White House than first reported
The man who hopped a White House fence and ran inside carrying a folding knife got farther into the building than initially reported, according to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), whose House subcommittee on national security oversight will address the breach in a Tuesday hearing. The intruder — Iraq war veteran Omar Gonzalez, 42 — was not tackled just inside the door, but dashed through the entrance hall and the East Room of the presidential residence before he was stopped, Chaffetz said. [Reuters]


8. Walmart says Tracy Morgan and friends were not wearing seat belts in crash
Walmart filed court papers on Monday saying that actor and comedian Tracy Morgan and others in his limousine were not wearing seatbelts when a Walmart truck driver plowed into them on the New Jersey Turnpike in June, suggesting they were partly to blame for their injuries. Morgan’s colleague James McNair was killed in the crash, which occurred as the entertainers were driving home after a show in Delaware. Morgan’s lawyer called the company’s response to the victims’ lawsuit “appalling.” [The Associated Press]


9. Search crews stay away as Japan volcano rumbles again
New tremors raised the threat of another volcanic eruption on Japan’s Mount Ontake on Tuesday, forcing hundreds of military searchers to abandon plans to resume the search for at least 24 people still missing after Japan’s worst volcanic eruption in decades. Rescue and recovery crews already have recovered 12 bodies from areas below the 10,062-foot peak that were covered with ash and rocks after the Saturday eruption. [BBC News]


10. Global wildlife species have declined by half in four decades
The world has lost half its wildlife species in the last 40 years, the World Wildlife Fund said Tuesday, citing the London Zoological Society’s latest Living Planet Index. Mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and ocean fish have declined by 52 percent, on average, and freshwater species have suffered an even more catastrophic fall of 76 percent. One big reason is habitat loss. West African elephants, for example, are down to six to seven percent of their historical range. [NBC News]

10 things you need to know today: September 24, 2014

Obama addresses the UN's Climate Summit.

Obama addresses the UN’s Climate Summit. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

The Week

Obama urges more “ambitious” action against climate change, the CDC warns Ebola could strike more than a million, and more

1. Obama says help from Arab allies show U.S. is not fighting ISIS alone
President Obama said Tuesday that the participation of five Arab allies in a U.S.-led barrage of airstrikes against ISIS in Syria demonstrated that his expanded military action against the Islamist extremist group was “not America’s fight alone.” Iran and Russia criticized the U.S. for launching military action in a sovereign country. Obama, who says America’s first strikes in Syria were legal and necessary to help defend Iraq, will address the U.N. to defend the move on Wednesday. [The New York Times, CNN]


2. CDC warns Ebola cases could increase to 1.4 million
The number of Ebola cases in West Africa could rise exponentially over the next few months, with as many as 1.4 million people potentially infected by the end of January if more isn’t done to contain the disease, according to a worst-case scenario published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday. The shocking number surfaced within hours of a report from the World Health Organization saying the number of cases could quadruple to more than 20,000 by November. [The Washington Post]


3. Obama urges more “ambitious” action against climate change
In a Tuesday speech at a one-day United Nations climate summit, President Obama called for world leaders to make a more “ambitious” push to combat climate change. “We have to raise our collective ambition,” Obama said. Obama called on the countries with the world’s biggest economies to take the lead and enact tougher rules on pollution despite complaints they could hurt business. He also quoted Martin Luther King Jr., saying, “There is such a thing as being too late.” [NPR]


4. Three die in shooting spree at Alabama UPS warehouse
A former UPS employee who was fired recently allegedly entered one of the company’s warehouses in Alabama and opened fire, killing two people, then himself. Local news stations identified the suspected gunman as Joe Tesney, 45. Police Lt. Sean Edwards said the gunman, who was wearing a UPS uniform, apparently targeted specific people. One of the victims appeared to be a higher-ranked UPS employee. “It appears that the shooter knew exactly who he wanted to target,” Edwards said. [New York Daily News]


5. Bin Laden’s son-in-law sentenced to life in prison by civilian court
Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghayth, was sentenced to life in prison on Tuesday for conspiring to kill Americans, providing material support to al Qaeda, and helping recruit jihadists into the terrorist network. Abu Ghayth, the highest ranking al Qaeda figure ever put on trial in a U.S. civilian court, was the Islamist group’s spokesman after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Abu Ghayth said in the Manhattan courtroom that “hundreds of Muslim youths” would replace him. [Bloomberg News]


6. Second fence goes up outside White House for added security
The Secret Service has erected a second fence outside part of the White House grounds for added security. The waist-high barrier, which runs along the Pennsylvania Avenue side of the White House, will keep tourists about eight feet away from the old fence. The new barricades went up early Tuesday, and will stay up until the Secret Service has completed a security review after an Iraq war veteran, Omar Gonzalez, scaled the old fence and dashed across the lawn and into an open door carrying a pocket knife. [CBS News]


