Sen.-elect Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee said falsely in the lead-up to her campaign that the Earth has started to cool, and argued inaccurately that scientists have not reached a consensus on climate change.
In Florida, which has been pummeled by hurricanes, Sen.-elect Rick Scott has acknowledged rising and warmer seas could be harmful to his state but won’t attribute it to human activity.
And Sen. John Neely Kennedy, who is expected to announce Monday whether he will run for Louisiana governor, told reporters last week that while the Earth may be getting hotter, “I’ve seen many persuasive arguments that it’s just a continuation of the warming up from the Little Ice Age.”
As President Trump’s rejection of climate science isolates the United States on the world stage, illustrated by the small U.S. delegation dispatched to this week’s United Nations climate summit in Poland, he has also presided over a transformation in the Republican Party — placing climate change skepticism squarely in the GOP’s ideological mainstream.
Where the last Republican president, George W. Bush, acknowledged that the Earth was warming and that “an increase in greenhouse gases caused by humans is contributing to the problem,” the prevailing GOP view expressed on the campaign trail this year and espoused by many members of Congress is built on the false premise that climate science is an open question.
The small number of voices supporting the science have been largely drowned out.
The House Climate Solutions Caucus, co-founded in 2016 by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) and once thought of as a catalyst for climate-friendly legislation, lost 24 of its 45 Republican members to retirement or election defeat this year — including Curbelo. An analysis by the liberal Center for American Progress Action Fund found that 61 percent of Republicans in Congress have in some way raised doubts about climate change, deflected the question, claimed that the climate is always changing, or questioned the extent to which humans contribute to climate change.
As a result, the two major political parties, which not long ago largely shared a fundamental view on the challenges posed by climate change, are now battling over the credibility of science and facts — a fight that is shaping up as a potentially defining issue of the 2020 presidential campaign.
“There are some things that started to emerge as a consensus, which is Republicans had said the climate is changing, and we’re going to have to do something about it,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who was a top economic adviser to Bush and 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain. “The president’s stance makes that harder because he denies it’s even changing. . . . This puts us back into gridlock again.”