The GOP's Refusal to Understand the Basic Science of Climate Change Threatens the Whole Country

This story was written by Faiz Shakir, Benjamin Armbruster, George Zornick, Zaid Jilani, Alex Seitz-Wald, Brad Johnson, and Tanya Somanader.

One of the defining characteristics of the current Republican Party is the near-unanimous denial of the science behind the threat of global warming pollution. "The GOP is stampeding toward an absolutist rejection of climate science that appears unmatched among major political parties around the globe, even conservative ones," writes the National Journal's Ron Brownstein. Many of the candidates -- whom Daily Kos blogger RL Miller has dubbed the "climate zombies" -- are signatories of the Koch Industries' Americans For Prosperity No Climate Tax pledge and the FreedomWorks' Contract From America. The second plank of the Contract From America is to "Reject Cap & Trade: Stop costly new regulations that would increase unemployment, raise consumer prices, and weaken the nation's global competitiveness with virtually no impact on global temperatures." The Koch oil billionaires have pumped $1,125,400 into the campaign accounts of congressional candidates and $332,722 to state-level candidates, 87 percent to Republicans, and have contributed $1 million to the Proposition 23 campaign to kill California's AB32 climate legislation. But Koch's main influence is through its Astroturf arm, Americans for Prosperity, which has spent $649,188 in attack ads while organizing a massive get-out-the-vote effort for its Tea Party members across the nation. The polluting power of Koch Industries and other fossil fuel giants over the GOP in the Tea Party age is overwhelming. "[S]kepticism about climate science has become one of the many litmus tests for candidates backed by the surging right," Nature magazine's Jeff Tollefson observes. The denialism is an excuse to oppose green economic policies that would bring jobs back to America and clean the air, and would also limit the influence of the fossil fuel industry's dirty money on our nation's politics.

ZOMBIES FOR SENATE: Remarkably, of the dozens of Republicans vying for the 37 Senate seats in the 2010 election, not one supports climate action, after climate advocate Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE) lost his primary to Christine O'Donnell. Even former climate advocates Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) now toe the science-doubting party line. California GOP candidate Carly Fiorina is "not sure" that global warming is real, and is supporting Koch's Prop 23 effort. Tea Party darlings are leading the charge: Florida's Marco Rubio questions the "scientific evidence," Kentucky's Rand Paul charges scientists are "making up their facts," and Nevada's Sharron Angle has attacked the "climate change mantra of the left." Some Democrats have made their opponents' denial of science an issue.  When Koch-funded Pennsylvania candidate Pat Toomey said the science is "very much disputed," the Joe Sestak campaign called him a "closed-minded ideologue bent on insisting that the 'world is flat.'" After Wisconsin candidate Ron Johnson said that global warming is caused by "sunspot activity," Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) responded, "I'm not going to take a course in Ron Johnson science any time soon." However, in coal company-dominated West Virginia, both U.S. Senate candidates -- John Raese (R) and Gov. Joe Manchin (D) -- question the scientific reality that burning coal is destroying our climate.

ZOMBIES FOR THE HOUSE: If Republicans take back the House, Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) would take over committees and have pledged to launch investigations against climate scientists. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), who apologized to BP and demonizes climate scientists, wants to become the chair of the House energy committee. And they may be joined by dozens of new radical global warming deniers who are campaigning to replace Democratic incumbents who were the swing votes in favor of the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act in 2009. "I just don't buy into it," says GOP House candidate Bob Gibbs (OH-18). It's "crap," says Steve Pearce (NM-2). Global warming is "a hoax perpetrated by leftist ideologues with an agenda," believes Todd Young (IN-9). "I don't believe we have a significant impact on climate change," argues Randy Hultgren (IL-14). The Wonk Room's Brad Johnson has identified fourteen top House races in which a strong supporter for action to reduce global warming pollution is being challenged by a denier of the threat of global warming, but there are dozens more climate zombies in every state of the nation (especially Texas).

ZOMBIES FOR GOVERNOR: In Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Wyoming, four Democratic governors who have supported clean energy may be replaced by Republicans who have expressed fealty to big oil in the November 2010 elections. Florida is under imminent threat from the rising sea levels, fiercer heat waves, and stronger storms resulting from global warming, but GOP candidate Rick Scott has "not been convinced." In Illinois, Tea Party candidate Bill Brady says the "premise" of global warming is "wrong." Minnesota's Tom Emmer thinks global warming science is just "Al Gore's climate porn." Ohio candidate John Kasich believes "global warming is cyclical." Even in the Northeast, where the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative cap-and-trade system has been successfully in place for years, Maine's Paul LePage thinks "scientists are divided on it," Maryland's Bob Ehrlich is newly "skeptical," and Massachusetts candidate Charlie Baker is "not smart enough to believe that I know the answer to that question." The Western Climate Initiative -- the regional compact scheduled to begin in 2012 -- is threatened by California's Meg Whitman, Oregon's Chris Dudley, and New Mexico candidate Susana Martinez, who thinks the science of climate change is an "ideological debate." Even more troubling is the growing opposition by Republicans to renewable electricity standards, which have long enjoyed bipartisan support. LePage, Ehrlich, Kasich, and Brady have all challenged their state's renewable standards, with Scott calling Florida's proposed standards "leftist energy proposals."


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