7. Chelsea Manning sues for transgender treatment in prison
Chelsea Manning filed a lawsuit Tuesday demanding that the Defense Department begin her transgender medical treatment while she is imprisoned for leaking classified national-security documents to WikiLeaks. Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning, is receiving psychotherapy, but the lawsuit says Manning is at risk of harmful consequences, even suicide, without other treatment, including hormone therapy. A Pentagon spokeswoman said it was Pentagon policy not to comment on pending litigation. [CNN]


8. Massive blaze shuts down Los Angeles port
A fire caused by a welding accident shut down cargo operations on Tuesday at the Port of Los Angeles, the nation’s largest cargo shipping hub. Thick smoke from the blaze also forced authorities to close half of the terminals at the Port of Long Beach nearby. Combined, the two abutting harbors amount to the ninth largest container port in the world. Most of the Los Angeles terminals reopened for the overnight shift, and the last one was expected to reopen early Wednesday. [Bloomberg Businessweek]


9. Vatican arrests former ambassador on child sex abuse charges
The Vatican announced Tuesday that it had arrested one of its former ambassadors to face criminal child sexual abuse charges. The defrocked ex-archbishop, Jozef Wesolowski, is the first high-ranking official the Vatican has charged with sexually abusing children. Wesolowski was the papal nuncio in the Dominican Republic, until he was recalled after the archbishop of Santo Domingo told Pope Francis of the rumored crimes. Prosecutors in the Caribbean nation say Wesolowski allegedly paid teenage boys to masturbate. [The Guardian]


10. Indian spacecraft enters orbit around Mars
Indian scientists succeeded Wednesday in maneuvering a spacecraft into orbit around Mars in the country’s first interplanetary mission. The success marked an important milestone in India’s efforts to establish itself as a competitor in commercial and research space launches. Twenty-three out of 41 previous Mars missions attempted by other countries have failed, and India’s Mars Orbiter Mission, or Mom, cost just $75 million, compared to the $671-million price tag for NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft, which also began orbiting Mars this week. [The Associated Press]

This Poet From a Tiny Island Nation Just Shamed The World’s Leaders

Mother Jones

“We’ve seen waves crashing into our homes.”

Presidents and diplomats aren’t the only ones calling for climate action at the United Nations. During the opening ceremony of today’s climate summit, ​Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner—a 26-year-old poet from the Marshall Islands—spoke eloquently about the threat that rising seas pose to her country.

Jetnil-Kijiner warned delegates of the high price of inaction and described the current challenge as a “race to save humanity.”

“Those of us from Oceania are already experiencing it first hand,” she said. “We’ve seen waves crashing into our homes…We look at our children and wonder how they will know themselves or their culture should we lose our islands.”

“We need a radical change of course,” she added. “It means ending carbon pollution within my lifetime. It means supporting those of us most affected to prepare for unavoidable climate impacts. And it means taking responsibility for irreversible loss and damage caused by greenhouse gas emissions.”

You can read more about Jetnil-Kijiner here.

10 things you need to know today: September 21, 2014

Newly-elected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Newly-elected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Paula Bronstein / Getty Images

The Week

Afghanistan has a new president, a huge climate change march rolls through Manhattan, and more.

1. Afghan presidential candidates agree to power sharing deal
Afghanistan’s rival presidential candidates have signed a deal to create a unity government in which the candidates will share executive powers. Under the terms of the deal, Ashraf Ghani will become president while Abdullah Abdullah will serve as a chief executive, a position akin to prime minister. The agreement will allow for a peaceful transition of power from the government of President Hamid Karzai, who has led the nation for the past decade. “The Afghan people have been waiting for this happy day,” Karzai said of the deal. [The Washington Post, BBC]


2. Huge climate change demonstration to march through Manhattan
In what is being billed as the largest ever demonstration calling attention to the dangers of climate change, some 100,000 people are expected to turn out Sunday in Manhattan for the People’s Climate March. Among the high-profile participants are U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. The march comes two days before a climate summit at the U.N. that is supposed to lay the foundation for a broader international emissions agreement. Companion demonstrations are planned for about 150 other countries. [The New York Times, Reuters]


3. German families to sue Ukraine over MH17 downing
A group of German families who lost relatives when Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 went down in Ukraine plans to sue the country and President Petro Poroshenko for manslaughter and negligence. “Each state is responsible for the security of its air space,” a lawyer representing the group, Elmar Giemulla, told Reuters. “If it is not able to do so temporarily, it must close its air space. As that did not happen, Ukraine is liable for the damage.” The plane crashed in July after allegedly being hit by pro-Russian rebels who mistook it for a Ukrainian military plane, killing all 298 people on board. [The Associated Press, Reuters]


4. 66,000 refugees flee ISIS into Turkey
An estimated 66,000 refugees crossed from Syria into Turkey in a single day to flee ISIS. Turkey opened its border with Syria on Friday to allow displaced refugees safe haven from the Sunni militant group that has gobbled up territory in the region over the past year. Turkey has accepted about 847,000 refugees so far, and the U.N. expects hundreds of thousands more to follow. [BBC]


