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Republican Presidential Candidates vs. Climate Science

Posted on 24 August 2011 by dana1981

Climate Myths from PoliticiansWe've previously documented the general anti-climate science stance of Republican politicians in the USA.  With the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination already beginning to heat up, we thought it would be a good time to examine how the various candidates' comments stack up against the body of climate science evidence.  The candidates below are listed in order based on a very rough estimate of their chances of winning the Republican presidential nomination (highest probability candidates are listed first).

Rick Perry

Rick Perry is the governor of Texas, former Lieutenant Governor under George W. Bush, and even more anti-climate science than his former boss.  Recently, Perry has been questioning the climate science consensus, and claiming that climate scientists are falsifying data in order to receive research funding.  This sort of conspiratorial mindset is perhaps as anti-climate science as possible.


Rick Perry quotes

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney is the former governor of Massachusetts, and one of the few Republican presidential candiates who doesn't deny basic climate science.

Mitt Romney


In June 2011, Romney said:

"I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that...It's important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may be significant contributors."

These aren't the most Earth-shattering comments, but a simple refusal to deny basic climate science has become a rarity in Republican politics.

Michelle Bachmann

Michelle Bachmann is a congresswoman from Minnesota, and founder and chair of the Tea Party Caucus in the US House of Representatives.  Bachmann's climate arguments generally tend to center around the claims that carbon and climate change are natural, and therefore nothing to worry about.  In short, a straight-up denial that humans could possibly be causing significant climate change.


Bachmann quotes 

Ron Paul

Ron Paul is a congressman from Texas.  Although he's a registered Republican, his political philosophy is more Libertarian, and thus many pundits don't consider him a "top tier candidate" with a serious chance to win the Republican presidential nomination.  Paul has become increasingly anti-climate science in recent years, going as far as to call it "the greatest hoax...for many, many years if not hundreds of years."  Paul believes the government can do nothing right, and thus opposes most proposed climate solutions (such as carbon pricing), which may cloud his perception of climate science.


Ron Paul Quotes

Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin is the former governor of Alaska.  She has not yet entered the 2012 presidential race, but may very well eventually throw her hat in the ring.  Palin has long denied many aspects of climate science, from the man-made global warming consensus, to the existence of man-made global warming itself, to the endangerment of polar bears as a result of climate change.


Palin Quotes

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich is the former Speaker of the House of Representatives and congressman from Georgia.  Gingrich is guilty of the biggest flip-flop on climate science amongst these candidates.  In 2008, he appeared in an ad with then-Democratic Speaker of the House Nanci Pelosi in which he said:

"our country must take action to address climate change"

Those were the days.  Since then, Gingrich's positions on climate science and solutions have changed dramatically.  Recently, Gingrich has not only denied that humans are causing global warming, but has gone as far as expressing "skepticism" that the planet is even warming to begin with.


Gingrich quotes

Jon Huntsman

Jon Huntsman is the former Governor of Utah and US embassador to China.  He is one of the few Republican presidential candidates to express confidence in climate science research. 


In response to an interview in which Rick Perry expressed his climate "skepticism", Huntsman tweeted:

"To be clear.  I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming.  Call me crazy."

Huntsman later expanded on this point:

?"I think there's a serious problem. The minute that the Republican Party becomes the party - the anti-science party, we have a huge problem. We lose a whole lot of people who would otherwise allow us to win the election in 2012. When we take a position that isn't willing to embrace evolution, when we take a position that basically runs counter to what 98 of 100 climate scientists have said, what the National Academy of Science - Sciences has said about what is causing climate change and man's contribution to it, I think we find ourselves on the wrong side of science, and, therefore, in a losing position"

However, Huntsman's chances of winning the presidential nomination are considered slim.

Herman Cain

Herman Cain is a businessman from Georgia.  He had a brief surge in popularity in the Republican presidential race, but it didn't last very long. Similar to Perry, Cain claims that humans aren't causing global warming, and accuses climate scientists of falsifying data.


Cain quotes

Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum is a former Senator from Pennsylvania who has been very consistent in his denial of basic climate science.


Santorum quotes

An Anti-Science Group

With the exception of Mitt Romney, John Huntsman's warning to his fellow candidates not to become the anti-science party seems to be falling on deaf ears.  Most Republican presidential candidates deny the basic science about the warming of the planet and/or accuse climate scientists of falsifying data. Unfortunately, denial of basic climate science appears to have become a "litmus test" for any candidate trying to win a Republican political nomination.

UCS Climate Science References

In response to the general Republican climate science denial, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has assembled a number of references to recent climate assessments and statements from scientific societies.  They also referenced Skeptical Science as a useful resource to debunk climate myths.

