By Justin Mikulka
As the midterm elections approach, DeSmog is taking this opportunity to highlight some of the top climate science deniers currently running for office in the U.S.
Did we miss someone notable? Let us know.
Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La)
Recently featured on DeSmog for some of his other extreme views, Rep. Clay Higgins of Louisiana's Third Congressional District qualifies as a climate science denier on top of being a "warrior" for the natural gas industry.
Higgins told PBS News Hour in August 2017: "Climate change has always happened, that's my argument, well before, you know, we had four-wheel drive trucks and boats and Suburbans rolling around or, you know, large industrial plants and whatnot."
[email protected] has been a great help to me on Cutting Taxes, creating great new healthcare programs at low cost,… https://t.co/8Y4VAfVZK3— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1529888899.0
North Carolina's Ninth Congressional District
North Carolina was recently devastated by Hurricane Florence, which has raised discussions of climate change in a historically skeptical state. The congressional seat in the Ninth District, which felt the impacts of Florence, is currently up for grabs after the Republican incumbent lost in the primary.
Running on the Republican side is Mark Harris, a conservative Baptist preacher and avid Trump supporter. While Harris has run for office before, he has not won.
In 2014 when asked if he believed in climate change, he simply said, "No."
Running against Harris is Dan McCready, a Harvard Business School graduate and former marine who started a solar investment fund after graduating from Harvard. Polls show a tight race. Though both candidates were asked at a debateabout their views on public education and climate change, neither directly answered the question.
This remains a close race as in two recent polls McCready led in one and Harris led in the other (although both were within the margin of error). McCready does have a major fundraising advantage over Harris for the last weeks of the campaign making this a competitive race in a district that was expected to be an easy win for Republicans.
And while the candidates aren't talking about climate change, their future constituents increasingly are. As The Washington Post recently reported, the state's extreme weather has been making believers out of former climate deniers. One Trump supporter reportedly said, "I always thought climate change was a bunch of nonsense, but now I really do think it is happening."
Florida Governor Race
The race to be the next Governor of Florida will conclude long before the recovery from Hurricane Michael does. Notably, the current governor of Florida, Rick Scott, banned use of the phrase "climate change" in government communications.
The Republican candidate is Ron DeSantis, a three-term Congressman who recently resigned from Congress to run full-time for governor. DeSantis is a Trump favorite, with the President recently tweeting: "A great Congressman and top student at Harvard & Yale."
In a recent debate DeSantis said he doesn't "want to be an alarmist" — a favorite term of climate science deniers — when talking about climate change, despite commenting shortly after Hurricane Michael devastated the panhandle.
Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum got straight to the point, saying if he is elected, the people of Florida will "have a governor who believes in science, which we haven't had for quite some time in this state." He is also campaigning on cutting greenhouse gas emissions and shifting to renewable energy.
The co-owner of the only house on Mexico Beach that survived Hurricane Michael with barely any damage summed up the reality when speaking with DeSmog's Julie Dermansky: "I'm tired of politicians lying to us. The American people need to understand they are lying. The people who are denying climate change are not telling the truth." Incidentally, he's a Republican.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)
Rep. Rohrabacher is a longtime Congressman representing Orange County, California, who is known for climate denying statements such as, "I disagree with the theory that CO2, done by mankind, is a major cause for climate change."
Despite his district's typically conservative history (though Hillary Clinton beat Trump there by two points in 2016), Rohrabacher finds himself in a competitive race against Democrat Harley Rouda. Last week the Los Angeles Times reported that a national Super PAC closely aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan stopped spending money on Rohrabacher's race — a troubling sign for his campaign— but perhaps a positive one for the climate.
Texas Senate Race
Former Republican presidential candidate and incumbent Texas Senator Ted Cruz is well known for his climate denialism. Now facing a tough challenge from newcomer Beto O'Rourke, Cruz gave a classic non-response to a question about climate change in a recent debate.
"Of course, the climate is changing," Cruz said. "The climate has been changing since the dawn of time."
On the other hand, Cruz's opponent O'Rourke was quite clear on his position on climate change at the debate: "The climate is changing. And man-made climate change is a fact."
In a state that suffered $125 billion in damages from Hurricane Harvey — which broke rainfall records for a continental U.S.city — 70 percent of adults agree global warming is happening, though only 42 percent believe that it will harm them personally.
Pennsylvania Governor Race
After belittling as "a little young and naive" an 18-year-old constituent who asked him about climate change (and his campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry), Pennsylvania Republican candidate for governor Scott Wagner said, "Are we here to elect a governor, or are we here to elect a scientist?"
In past comments, Wagner has used typical denier talking points when discussing climate change, saying: "I haven't been in a science class in a long time, but the earth moves closer to the sun every year — you know the rotation of the earth. We're moving closer to the sun."
He went on to say: "We have more people. You know, humans have warm bodies. So is heat coming off? Things are changing, but I think we are, as a society, doing the best we can."