5. Sierra Leone begins nationwide lockdown over Ebola fears
Sierra Leone on Friday began a three-day lockdown aimed at curtailing the spread of Ebola. While the quarantine is in place, all residents are barred from leaving home as government workers go door to door checking for signs of infection. “We believe this is the best way for now to identify those who are sick and remove them from those who are well,” said information minister Alhaji Alpha Kanu. [CNN]


6. Former Tennessee Titan Rob Bironas killed in car crash
Former Tennessee Titans kicker Rob Bironas died Saturday night in a car crash in Nashville. The 36-year-old Bironas was speeding when his car went off the road and slammed into a cluster of trees, according to police. Authorities said they did not believe Bironas had been under the influence at the time of the accident. [ESPN]


7. Firefighter dies after botched ice bucket challenge
A Kentucky firefighter has died about one month after being electrocuted while staging an ice bucket challenge. Captain Tony Grider was atop a fire truck’s ladder when it came in contact with a power line after he and another firefighter doused Campbellsville University’s marching band to complete the viral fundraising stunt. The second man, 22-year-old Simon Quinn, was released from the hospital Monday. [The Courier-Journal]


8. Massive California wildfire continues to grow
A sprawling wildfire in northern California grew over the weekend, expanding on Saturday to cover 128 square miles. Nearly 3,000 people have been evacuated from their homes as firefighters try to contain the blaze. Police accused 37-year-old Wayne Allen Huntsman of starting the fire one week ago. Huntsman is being held on $10 million bail. [The Associated Press]


9. Secret Service detains another man trying to enter White House
One day after an intruder leapt a fence and dashed into the White House before being tackled, Secret Service on Saturday arrested another man who attempted to broach the perimeter. An unidentified man in a car with New Jersey plates pulled into the vehicle screening area and refused to leave, prompting his arrest and a brief lockdown of surrounding streets. [NBC]


10. Actress Polly Bergen dead at 84
Emmy Award-winning actress Polly Bergen died Saturday of natural causes at her home in Southbury, Connecticut. She was 84 years old. Bergen won an Emmy in 1958 for her role onPlayhouse 90, and in recent years appeared on the hit shows The Sopranos and Desperate Housewives. [People]

Louisiana Governor Hedges On Climate Change As His State Disappears Into the Sea


Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R) | CREDIT: ALICE OLLSTEIN

Well duh…

Think Progress

WASHINGTON, DC—Louisiana Governor and potential 2016 presidential candidate Bobby Jindal (R) unveiled a new energy plan Tuesday that called for increasing on- and off-shore oil drilling and gas fracking, rolling back environmental protections, and completely withdrawing from the United Nations climate negotiation process.

Jindal has long been vague about his views on climate change, and the new report does little to clarify.

“Nobody disputes that the climate is always changing,” he writes. “The question is what is the role of humans in that change—and what, if any, dangers that change presents for Americans.”

He then quotes climate science denier and Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer’s claim that scientists who “pretend to know” the impact of climate change are “white-coated propagandists.”

Jindal ducked questions Tuesday about his position on climate change, saying he wants to “leave it to scientists” to determine how dire the threat of climate change is and what needs to be done about it. “We now face an administration that is composed and comprised of science deniers, when you look at their approach to science and the environment,” he warned.

While noting that “there are currently many known and unknown unknowns” around climate science, Jindal said nothing about the damage already done in his home state, where residents are dealing with stronger hurricanes and other natural disasters, a drastic rise in sea levels and exacerbated air pollution.

The National Climate Assessment calculates that the state has already lost 1,880 square miles of land in the last 80 years, and is on track to continue losing a football field of land every hour if carbon emissions continue at their current pace. As the team at Propublicanoted in a recent investigation: “A wetlands ecosystem that took nature 7,000 years to build will be destroyed in a human lifetime.”

Researchers also warned that extreme weather events like Hurricane Katrina, whichdisplaced at least 800,000 Louisiana residents, “are projected to increase in frequency and/or intensity as climate continues to change.” As a result, the state is expected to losebillions of dollars in economic assets and disaster costs.

Jindal has several ideas for how to tackle these challenges. For example, “appropriate management and thinning of forests that have grown unnaturally thick” will help reduce emissions. He also suggests “modernizing our air traffic control systems to allow pilots to fly more direct routes.” And finally, he urges the government to “work with American job creators to develop a smart plan to preserve the environment.”

But these measures won’t go far enough to save Louisiana, which has already kicked into an adaptation strategy that attempts to restore the state’s coastal wetlands. Scientists from around the world on the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said this year that global society must work to stabilize carbon in the atmosphere at 450 parts per million.