Note: the quotes above have been added to the Politician Climate Myths resource, and some have been added to the Climate Misinformers page at

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Comments 101 to 122 out of 122:

  1. Badgersouth - "The articles that I provide links to further amplify and reinforce the quotes provided by Dana in his article." And I would know that, um... how? Time is infinite, but I am finite. I try not to click on every link that appears, but rather only those I have a reason to follow up on. Sorry.
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  2. The first major GOP debate to feature firebrand Rick Perry went pretty much as expected on the green front: lots of calls for more drilling, plenty o' climate change denyin', and ample confusion about science itself. Source: “GOP Debate Fireworks: Perry Doubles Down on Climate Denial, Huntsman Says GOP Can't Run from Science,” TreeHugger, Sep 8, 2011 To access this informative article and video, click here
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  3. One great moment in the 'debate' was when the moderator asked Perry which scientist he was referring to when he said the science wasn't settled. I was waiting for him to drop a 'Spencer bomb' but he just waffled. So 'scientists are coming forward every day to question AGW', but he can't name one.
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    [DB] I keep looking for my "like" button for this comment...

  4. “The most striking part of the first full-blown debate in the Republican primary was the total rejection of science. “In a surreal scene near the night's end, Gov. Rick Perry likened the people denying global warming science to Galileo. To observe that he has that history exactly backwards -- it was the Church that accused Galileo of heresy in 1633 for scientific theories which were on the right track -- is merely to observe that Perry's substantive errors come with their own stylistic snafus. Perhaps that is fitting. More consequential, however, was the answer that Perry failed to provide.” Source: “GOP Debate: From Birthers to Earthers” by Ari Melber, Huffington Post, Sep 8, 2011 To access this article, click here.
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  5. Badgersouth, A little history clarification. It was the scientific scholars of the time, mostly Jesuits, who convinced Pope Urban to charge Galileo with heresy. Galileo's greatest offense was angering his colleagues, whom he regarded as inferior. While this was probably so, they wielded much influence at the time, and persuaded Pope Urban to act "in defense of the church." Many of this friends, including Pope Urban, urged Galileo to use a little restraint, but this just caused him to proclaim louder. I admit to not having followed Gov. Perry to know much about his scientific background.
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  6. The Galileo analogy is misapplied not (IMHO) because of the relationship between the "establishment" and a purveyor of new ideas. With Galileo he was presenting a new and elegant concept that answered nagging problems with the established thinking. It was the problem of "wandering stars." With Spencer we have the opposite situation. He's trying to, in essence, remove CO2 from the climate equation. While CO2 neatly explains a wide variety of aspects of the Earth's past climate (snowball Earth, glacial-interglacials, etc.) by removing this he is leaving all those questions unanswered. He's trying to remove the keystone without offering us anything that fits better in it's place. That is where Spencer fails (along with Lindzen and others). Spencer is the guy who, many decades after Galileo's ideas became accepted science, was trying to say that the Church actually was correct about an Earth centered universe.
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  7. Sorry... I was responding to Jonathon and Badger's comments on Rick Perry. I've just got Spencer on the brain this week. But I think the comment still holds.
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    [DB] I can fix it if you like.

