They mindlessly deny the science of climate change.
Their stupid is contagious.
And if they win, humanity loses.
I'm tracking Climate Zombies: every Republican candidate for House, Senate, and Governor who claims that global warming is a hoax, doubts the science of climate change, and wants a new Dark Ages for America.
First, a brief note on why. During the Bush years, most Republican politicians ducked questions on climate change, professed a desire to do something vague and unspecified about energy independence, and derided cap-and-trade. Only a few, led by James Inhofe (R-River in Egypt), openly mocked science. The emergence of the American Taliban has changed that. The respected science journal Nature, in a piece entitled Science Scorned:
Denialism over global warming has become a scientific cause célèbre within the movement. Limbaugh, for instance, who has told his listeners that "science has become a home for displaced socialists and communists", has called climate-change science "the biggest scam in the history of the world". The Tea Party's leanings encompass religious opposition to Darwinian evolution and to stem-cell and embryo research — which Beck has equated with eugenics. The movement is also averse to science-based regulation, which it sees as an excuse for intrusive government. Under the administration of George W. Bush, science in policy had already taken knocks from both neglect and ideology. Yet President Barack Obama's promise to "restore science to its rightful place" seems to have linked science to liberal politics, making it even more of a target of the right.
US citizens face economic problems that are all too real, and the country's future crucially depends on education, science and technology as it faces increasing competition from China and other emerging science powers. Last month's recall of hundreds of millions of US eggs because of the risk of salmonella poisoning, and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, are timely reminders of why the US government needs to serve the people better by developing and enforcing improved science-based regulations. Yet the public often buys into anti-science, anti-regulation agendas that are orchestrated by business interests and their sponsored think tanks and front groups.
So how infected with stupid is the GOP? Last installment looked at AK, AZ, NM, NH, OK, and WI. This time, five smaller states throughout the country.
Climate Zombies in the Heartland
Senator Chuck Grassley has waffled, but sounds infected:
"But the scientific aspect that I still reserving judgment on is the extent to which it's manmade or natural. And it's reasonable, considering that there's at least a natural factor in it, because historically, and you can go to the core drillings in the glaciers to get proof of this, that we've had decades and decades, and maybe even centuries of periods of time when there's been a tremendous rise in temperature, and then a tremendous fall in temperature. And all you've got to do is look at the little ice age of the mid-last millennia as an example. And so we've got to single out what's natural and what's manmade before you can make policy."
Or, in English: Huh?
So far, candidate Ben Lange (IA-01) and incumbent Tom Latham (IA-04) have simply complained about the cost of "cap and tax." I haven't found them questioning the science. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02) seems to be quiet on the subject. Yesterday she told the Des Moines Register editorial board that "the ability of biofuels to compete in the future depends on what happens with the price of oil," which tells me that she has no sense of the massive subsidies already extended to the fossil fuel industry. And I don't have information on candidate for governor Terry Branstad; governors seem to speak less than Congressional candidates on this subject.
Semi-final score: three Climate Zombies, four unknowns.
Show Me Climate Zombies
Incumbent Todd Akin (MO-02) thinks "climate change" is what happens from winter to spring. Candidate Ed Martin (MO-03) devotes part of his website to bashing "global warming hucksters." Candidate Vicky Hartzler (MO-04) tweets about the "hoax" of a "beautiful global warming day." Candidate Jacob Turk (MO-05) trashes "global warming extremists" and "false science" on his website. Incumbent Jo Ann Emerson (MO-08) has been complaining about "junk science" since 2000. And Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO-09) has drafted, in his own words, a bill that "would prohibit U.S. contributions to the IPCC, which is nothing more than a group of U.N. bureaucrats that supports man-made claims on global warming that many scientists disagree with."
I haven't found any specific statement by Robyn Hamlin, candidate in MO-01, but she's a Campaign for Liberty organizer. Billy Long of MO-07 likewise has the potential to be a fount of stupid. And Rep. Sam Graves (MO-06) hasn't specifically come out against science, but he lets Peabody Coal write his talking points and claims that the Gulf disaster could have been avoided if we'd only drilled in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Thus, I'm considering them as infected.
Semi-final score: a perfect ten out of ten.
Climate Zombies in the Ever-Green Mountains
To keep things fair, I looked at two states with strong blue/green reputations.
In Vermont, Paul Beaudry (VT-AL) considers global warming "nothing but a lie." I don't have any information on the approach to climate science of Senatorial candidate Len Britton. Gubernatorial candidate Brian Dubie states:
I believe that scientific data clearly show that climate change is real, and as a result of human behavior, the world is getting warmer. Carbon emissions are playing a large role in the warming of our planet.
Vermont has one Climate Zombie, one clearly uninfected candidate, and one unknown.
Washington state looks relatively good. Candidate James Watkins (WA-01) scores points for believing that global warming is real, and incumbent Dave Reichert (WA-08) was one of the eight Republicans to vote for the House cap-and-trade bill in June 2009. Jaime Herrera (WA-03) is considered an establishment Republican who won a primary against a global warming denier, and I don't have any information on her views on science. Likewise, I don't have any information on Doug Cloud (WA-06). Update (h/t Ontheleftcoast): Reichert has questioned the cause of global warming, notably during campaign season 2006.
On the other hand, incumbent Doc Hastings (WA-04) complained about last year's Copenhagen climate conference: "Instead of allowing all scientific opinions to be heard, this conference was devoid of an honest, comprehensive debate." Incumbent Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) thinks that Al Gore deserves an A in creative writing and an F in science. The Facebook page of candidate Dick Muri (WA-09) has a long, rambling statement about "congressional investigation into global warming scientists suppressing data and dissenting opinions," the "emerging ice age" of the 1970s, and the like. Candidate John Koster hasn't said anything that I can find, but he's been endorsed by Sarah Palin.
While Dino Rossi (WA-Sen) was supposed to be more moderate than his tea party rival, he "believes Earth is warming but isn't sure how much humans are to blame." Consider this a low-level Climate Zombie infection.
two one wholly uninfected Republicans and two potentially reasonable GOPers, one confused soul (Reichert), one potentially infected, and four Climate Zombies. The Republicans aren't running a candidate in WA-07.
Zombies in Zion
Utah is one of my favorite states for scenery; its politicians, not so much. The only surprise here is why I can't find any denier statements by candidates Morgan Philpott (UT-02) and Mike Lee (UT-Sen). Philpott is a protege of Rob Bishop (UT-01), whose website mentions that "scientific data underlying the studies of global warming appear to have been manipulated to produce an intended outcome." Jason Chaffetz (UT-03) considers global warming a "farce."
Governor Gary Herbert, up for reelection in 2010, thinks that the science is not conclusive.
Mike Lee ousted, for not being conservative enough, the man who claimed that "greenhouse gas emissions have absolutely nothing whatever to do with clean air. CO2 does not add to pollutants or cause asthma or any of the other things you think of with dirty air." Anyone want to take bets on Lee's thoughts on science?
Final score: five out of five Climate Zombies, with extra bonus points to the state legislature for its joint resolution asking the EPA "to cease its carbon dioxide reduction policies, programs, and regulations until climate data and global warming science are substantiated."
The rise of the extreme right wing -- the American Taliban -- means that science, common sense, and logic are falling by the wayside like extras in a George A. Romero movie. I hear the Taliban isn't too fond of science either.