13 Republican Climate Deniers Who Want to Be President


This is some important information for those on the fence trying to figure out who to choose as the next Republican Presidential candidate in 2016…

Mother Jones

This story originally appeared on Grist and is republished here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

It’s hard to believe, surveying the GOP field of possible presidential nominees, but back in 2008 the parties were not that far apart on climate change. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Republican nominee, backed cap-and-trade for carbon emissions. After joining his ticket, so did Sarah Palin. But back then, lots of Republicans and conservatives also supported an individual mandate to buy health insurance. The Republican Party of 2008 was a big enough tent to include people who admitted demonstrable problems existed and supported free-market-oriented solutions. Not anymore. The rise of the Tea Party movement and the rightward shift of the Republican base and the politicians who pander to it put an end to all that. Whoever is the Republican nominee for president in 2016, it’s a safe bet that he—and yes, it will be a he, as all the leading contenders are male—will oppose taking any action on climate change. Chances are that he won’t even admit it exists.

The Republicans basically fall into four categories: (1) Flat-Earthers, who deny the existence of manmade climate change; (2) Born-Again Flat-Earthers, who do the same, but who had admitted climate change exists back before President Obama took office; (3) Do-Nothings, who sort of admit the reality of climate change but oppose actually taking any steps to prevent it; and (4) Dodgers, who have avoided saying whether they believe climate change is happening, and who also don’t want to take any steps to alleviate it. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker fall into the latter category. The Do-Nothings are blue and purple state governors, Chris Christie of New Jersey and John Kasich of Ohio. In a sign of how far rightward Republicans have moved since 2008, these are actually the guys who are trying to position themselves as relatively moderate and pragmatic. The Born-Agains are Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Both are staunch conservatives but only partial wingnuts. Back when that meant believing in climate change, they did, but they have since followed their base into fantasyland. Everyone else is an outright denier and always has been.

Here’s our full breakdown of all 13 of the top potential hopefuls, including their lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters if they served in Congress. No, we did not include Donald Trump even though he would probably lead in the polls if he ran. And alas, we cannot predict who might be the next Herman Cain. MaybePapa John? If he, or any other pizza moguls, run, we’ll add an update.

Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida

Category: Flat-Earther

While President George W. Bush never did anything about global warming, his brother goes further, by not even admitting it exists. In 2009, Jeb Bush toldEsquire, “I’m a skeptic. I’m not a scientist. I think the science has been politicized. I would be very wary of hollowing out our industrial base even further… It may be only partially man-made. It may not be warming by the way. The last six years we’ve actually had mean temperatures that are cooler. I think we need to be very cautious before we dramatically alter who we are as a nation because of it.” Last year, he talked about how generating power with natural gas instead of coal would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but he avoided actually saying the C-word or mentioning why reducing emissions would be a good thing.

Notable quote: “I think global warming may be real.… It is not unanimous among scientists that it is disproportionately manmade. What I get a little tired of on the left is this idea that somehow science has decided all this so you can’t have a view.” (2011)

Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey

Category: Do-Nothing

Compared to all of his competitors, Christie’s position on climate change is refreshingly reality-based. In 2011, he said: “There’s undeniable data that CO2 levels and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere are increasing. This decade, average temperatures have been rising. Temperature changes are affecting weather patterns and our climate…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.” Other than the fact that he understated the scientific consensus—it’s more like 97 or 98 percent—there isn’t much to find fault with there. But if you think that means Christie will back action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, think again. On the same day he made those comments, he withdrew New Jersey from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade program for Northeastern energy utilities, complaining that it was “nothing more than a tax on electricity.” He also rolled back his state’s renewable energy goal, from 30 percent by 2021 to 22.5 percent. And the Christie administration conspicuously does not mention climate change in the context of Sandy recovery.

Notable quote: “I haven’t been shown any definitive proof yet that [climate change] is what caused [Sandy]. And this is just, listen, this is a distraction. I’ve got a place to rebuild here and people want to talk to me about esoteric theories.” (2013)

Ted Cruz, senator from Texas

Category: Flat-Earther

Cruz—a high school valedictorian, Princeton alum, and editor of the Harvard Law Review—is supposed to be smart. His grasp of climate science, however, leaves much to be desired. In a February interview with CNN, Cruz deployed classic, bogus GOP talking points about climate change. “The last 15 years, there has been no recorded warming. Contrary to all the theories that they are expounding, there should have been warming over the last 15 years. It hasn’t happened,” said Cruz. “You know, back in the ’70s—I remember the ’70s, we were told there was global cooling. And everyone was told global cooling was a really big problem. And then that faded.” There has, in fact, been global warming in the last 15 years. And it is not true that in the 1970s “everyone was told global cooling was a really big problem.”

