Environment  
comments_image Comments

Rick Santorum Is King of the GOP's Anti-Science Presidential Contenders

In the contest to see which GOP candidate can be the biggest doubter of the science of climate change, Santorum is the unchallenged leader of the pack.
 
 
Share

Photo Credit: C-SPAN

 
 
 
 

There’s a new ringleader of the skeptics' circus — otherwise known as the 2012 field of Republican presidential candidates.

Rick Santorum’s out-of-nowhere surge to a virtual tie for first place in the Iowa caucuses may not boost him to frontrunner status in next week’s New Hampshire primary and the states beyond. But in the contest to see which GOP candidate can be the biggest doubter of the science of climate change, Santorum is the unchallenged leader of the pack.

Santorum not only denies that manmade global warming is a growing concern, he denies its very existence.  “There is no such thing as global warming,” he once said on Glenn Beck’s show, adding that it’s “patently absurd” to think a naturally occurring substance like CO2 – “a trace gas in the atmosphere, and the man-made part of that trace gas is itself a trace gas “ – is warming the planet. (Well, not if you understand the greenhouse effect.) He told Rush Limbaugh: “I’ve never . . . accepted the junk science behind that narrative.”

But it’s not really about “junk” science. Santorum simply doesn’t accept science. A devout evangelical Catholic, Santorum also rejects evolution and tried to amend federal law to require the teaching of “intelligent design” in public schools. After his fellow candidate, Jon Huntsman, affirmed his belief in evolution, Santorum said: "If Governor Huntsman wants to believe that he is the descendant of a monkey, then he has the right to believe that."

Santorum lost Iowa by only eight votes; you have to wonder if coming out against the germ theory of disease would have put him over the top.

And it’s not just Santorum. For a long time, Congressional Republicans insisted there must be “sound science” behind environmental regulations. Now Republican politicians at all levels are rejecting sound science, either as a matter of faith or in a transparent bid for the votes of the party’s anti-science wing. Trust in science has become an electoral liability.

Four years ago, GOP nominee John McCain said without reservation that people are warming the planet and it’s time to act. This year the GOP debates have sounded like a panel discussion at a convention of the American Petroleum Institute. With one exception, all the candidates have embraced positions that run counter to facts the overwhelming majority of scientists agree on. As New York Times columnist  Paul Krugman wrote:

So it’s now highly likely that the presidential candidate of one of our two major political parties will either be a man who believes what he wants to believe, even in the teeth of scientific evidence, or a man who pretends to believe whatever he thinks the party’s base wants him to believe.

In one corner, the flip-floppers. Mitt Romney has reversed course on climate change so dramatically he  seems to be debating himself. In 2008 Newt Gingrich taped an  ad with Nancy Pelosi urging action on global warming. Now he says it was “the dumbest thing I’ve done.” Ron Paul has also done an about-face. He once acknowledged that “something (is) afoot” and that human activity had something to do with it, but later called the idea of manmade climate change  “the greatest hoax (in) . . . hundreds of years.”

In the other it’s the hard-core deniers, Rick Perry, Michelle Bachman (formerly) and Santorum. Perry’s skepticism is particularly harsh — he believes climate scientists have manipulated data to pull in research money — and self-righteous. He likened current global warming skepticism to  Galileo’s 17th century stand against the notion that the sun orbits the Earth.

 
See more stories tagged with: