As I work my way through tracking climate zombies -- Republicans who doubt, deny, or deride the science-based reality of climate change -- it's become obvious that sheer political expediency is a factor in their denialism. They've made a crass calculation that it's better to pledge fealty to Koch-funded Americans For Prosperity and promise to oppose a chimerical "climate tax" than to listen to scientists. They're far more interested in winning over the right wing tea party base, for whom climate change doubt is an act of faith, than they are in governing.
But crass political calculation only goes so far. Consider the case of Ken Buck, running for the Senate in Colorado.
Wednesday, Buck was campaigning with James Inhofe (R-River in Egypt) when Buck stated that global warming is a hoax:
"Sen. Inhofe was the first person to stand up and say this global warming is the greatest hoax that has been perpetrated. The evidence just keeps supporting his view, and more and more people's view, of what's going on," Buck said.
Naturally, the campaign of his Democratic opponent, Michael Bennet, seized on the statement: "The simple fact that Ken Buck doesn't believe in proven science is troubling and calls into question his understanding of more complex issues. It helps explain why he would oppose developing the new energy economy that would create jobs right here in Colorado."
Thursday, Buck had to clarify that climate change is real but humans aren't the cause:
Buck's campaign clarified that he does indeed believe that global warming exists, just that it is not caused by humans.
Again, Bennet responded: "Ken Buck's extreme stance on climate change is a threat to Colorado's economy and could prove cataclysmic for our national security," said Bennet spokesman Trevor Kincaid."
Friday, Buck backpedaled again, this time trying to shift debate from science to economy:
"Appointed Senator Bennet is President Obama’s strongest ally in the US Senate for imposing job-killing greenhouse gas regulations through the EPA."
And, again, Bennet shot back against Buck’s "extreme positions — when he can actually figure out what they are." Those positions "are rooted in politics not science and would serve only to gut the Clean Air Act, cost us millions of jobs and increase our reliance on oil from the Persian Gulf," campaign spokesman Michael Amodeo said.
One hopes that Buck continues retracting until he embraces reality; one hopes more that by November 3, if all goes well for Senator Bennet, he'll be back to his day job.
Bennet isn't a purist on environmental issues. But he does understand the nexus of clean energy, climate, and jobs for his state. He's what David Roberts at Grist calls a climate hawk:
the class of climate hawks is not coextensive with the class of environmentalists. They are not the same group. In a Venn diagram, there would be substantial overlap but also substantial ... underlap? nonlap? disjoint? Point is, there are plenty of people who understand climate change and support clean energy but do not share the rest of the ideological and sociocultural commitments that define environmentalism as historically understood in the U.S.
Climate hawks soar through unpolluted skies in which carbon is under 350 parts per million.
Climate hawks aren't afraid to attack with their fierce talons.
Climate hawks eat climate zombies for breakfast and are hungry again for lunch.
I've always considered myself an environmentalist, but I'm also a climate hawk. We're going to defeat Propositions 23 and 26 in California, and then we're going to demand a national climate policy. Ken Buck would do well to fear us.