Notable quote: “Climate change, as they have defined it, can never be disproved, because whether it gets hotter or whether it gets colder, whatever happens, they’ll say, well, it’s changing, so it proves our theory.” (2014)

LCV score: 15 percent

Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas

Category: Born-Again Flat-Earther

In 2007, when all the cool kids were for cap-and-trade, so was Huckabee. He said, “One thing that all of us have a responsibility to do is recognize that climate change is here, it’s real.… I also support cap-and-trade of carbon emissions. And I was disappointed that the Senate rejected a carbon counting system to measure the sources of emissions, because that would have been the first and the most important step toward implementing true cap-and-trade.” But Huckabee totally flip-flopped after the rise of the Tea Party and anti-Obamaism reshaped the GOP. In 2010, he even denied that he ever had supported cap-and-trade. “This kind of mandatory energy policy would have a horrible impact on this nation’s job market,” he wrote in a blog post. “I never did support and never would support it—period.” By 2013, he was hosting climate-denier-in-chief Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) on his radio show to spread falsehoods. Among the ones Huck contributed himself: “When I was in college, all the literature at that time from the scientific community said that we were going to freeze to death.”

Notable quote: “The volcano that erupted over in Northern Europe [in 2010] actually poured more CO2 into the air in that single act of nature than all of humans have in something like the past 100 years.” (2013) Actually, no, it didn’t.)

Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana

Category: Dodger

Jindal was supposed to be the great hope of smart Republicans. He majored in biology at Brown, was a Rhodes scholar, and he famously declared, “We’ve got to stop being the stupid party.” But he’s done his fair share of dumbing down the GOP. As Brown biology professor Kenneth R. Miller wrote in Slate, “In [Jindal’s] rise to prominence in Louisiana, he made a bargain with the religious right and compromised science and science education for the children of his state.” He signed into law the Louisiana Science Education Act, which “allows ‘supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials’ to be brought into classrooms to support the ‘open and objective discussion’ of certain ‘scientific theories,'” such as evolution and climate change. In other words, he’s promoting creationism and climate change denialism in public schools. Still, Jindal has never come out and stated whether he accepts climate science.

Notable quote, on EPA’s proposal to regulate CO2 from power plants: “This is such a dangerous overreach in terms of the potential threat to our economy and our ability to restore those manufacturing jobs, I absolutely do think litigation needs to be on the table.” (2014)

LCV score: 6 percent

John Kasich, governor of Ohio

Category: Do-Nothing

In what passes for moderation in today’s GOP, Kasich actually acknowledges the existence of global warming. That doesn’t mean he wants to do much about it. “I happen to believe there is a problem with climate change. I don’t want to overreact to it, I can’t measure it all, but I respect the creation that the Lord has given us and I want to make sure we protect it,” Kasich said in 2012 at an energy conference hosted by The Hill. Ohio is rich in coal and heavily dependent on it for energy, and Kasich pledged to keep it that way, touting the promise of ever-elusive “clean coal.” In comments to reporters after that 2012 event, Kasich said he opposes EPA regulation of coal-fired power plants’ CO2 emissions: “I believe there is something to [climate change], but to be unilaterally doing everything here while China and India are belching and putting us in a noncompetitive position isn’t good.” Still, give him credit for evolving; in 2008, he claimed, “Global warming is cyclical, and the focus of a ferocious debate.”

Notable quote: “I am just saying that I am concerned about it, but I am not laying awake at night worrying the sky is falling.” (2012)

LCV score: 27 percent

Rand Paul, senator from Kentucky

Category: Flat-Earther

What makes Paul so scary is that he actually believes the crazy things he says. When your average Republican talks about small government, you know it’s all just code for “protecting the currently wealthy and their businesses.” So, if you could convince most GOP politicians that it’s in their political interest to take action on climate change, they could be moved. Paul isn’t like that. He is actually committed to his far-right, small-government ideology. He doesn’t even think, for example, that the federal government has the power to force businesses to racially integrate. So of course he doesn’t support action to address climate change, and he never will. When he’s trying to sound more mainstream, he says climate science is “not conclusive“; at other times, he caricatures the science of climate change to try to discredit it.

Notable quote: “If you listen to the hysterics…,you would think that the Statue of Liberty will shortly be under water and the polar bears are all drowning, and that we’re dying from pollution. It’s absolutely and utterly untrue.” (2011)

LCV score: 11 percent

Mike Pence, governor of Indiana

Category: Flat-Earther

Pence is an ultra-conservative who does not much care for environmental regulation. He also remains unconvinced that the Earth is warming. “In the mainstream media, there is a denial of the growing skepticism in the scientific community on global warming,” Pence claimed in a 2009 interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. It is not clear what “growing skepticism” he was referring to. In the same interview, Pence refused to say if he believes in evolution but implied that he does not.