  8. @Jonathan #105 and Rob Honeycutt #106: Thanks for the additonal histroical information about Galileo and insights about how what transpired back then relates to today's discourse about climate change. The false Galileleo analogy is being regurgitated by deniers on the comment threads of many articles about climate change. Perhaps it is time for an SkS article rebutting the "Galileo myth"?
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  9. Jonathan#105: "scientific scholars of the time, mostly Jesuits," 'Scientific scholars' is quite a misnomer for the entrenched political interests that upheld the doctrine denying that the earth could move. What observations did these 'scholars' make? Or were they simply saying 'it can't be us' - the same line today's deniers use. For someone with Rick ('we teach creationism in Texas') Perry's track record to even mention Galileo in this context is laughable. For Spencer to take on the mantle of Galileo is a travesty.
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  10. For more on the appropriateness of Perry’s Galileo remark, check out: Divining Perry’s Meaning on Galileo Remark, NY Times, Sep 8, 2011
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  11. The only reason way people use the Galileo analogy is to try to portay science as a faith. To any informed person, it just shows a profound ignorance of history in general and of the Galileo trial in particular. To add to the NYT piece, even inside the Catholic Church some scientists supported Copernicus and Galileo views, like, for example, Benedetto Castelli, a benedictine friar.
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  12. Josh Rosenau of the NCSE has an interesting discussion of the Galileo comments made by Rick Perry. He finds that the primary objections, by the authorities of the day, to Galileo's work were theological (as per his quote by Cardinal Bellamine (Bellamino?)), while acknowledging other natural philosophers of the day disagreed with Galileo. He suggests that the natural philosophers' paradigm of the solar system was in flux at that time rather than a simple, toggle-like switch from geocentrism to heliocentris.
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  13. I think it's worth quoting Cardinal Bellarmine own words (taken from the post linked by Composer99):
    I say that if there were a true demonstration that the sun is at the center of the world and the earth in the third heaven, and that the sun does not circle the earth but the earth circles the sun, then one would have to proceed with great care in explaining the Scriptures that appear contrary; and say rather that we do not understand them than that what is demonstrated is false. But I will not believe that there is such a demonstration, until it is shown me. Nor is it the same to demonstrate that by supposing the sun to be at the center and the earth in heaven one can save the appearances [predict accurately], and to demonstrate that in truth the sun is at the center and the earth in the heaven; for I believe the first demonstration may be available, but I have very great doubts about the second, and in case of doubt one must not abandon the Holy Scripture as interpreted by the Holy Fathers.
    His position is the same that the Roman Church had maintained from the early times and explicitly stated by Saint Agustine. On the scientific positions taken by some christians of his times, Saint Augustine wrote "It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, [...]". Those who like to identify themselves with Galileo should be more carefull, the risk of "speaking so idiotically on these matters" is high.
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  14. The following is from the most historically in-depth, recently published article on Galileo that I have come across. "For scientists it shows that if you are in agreement with most of your colleagues, you will most likely be forgotten while history remembers some crank. For advocates of non-consensus positions (e.g., AGW skeptics, Intelligent Design theorists) it teaches that claiming your theory is correct is no substitute for backing it up with experiments and data (even if you are right). For aggressively self-confident people the lesson is that sometimes being persistent and believing in yourself will just get you into trouble. For Catholics it provides an example of why you shouldn’t insult the Pope (at least when there is an Inquisition going on)." Source: "The Myth of Galileo: A Story With a (Mostly) Valuable Lesson for Today by Joe Carter," First Things, Sep 8, 2011 To access the article, click here.
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  15. For a better understanding of why Governor Perry has taken such a hard stance on climate change science and climate scientists, check out: “On Global Warming, Texas Governor Perry and Glass Houses,” by Bill Chameides, The Green Crok, Aug 18, 2011 To access this informative article, click here.
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  16. Here’s another article similar to Dana’s. This one, however, includes quotes by the candidates on both climate science and evolution. “In Their Own Words: GOP Candidates And Science” by Corey Dade, NPR, Sep 8, 2011 To access this article, click here.
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  17. Here's a searchable database of the environmental policy votes in the current US Congress. Relevant to this thread because Bachmann is a serving Representative and much of this will actually come to pass if more Repubs are elected. "This is the most anti-environment House in history," said Rep. Waxman. "The House has voted to block action to address climate change, to stop actions to prevent air and water pollution, to undermine protections for public lands and coastal areas, and to weaken the protection of the environment in dozens of other ways." The database offers details on each vote, including the bill or amendment number and sponsoring member, a brief summary of the bill or amendment, the vote outcome, and additional relevant information. The votes are searchable by bill number, topic, affected agency, and affected statute. Canada may not be far enough; I hear Finland is nice.
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  18. Every time I listen to Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota talk about how climate change is some fraud perpetrated by scientists trying to gin up money for research, I’m always reminded of one of my favorite movie lines that Jack Nicholson delivers to his needy neighbor who knocks on his door in the film “As Good As It Gets.” “Where do they teach you to talk like this?” asks Nicholson. “Sell crazy someplace else. We’re all stocked up here.” The above is the opening paragraph of Thomas Friedman's op-ed, “Is It Weird Enough Yet?” published in the New York Times on Sep 13, 2001.
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  19. That NYT editorial makes a number of good points indeed. You have to admire the depth of denial of a guy like Perry. Texas is ablaze with wildfires, in the grip of a megadrought, seeing 100 degrees plus temperatures for more days in a row than ever in more locations than ever but it's all scientists trying to get more money. Not a shadow of doubt in his mind. I guess that's what you get with faith driven elected officials. I remember back in the days I lived in North-Central Texas, having 30 consecutive days of 100+ temp was considered unusual. That was only about 10 years ago.
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  20. In a welcome bit of irony, a new poll finds that the hard anti-science stance amongst most of the GOP presidential candidates may actually be generating increased belief in AGW amongst Americans. Basically, when the crazy guy who thinks the best way to deal with his entire state being on fire is to pray for rain says that 'anthropogenic global warming is a complete fraud'... people start to wonder if maybe they need to take another look at the facts.
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  21. This one's a whopper, up there in the stratosphere of myths with Singer and Seitz. Air pollution has no connection to asthma, Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul said on the Senate floor. ... Paul's chart was a graph showing air pollution declining in California as the number of people diagnosed with asthma rose. The chart attributed the data to a May 2003 paper by what was then called the California Department of Health Services. But the department never plotted the relationship between those two factors. Reaction from a childhood asthma advocacy group: As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” Thus we read, “Air pollution has no connection to asthma,” Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul said on the Senate floor. ... Paul, an ophthalmologist and eye surgeon said in his remarks: “We have decreased pollution and rising incidence of asthma. Either they are inversely proportional or they are not related at all.” There's only one response to that: Wow.
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  22. Not that any more evidence of Rick Santorum's denial of Climate Science is needed but here is a new quote: “I refer to global warming as not climate science, but political science..."
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