In case you were wondering: No, human body heat is not causing climate change and neither is the position of the Earth to the sun. And no, climate scientists don't think we're doing the best we can.
In a debate for the open Senate seat in Arizona, Republican candidate Martha McSally responded to a question about climate change by saying, "I can't believe this is the last question" and didn't directly give an answer. Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema said, "I do believe that climate change is real."
However, in response to a similar question by the Arizona Republic earlier this month, McSally, a representative who has frequently voted against the climate, acknowledged: "Our environment and the Earth's climate are changing and there is likely a human element to it." But she went on to call Obama's signature climate change program, the Clean Power Plan, "crushing regulation" and failed to offer any specific approach to addressing climate change in Arizona.
Not exactly denial but not exactly embracing the scientific consensus either.
And while Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) isn't up for reelection this year, he lost no time in the wake of Hurricane Michael's devastation to unleash a string of climate denial talking points, including doubt that climate change is substantially caused by human activity.
When asked by CNN's Jake Tapper what he would tell his children 20 years from now about what he did to help stop the impacts of climate change, Rubio didn't have good news for the kids: "We're going to have to do something … But I'm also not going to destroy our economy. There's a reality here."
Check out this video for more of Rubio's views on climate change:
Climate Change and Electoral Politics
As the impacts of climate change become more severe, widespread, and frequent, expect climate change to play a bigger role in electoral politics (it certainly has plenty of room to grow).
For example, one of the few Republicans in the country who is outspoken in acknowledging climate change is Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) who represents southern Florida, including the Florida Keys. If nothing is done about sea level rise, much of his district may be underwater in a few decades.
Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.
By Dana M Bergstrom, Euan Ritchie, Lesley Hughes and Michael Depledge
In 1992, 1,700 scientists warned that human beings and the natural world were "on a collision course." Seventeen years later, scientists described planetary boundaries within which humans and other life could have a "safe space to operate." These are environmental thresholds, such as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and changes in land use.
The Good and Bad News<p><span>Ecosystems consist of living and non-living components, and their interactions. They work like a super-complex engine: when some components are removed or stop working, knock-on consequences can lead to system failure.</span></p><p>Our study is based on measured data and observations, not modeling or predictions for the future. Encouragingly, not all ecosystems we examined have collapsed across their entire range. We still have, for instance, some intact reefs on the Great Barrier Reef, especially in deeper waters. And northern Australia has some of the most intact and least-modified stretches of savanna woodlands on Earth.</p><p><span>Still, collapses are happening, including in regions critical for growing food. This includes the </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/importance-murray-darling-basin/where-basin" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Murray-Darling Basin</a><span>, which covers around 14% of Australia's landmass. Its rivers and other freshwater systems support more than </span><a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/latestproducts/94F2007584736094CA2574A50014B1B6?opendocument" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30% of Australia's food</a><span> production.</span></p><p><span></span><span>The effects of floods, fires, heatwaves and storms do not stop at farm gates; they're felt equally in agricultural areas and natural ecosystems. We shouldn't forget how towns ran out of </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/issues-murray-darling-basin/drought#effects" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">drinking water</a><span> during the recent drought.</span></p><p><span></span><span>Drinking water is also at risk when ecosystems collapse in our water catchments. In Victoria, for example, the degradation of giant </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/logging-must-stop-in-melbournes-biggest-water-supply-catchment-106922" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mountain Ash forests</a><span> greatly reduces the amount of water flowing through the Thompson catchment, threatening nearly five million people's drinking water in Melbourne.</span></p><p>This is a dire <em data-redactor-tag="em">wake-up</em> call — not just a <em data-redactor-tag="em">warning</em>. Put bluntly, current changes across the continent, and their potential outcomes, pose an existential threat to our survival, and other life we share environments with.</p><p><span>In investigating patterns of collapse, we found most ecosystems experience multiple, concurrent pressures from both global climate change and regional human impacts (such as land clearing). Pressures are often </span><a href="https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1365-2664.13427" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">additive and extreme</a><span>.</span></p><p>Take the last 11 years in Western Australia as an example.</p><p>In the summer of 2010 and 2011, a <a href="https://theconversation.com/marine-heatwaves-are-getting-hotter-lasting-longer-and-doing-more-damage-95637" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">heatwave</a> spanning more than 300,000 square kilometers ravaged both marine and land ecosystems. The extreme heat devastated forests and woodlands, kelp forests, seagrass meadows and coral reefs. This catastrophe was followed by two cyclones.</p><p>A record-breaking, marine heatwave in late 2019 dealt a further blow. And another marine heatwave is predicted for <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/24/wa-coastline-facing-marine-heatwave-in-early-2021-csiro-predicts" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">this April</a>.</p>
What to Do About It?<p><span>Our brains trust comprises 38 experts from 21 universities, CSIRO and the federal Department of Agriculture Water and Environment. Beyond quantifying and reporting more doom and gloom, we asked the question: what can be done?</span></p><p>We devised a simple but tractable scheme called the 3As:</p><ul><li>Awareness of what is important</li><li>Anticipation of what is coming down the line</li><li>Action to stop the pressures or deal with impacts.</li></ul><p>In our paper, we identify positive actions to help protect or restore ecosystems. Many are already happening. In some cases, ecosystems might be better left to recover by themselves, such as coral after a cyclone.</p><p>In other cases, active human intervention will be required – for example, placing artificial nesting boxes for Carnaby's black cockatoos in areas where old trees have been <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/factsheet-carnabys-black-cockatoo-calyptorhynchus-latirostris" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">removed</a>.</p><p><span>"Future-ready" actions are also vital. This includes reinstating </span><a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/a-burning-question-fire/12395700" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultural burning practices</a><span>, which have </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/australia-you-have-unfinished-business-its-time-to-let-our-fire-people-care-for-this-land-135196" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">multiple values and benefits for Aboriginal communities</a><span> and can help minimize the risk and strength of bushfires.</span></p><p>It might also include replanting banks along the Murray River with species better suited to <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/my-garden-path---matt-hansen/12322978" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">warmer conditions</a>.</p><p>Some actions may be small and localized, but have substantial positive benefits.</p><p>For example, billions of migrating Bogong moths, the main summer food for critically endangered mountain pygmy possums, have not arrived in their typical numbers in Australian alpine regions in recent years. This was further exacerbated by the <a href="https://theconversation.com/six-million-hectares-of-threatened-species-habitat-up-in-smoke-129438" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2019-20</a> fires. Brilliantly, <a href="https://www.zoo.org.au/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Zoos Victoria</a> anticipated this pressure and developed supplementary food — <a href="https://theconversation.com/looks-like-an-anzac-biscuit-tastes-like-a-protein-bar-bogong-bikkies-help-mountain-pygmy-possums-after-fire-131045" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Bogong bikkies</a>.</p><p><span>Other more challenging, global or large-scale actions must address the </span><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iICpI9H0GkU&t=34s" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">root cause of environmental threats</a><span>, such as </span><a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-018-0504-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">human population growth and per-capita consumption</a><span> of environmental resources.</span><br></p><p>We must rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero, remove or suppress invasive species such as <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/mam.12080" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">feral cats</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-buffel-kerfuffle-how-one-species-quietly-destroys-native-wildlife-and-cultural-sites-in-arid-australia-149456" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">buffel grass</a>, and stop widespread <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-reduce-fire-risk-and-meet-climate-targets-over-300-scientists-call-for-stronger-land-clearing-laws-113172" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">land clearing</a> and other forms of habitat destruction.</p>
Our Lives Depend On It<p>The multiple ecosystem collapses we have documented in Australia are a harbinger for <a href="https://www.iucn.org/news/protected-areas/202102/natures-future-our-future-world-speaks" target="_blank">environments globally</a>.</p><p>The simplicity of the 3As is to show people <em>can</em> do something positive, either at the local level of a landcare group, or at the level of government departments and conservation agencies.</p><p>Our lives and those of our <a href="https://theconversation.com/children-are-our-future-and-the-planets-heres-how-you-can-teach-them-to-take-care-of-it-113759" target="_blank">children</a>, as well as our <a href="https://theconversation.com/taking-care-of-business-the-private-sector-is-waking-up-to-natures-value-153786" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">economies</a>, societies and <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-address-the-ecological-crisis-aboriginal-peoples-must-be-restored-as-custodians-of-country-108594" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultures</a>, depend on it.</p><p>We simply cannot afford any further delay.</p><p><em><a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dana-m-bergstrom-1008495" target="_blank" style="">Dana M Bergstrom</a> is a principal research scientist at the University of Wollongong. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/euan-ritchie-735" target="_blank" style="">Euan Ritchie</a> is a professor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life & Environmental Sciences at Deakin University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lesley-hughes-5823" target="_blank">Lesley Hughes</a> is a professor at the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michael-depledge-114659" target="_blank">Michael Depledge</a> is a professor and chair, Environment and Human Health, at the University of Exeter. </em></p><p><em>Disclosure statements: Dana Bergstrom works for the Australian Antarctic Division and is a Visiting Fellow at the University of Wollongong. Her research including fieldwork on Macquarie Island and in Antarctica was supported by the Australian Antarctic Division.</em></p><p><em>Euan Ritchie receives funding from the Australian Research Council, The Australia and Pacific Science Foundation, Australian Geographic, Parks Victoria, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC. Euan Ritchie is a Director (Media Working Group) of the Ecological Society of Australia, and a member of the Australian Mammal Society.</em></p><p><em>Lesley Hughes receives funding from the Australian Research Council. She is a Councillor with the Climate Council of Australia, a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists and a Director of WWF-Australia.</em></p><p><em>Michael Depledge does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/existential-threat-to-our-survival-see-the-19-australian-ecosystems-already-collapsing-154077" target="_blank" style="">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
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