Notable quote: “I think the science is very mixed on the subject of global warming.” (2009)

LCV score: 4 percent


Rick Perry

Rick Perry, governor of Texas

Category: Flat-Earther

Perry is no one’s idea of a man of science or an intellectual, not even his supporters’. Texas political insiders call him “Bush without the brains.” At Texas A&M, he got mostly Cs and Ds, even in gym, and an F in organic chemistry. When drought parched Texas in 2011, Perry’s solution was to call for three days of prayer for rain. Remarkably enough, that didn’t work. Perry, who is extremely close with polluters who donate to his campaigns, simply invents facts to suit his conviction that climate change isn’t happening. In 2011, he said, “I think we’re seeing it almost weekly or even daily, scientists who are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change.” The Washington Post fact-checker debunked this claim. Perry’s 2012 presidential run was disastrous, in part because he proved himself too dumbeven for Republican primary voters, which is sort of like being too white for Iceland. And yet, he is making noises about running again. And since Republican primary voters seem to get dumber with each election cycle, he could be a contender this time.

Notable quote: “I don’t believe man-made global warming is settled in science enough.” (2011)

Marco Rubio, senator from Florida

Category: Born-Again Flat-Earther

Like a lot of ambitious Republicans, Rubio tacitly accepted the science of climate change back in 2007. He talked up renewable energy and referred to global warming as one of the reasons to embrace it. By 2009, he had seen the error of his ways, saying, “There’s a significant scientific dispute” about climate change. By 2010, he was using his Republican primary opponent Charlie Crist‘s belief in “man-made global warming” as an attack line. In May 2014, Rubio made an inept effort to deny climate science, saying, “Our climate is always changing. And what they have chosen to do is take a handful of decades of research and say that this is now evidence of a longer-term trend that’s directly and almost solely attributable to manmade activities.” Ah, merely “a handful of decades of research.” That’s nothing, right? After getting a lot of blowback for those comments, he tried to clarify and just dug himself in deeper.

Notable quote: “I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it.” (2014)

LCV score: 11 percent

Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan, U.S. rep from Wisconsin

Category: Flat-Earther

Climate change can be a tough issue for someone who wants to present himself as a wonk, as Ryan so very badly does. To just ignore the science is to risk looking dumb. So, for Ryan, opposition to climate regulation is more about his intense opposition to economic regulation more generally. He constantly asserts that climate regulations, for example, would impose an enormous cost on our economy. Insofar as he discusses the underlying science of climate change, though, he tries to cast doubt on it, using a combination of phony concern for scientific accuracy and an even phonier regular-Midwestern-guy shtick. In a 2009op-ed, he devoted several paragraphs to the trumped-up scandal at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit and suggested that climate change should be a low priority for Wisconsinites because it snows in their state in the winter, writing: “Unilateral economic restraint in the name of fighting global warming has been a tough sell in our communities, where much of the state is buried under snow.” In July, while refusing to discuss the science of climate change, Ryan asserted that the EPA’s proposed power plant regulations are “obnoxious.” “I think they’re exceeding their authority and I think they kill jobs,” he said.

Notable quote: “[T]here is growing disagreement among scientists about climate change and its causes.” (2010)  LCV score: 13 percent


Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum, former senator from Pennsylvania

Category: Flat-Earther

As you might expect from a religious extremist who once compared homosexuality to “man on dog,” Santorum’s beliefs on climate change are unapologetically ignorant. At least he can boast of having been consistent. As Politico noted of Santorum in 2011, “Unlike Romney and some of the other GOP presidential candidates, the former senator has never backed cap-and-trade legislation or other mandatory policies to curb greenhouse gases.” Santorum attacked Romney for admitting that climate change was happening, calling it “junk science” that was invented by liberals to gain greater control over the economy. And his May 2014 book calls climate change a “hyped-up crisis.”

Notable quote: “I for one never bought the hoax. I for one understand just from science that there are one hundred factors that influence the climate. To suggest that one minor factor of which man’s contribution is a minor factor in the minor factor is the determining ingredient in the sauce that affects the entire global warming and cooling is just absurd on its face.” (2012)

LCV score: 10 percent

Scott Walker

Eric Brown/Flickr

Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin

Category: Dodger

Walker is a favorite of the Koch brothers—he notoriously kissed ass during a call with a prankster pretending to be David Koch. The oil oligarchs like him because he opposes governmental regulations, except for when the regulation stymies clean energy. Walker imposed regulations to keep wind turbines further away from homes and signed a pledge never to pass a carbon tax. He has also raised money for the Heartland Institute, an organization that spreads climate misinformation. But he’s never actually said whether he accepts climate science.

Notable quote, criticizing his gubernatorial opponent for pushing climate legislation: “Governor [Jim] Doyle [D] has put his trust in international politicians, bureaucrats, celebrities and discredited scientists to replace the real manufacturing jobs Wisconsin is losing every day.” (2009)


LA GOP candidate for Congress: Climate change is a hoax, can be disproved with thermometer


Lenar Whitney screen cap


I’ve often wondered how the GOP (particularly the Tea Party faction) can be so wrong on so many levels about so many things and still get any votes at all.

The Raw Story

A Louisiana State Representative, seeking her district’s U.S. House seat, has posted a campaign video calling climate change “the greatest deception in the history of mankind,”  and stating that it can be disproved using a simple thermometer.

