A climate change denier had a very bad week

    Marco Rubio sounds like a member of the Flat Earth Society. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)

    Marco Rubio sounds like a member of the Flat Earth Society. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)

    I’ll cut to the chase: Any politician who disses science and disputes the reality of man-made climate change has no business aspiring to run this country. That goes for you, Marco Rubio.

    The White House wannabee had a very bad week – deservedly so. That’s what happens when you sound like a charter member of the Flat Earth Society. Either Rubio really believes the nonsense he’s spewing, or he’s spewing to appease the primary-season conservatives who live in deep denial. Either way, he’s bad news.

    It all began last Sunday, on ABC’s This Week, when Rubio opined about the new National Climate Assessment (authored by 300 top scientists, who basically speak for the virtual scientific consensus that man-made climate change is real and rapidly getting worse). Rubio said (a) bah humbug, and (b) it ain’t worth doing anything about it anyway:

    I don’t agree with the notion that some are putting out there, including scientists, that somehow there are actions we can take today that would actually have an impact on what’s happening in our climate. Our climate is always changing. And what they have chosen to do is take a handful of decades of research and say that this is now evidence of a longer-term trend that’s directly and almost solely attributable to man-made activity, I do not agree with that.

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    I loved that dismissive line about “a handful of decades of research.” Apparently ABC’s Jonathan Karl loved it, too. He followed up: “But let me get this straight, you do not think that human activity, its production of CO2, has caused warming to our planet?”

    Rubio: “I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it. That’s what I do not – and I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it.”

    We already know that Rubio – who sits on a Senate science committee – has a big problem with science. Back in 2012, he told a magazine that the earth might’ve been created in seven days (“I think there are multiple theories out there”), so his head-in-the-sand Sunday remarks weren’t a huge surprise. Still, much public ridicule ensued.

    Then it was Tuesday, and Rubio was doing a gig at the National Press Club. At one point, he took a question from a member of the audience – a very specific question seeking a very specific answer: “What information, reports, studies or otherwise are you relying on to inform and reach your conclusion that human activity is not to blame for climate change?”

    His reply is worth recounting in full. See if you can guess what’s wrong with it:

    I’ve never disputed that the climate is changing, and I’ve pointed out that climate to some extent is always changing, it’s never static. That’s not the question before me as a policymaker. If we ban all coal in the U.S., if we ban all carbon emissions in the United States, will it change the dramatic changes in climate and these dramatic weather impacts that we’re now reading about? And anyone who says that we will is not being truthful. The truth of the matter is the United States is a country. It is not a planet. And so there are things that we can do to become more efficient in our use of energies, there are things we can do to develop alternative sources of energy, there are things we can do to be better stewards of the energy resources that we have like natural oil and gas. But for people to go out and say if you passed this bill that I am proposing, this will somehow lead us to have less tornadoes and hurricanes. And that’s what I take issue with.

    Verbosity notwithstanding, Rubio never came close to answering the question. Not even to cite an outlier scientist in the employ of the fossil fuel industry; not even to parrot something from the Koch brothers. His bobbing and weaving only made things worse.

    Predictably, he then fled to the friendly confines of Fox News.

    On Wednesday Rubio sat with Sean Hannity. The tactic this time was to take the offensive. He defended his anti-science stance by essentially arguing that women should be denied their constitutional rights to end unwanted pregnancies.

    And you’re saying, “Huh?”

    Apparently referring to liberals, he told Hannity: “Let me give you a bit of settled science that they’ll never admit to. The science is settled, it’s not even a consensus, it is a unanimity, that human life begins at conception. So I hope the next time someone wags their finger about science, they’ll ask one of these leaders on the left, ‘Do you agree with the consensus of science that human life begins at conception?’”

    Must we indulge him on this? Sure, why not. For starters, Rubio happens to be wrong. There is no consensus on when life begins. In national surveys, some doctors say that pregnancy begins at conception; others say it begins a week later, when the fertilized egg implants in the uterus. In any case, the U.S. Supreme Court has long decreed that women have the right to end pregnancies during the first trimester, end of story.

    Bottom line is, Rubio’s abortion riff was just an attempt to change the subject. Perhaps he should face the facts close to home. He represents a state that’s in the crosshairs of man-made climate change – most notably, the Miami region – and changing the subject just won’t do. The National Climate Assessment calls southeast Florida “exceptionally vulnerable to sea level rise, extreme heat events, hurricanes, and decreased water availability.” Harold Wanless, who chairs the geological sciences department at the University of Miami, recently told a reporter, “Miami, as we know it today is doomed. It’s not a question of if. It’s a question of when.”

    Yet Rubio actually thinks (as he said last Sunday) that he’s ready to run America. I’ll cut to the chase again: Anyone who, by dint of conviction or calculation, denies the science of man-made climate change is by definition unfit to be President of the United States.


    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal