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."
.@RepClayHiggins 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.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The U.S. reported more than 55,000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, in a sign that the outbreak is not letting up as the Fourth of July weekend kicks off.
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By Jason Bruck
Human actions have taken a steep toll on whales and dolphins. Some studies estimate that small whale abundance, which includes dolphins, has fallen 87% since 1980 and thousands of whales die from rope entanglement annually. But humans also cause less obvious harm. Researchers have found changes in the stress levels, reproductive health and respiratory health of these animals, but this valuable data is extremely hard to collect.
Researchers work with trained dolphins to learn more about their sensory abilities, seen here testing a dolphin's hearing. Jason Bruck / CC BY-ND
A Lot to Learn From Hormones<p>When sampling the blow, we are looking for hormones in mucus as these can be used to gauge psychological and physiological health. We are specifically interested in <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0114062" target="_blank">hormones like cortisol</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ygcen.2018.04.003" target="_blank">progesterone</a>, which indicate stress levels and reproductive ability respectively, but can also help determine overall health.</p><p>Additionally, blow samples can detect <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1128%2FmSystems.00119-17" target="_blank">respiratory pathogens</a> in the lungs or nasal passages - blowholes evolved from noses after all.</p><p>This health analysis is especially important in areas with oil spills as the chemicals can cause hormonal problems that harm <a href="https://www.carmmha.org/investigating-how-oil-spills-affect-dolphins-and-whales/" target="_blank">development, metabolism and reproduction</a> in dolphins.</p><p>Hormone samples can provide scientists with valuable data, but collecting them from intelligent and unpredictable animals is challenging.</p>
Cetacean Collaborators<p>To build a drone that can stealthily collect spray from moving dolphins, we needed more data on their eyesight and hearing, and this is data that couldn't be collected in the wild nor simulated in a lab.</p><p>We worked with dolphins at facilities like Dolphin Quest in Bermuda, which provides guests opportunities to learn about dolphins while allowing <a href="https://dolphinquest.com/about-us/our-story/" target="_blank">scientists access to animals for noninvasive research</a>. Here the dolphins can swim away if they choose not to work with us, so we had to design the study like a game; the way a kindergarten teacher entertains a class. If the dolphins aren't interested, we don't get to do the science.</p><p>Over the course of hundreds of sessions, we sought to answer two questions: What can dolphins hear and what can they see around their heads?</p><p>To test dolphin hearing, we set up microphones and cameras to record dolphin behavior as we played drone noise in the air. We analyzed the responses to each noise – such as how many dolphins looked at the speaker – and used these as a proxy for their ability to hear the sounds.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5f31daf07a652b8d64a093b993ee4e96"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UjmQeH3vXHI?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Robodolphin doesn't look like a real dolphin, but it doesn't need to in order to train our drone pilots. C.J. Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND<p>To build robodolphin, we worked with dolphins trained to "chuff" or sneeze on command to measure spray characteristics. We used high-speed photography to see the dolphins' breath as it moved through the air. Then we conducted high resolution CT scans of a dolphin head and 3D-printed a replica of a nasal passage.</p><p>Now, we have a complete robodolphin and are tweaking its sprays to be nearly identical to the real thing. This will allow us to determine how close we need to get to collect the samples, and therefore, how quiet our drone needs to be.</p>
The replica dolphin blowhole was designed from a scan of a real blowhole passage, and the spray it produces closely matches the real thing. Alvin Ngo, Mitch Ford and CJ Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND
A Bit of Practice, Then Into the Wild<p>In the next few months, we will test flights over robodolphin with existing drones to determine the timing and strategy for collection. From there, we will fabricate a low-noise drone that can fly fast enough and with sufficient maneuverability to capture samples from wild dolphins. Like a video game, we will use the visual field data to develop approach trajectories to stay in the visual blindspots.</p><p>We plan to test our drones on a truck-mounted robodolphin moving down a runway, then using a boat to simulate realistic conditions. The next steps will involve ocean testing with dolphins trained for open ocean swimming. These tests will determine if our devices can catch and hold the hormones as the drone flies back to a researcher's boat.</p><p>Finally, we will deploy the system to collect data on wild dolphins. Our first goal is to test resident dolphins – animals that live on the coasts and deal directly with boat and oil industry noise – which will allow us to learn more about stress resulting from human impacts.</p><p>Those samples are a way off, but if all goes well we will have a specially built drone capable of flying long distances and capturing samples undetected in a few years. The samples collected will allow researchers to do better science with impact on the animals they study.</p>
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By Ashutosh Pandey
Billions worth of valuable metals such as gold, silver and copper were dumped or burned last year as electronic waste produced globally jumped to a record 53.6 million tons (Mt), or 7.3 kilogram per person, a UN report showed on Thursday.
Environmental and Health Hazard<p>Experts say e-waste, which is now the world's fastest-growing domestic waste stream, poses serious environmental and health risks.</p><p>Simply throwing away electronic items without ensuring they get properly recycled leads to the loss of key materials such as iron, copper and gold, which can otherwise be recovered and used as primary raw materials to make new equipment, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions from extraction and refinement of raw materials.</p><p>Refrigerants found in electronic equipment such as fridge and air conditioners also contribute to global warming. A total of 98 Mt of CO2-equivalents, or about 0.3% of global energy-related emissions, were released into the atmosphere in 2019 from discarded refrigerators and ACs that were not recycled properly, the report said.</p><p>E-waste contains several toxic additives or hazardous substances, such as mercury and brominated flame retardants (BFR), and simply burning it or throwing it away could lead to serious health issues. Several studies have linked unregulated recycling of e-waste to adverse birth outcomes like stillbirth and premature birth, damages to the human brain or nervous system and in some cases hearing loss and heart troubles.</p><p>"Informal and improper e-waste recycling is a major emerging hazard silently affecting our health and that of future generations. One in four children are dying from avoidable environmental exposures," said Maria Neira, director of the Environment, Climate Change and Health Department at the World Health Organization. "One in four children could be saved, if we take action to protect their health and ensure a safe environment."</p>
Europe Leads the Way<p>While most of the e-waste was generated in Asia (24.9 Mt) in 2019, Europe led the charts on a per person basis with 16.2 kg per capita, the report said.</p><p>But the continent also recorded the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/the-eu-declares-war-on-e-waste/a-51108790" target="_blank">highest documented formal e-waste collection and recycling</a> rate at 42.5%, still below its target of 65%. Europe was well ahead of the others on this front. Asia ranked second with 11.7%.</p><p>The authors said while more that 70% of the world's population was covered by some form of e-waste policy or laws, not much was being done toward implementation and enforcement of the regulations to encourage the take-up of a collection and recycling infrastructure due to lack of investment and political motivation.</p><p>"You have to think about new economic systems," said Kühr.</p><p>One approach could be that consumers no longer buy the products, but only the service they offer. The device would remain the property of the maker, who would then have an interest in offering his customers the best service and the necessary equipment. The maker would also be interested in designing his products in such a way that they are easier to repair and easier to recycle, Kühr said.</p>
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