In the video Lenar Whitney, who is running for the seat representing Louisiana’s sixth congressional district being vacated by Republican Bill Cassidy, claims climate change is being pushed by liberals, including former Vice President Al Gore, as a way to gain more power for government and raise taxes.

Using terminology usually associated with former half-term Governor Sarah Palin, Whitney claims that her pronouncement that climate change is a fraud, “caused liberals in the lamestream media to become unglued,” before equating herself with George Orwell, who once said: “In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

Calling former VP Al Gore’s “propaganda” film “The (sic) Inconvenient Truth,” Whitney explains that scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming can be disproved using a “thermometer.”

“Any ten-year-old can invalidate their thesis with one of the simplest scientific devices known to man. A thermometer.”

“The Earth has done nothing but get colder each year since the films release,” Whitney adds. “God certainly has a wonderful sense of irony.”

“The conspiracy of global warming has had a devastating effect on the American Dream,” she continues before lauding the work of America’s oil companies.

“It was the burning of oil that energized the foundation of a real middle class in the twentieth century. Giving them luxuries like electric lights, refrigeration, and automobiles, ” Whitney says. “But now, both capitalism and our energy industry are under attack and the hopes of global warming is the dagger.”

Whitney later asserts that an increased focus on oil production in the U.S. would “cripple the economies of Middle Eastern nations who spend much of their oil profits developing new ways to blow the United States off the face of the Earth.”

Watch the video below uploaded to YouTube by Lenar Whitney:

David Brat, the Libertarian Who Beat Eric Cantor, Doesn’t Believe in the “Common” Good

AP/P. Kevin Morely

This Tea Party clown couldn’t even answer serious questions from Chuck Todd this morning…

Mother Jones

Brat has called for slashing Social Security, Medicare, and education spending and says “rich” nations don’t have to fear climate change.

When tea party challenger David Brat sent Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the House majority leader, to the ash heap on Tuesday night, vanquishing the incumbent by more than 10 points in the primary race, the politerati were stunned. Political journalists scrambled to answer a question: who is this guy? The political pros knew that Brat had mounted a campaign largely based on two issues: bashing Cantor on immigration (that is, excoriating the congressman, who was quite hesitant about immigration reform, for not killing the possibility of any immigration legislation) and denouncing Cantor for supporting a debt ceiling deal that averted possible financial crisis. But not much else was widely known about this local professor who dispatched a Washington power broker.

A quick review of his public statements reveals a fellow who is about as tea party as can be. He appears to endorse slashing Medicare and Social Security payouts to seniors by two-thirds. He wants to dissolve the IRS. And he has called for drastic cuts to education funding, explaining, “My hero Socrates trained in Plato on a rock. How much did that cost? So the greatest minds in history became the greatest minds in history without spending a lot of money.”

An economics professor at Randolph-Macon College in central Virginia, Brat frequently has repeated the conservative canard that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae brought down the housing market by handling the vast majority of subprime mortgages. That is, he absolves Big Finance and the banks of responsibility for the financial crisis that triggered the recession, which hammered middle-class and low-income families across the country. (In fact, as the housing bubble grew, Freddie and Fannie shed their subprime holdings, while banks grabbed more.)

In his campaign speeches, Brat has pointed out that he isn’t worried about climate change because “rich countries solve their problems”:

If you let Americans do their thing, there is no scarcity, right?  They said we’re going to run out of food 200 years ago, that we’re goin’ to have a ice age. Now we’re heating up…Of course we care for the environment, but we’re not mad people. Over time, rich countries solve their problems. We get it right. It’s not all perfect, but we get it right.

Update: After Mother Jones published this piece, several videos referenced were set to private.

He did not say what might happen to not-so-rich countries due to climate change and the consequent rise in sea levels, droughts, and extreme weather.

Asked about cuts to Medicare, Brat replied that he supported drastic reductions in payouts:

I’ll give you my general answer. And my general answer is you have to do what’s fair. Right. So you put together a graph or a chart and you go out to the American people, you go to the podium, and you say, this is what you put in on average, this is what you get out on average. Currently, seniors are getting about three dollars out of all of the programs for every dollar they put in. So, in general, you’ve got to go to the American people and just be honest with them and say, “Here’s what fairness would look like.” Right. So, maybe the next ten years we have to grandfather some folks in, but basically we’re going to move them in a direct line toward fairness and we have to live within our means.

He frets about the state of morality in schools and about Beyoncé:

For the first 13 years of your kid’s life, we teach them no religion, no philosophy, and no ethics…Who is our great moral teachers these days? Every generation has always had great theologians or philosophers by the century that you can name. Who do we got right now? [Audience: Jay-Z] Right. Right. [Audience: Beyoncé] Right. Beyoncé. When you can’t name a serious philosopher, a national name, or a serious theologian, or a serious religious leader, at the national level, your culture’s got a major problem. We got a major problem.

Brat railed against Cantor for supporting a path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants. Brat called this a policy of “amnesty” and accused Cantor of “getting big paychecks” from groups like the Chamber of Commerce for his position:

If I misspoke and said “secretly,” he’s been pretty out in the open. He’s been in favor of the KIDS Act, the DREAM Act, the ENLIST Act [which Cantor blocked in May]…On the amnesty card, it’s a matter of motivation. I teach third-world economic development for the past 20 years, I love all people, I went to seminary before I did my economics, and so you look at the motivation. Why is Eric pushing amnesty? It’s not a big issue in our district, everyone’s opposed to it, and so why is he doing it? And the answer is, ’cause he’s got his eye on the speakership. He wants to be speaker, and big business, right? The Business Roundtable and the US Chamber of Commerce wants cheap labor. So he actually is selling out the people in our district. He’s not representing the district, the will of the people, and he’s getting big paychecks by doing so. So he’s very clear on amnesty.

Brat is, not surprisingly, no fan of the United Nations:

“Common-” anything I’m against. United Nations. Common everything. If you say common, by definition you’re saying it’s top-down. I’m going to force this on you. That’s what dictators do.

His view of who deploys a top-down approach, naturally, includes President Barack Obama:

The left does not believe in diversity. They believe in top-down, I’m going to force my way onto you. Obama is forcing un-diversity onto everybody. It’s not diversity. It’s top down, central planning, on everything.

As Mother Jones’s Timothy Murphy noted, Brat identifies as a libertarian but not a full Randian, and he doesn’t buy the idea that there’s anything dangerous about playing chicken with the debt ceiling. Bring it on, he says.

In November, Brat will face Democrat Jack Trammell, a fellow Randolph-Macon professor, in the general election in this Republican district.

Boehner Says He’s ‘Not Qualified’ To Talk About Climate Science. Here’s How Scientists Responded.

House Speaker John Boehner

Think Progress

When House Speaker John Boehner told a group of reporters on Thursday that he would not discuss climate change on the grounds that he, himself, was not a scientist, he joined the ranks of other prominent Republican politicians who have refused to talk about the issue on the same grounds.

“I’m not a scientist,” said Florida Governor Rick Scott last week, when asked if he thought man-made climate change was affecting the weather. “I’m not a scientist,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) in 2009, his first in a long line of statement denying climate change. “I’m not sure, I’m not a scientist,” said Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) said of climate change in 2010 (Grimm changed his mind on the issue this past April).

The tactic is an interesting (and seemingly effective) way for politicians to avoid acknowledging or denying the reality of climate change while still getting to fight against any regulation to stop it. But actual climate scientists say the tactic is irresponsible, dangerous, and ignores the fact that credible scientific information is readily available.

“Personally, I don’t think it proper for any American to use that argument,” said Donald. J Wuebbles, a distinguished professor of atmospheric sciences and coordinating lead author for the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2013 assessment report.

Wuebbles, who was also a lead author on the recently released National Climate Assessment, said that report was written by scientists and other experts specifically so that members of Congress could understand climate change and how it affects the country. With that report available, he said, climate change should be “readily understood by any policymaker.”

“The assessment represents the latest understanding of the science and is the most comprehensive report ever prepared for the American people on climate change,” Wuebbles said. “The report itself was done for Congress under a law passed by Congress.”

Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, went even further, calling Boehner’s comments a “pathetic dodge” that doesn’t make sense in the context of political decision-making.

“What if we asked ‘Senator: do you advocate drinking toxic sludge?’ or ‘Senator: is jumping off the north rim of the Grand Canyon safe?’ or ‘Senator: should I place my head in the jaws of this lion?’,” Mann said. “Would the response still be be ‘I don’t know, I’m not a scientist’?”

Mann noted that politicians have no qualms making statements about other political issues — abortion and public health, for example — because they are supposed to use established science to inform their decisions. Climate change, though, is a different story, he said.

“Why is it somehow different when it comes to the climate change threat and the need to regulate carbon emissions — something opposed by fossil fuel interests like the Koch Brothers who fund so many of these politicians campaigns — why is it in this case different?” he said. “That, of course, is a rhetorical question.”

2013 American Meteorological Society president Marshall Shepherd, however, said both politicians and scientists need to back away from inflammatory rhetoric and start actively working together on solutions. He acknowledged that politicians should not make statements about climate change without knowledge of peer-reviewed science, but said climatologists must also live up to their responsibility to make sure policymakers are well-informed.

“I am certain that no policymaker is an expert on many different topics that cross their desk but they have to be considered,” he said, noting that scientists have an “obligation to ensure that public and policymakers don’t fall victim to being duped because of lack of science knowledge.”

“I think scientists that are too overtly political or activist lose credibility. Likewise, a stakeholder or policymaker speaking definitely on climate without any background or from non-peer reviewed perspectives is also dangerous,” he said. “I have long argued that we have to remove the vitriol and name-calling and work to help each other in the discussion.”