Last time I checked, there were 10 Republicans running for President of the United States, and another five that will probably enter soon (looking at you, Jeb and Chris).
The bench has grown significantly deeper since we reviewed the candidates two months ago. At that time, a total of four politicians had officially declared, and the lone Democrat, Hillary Clinton, was the only one talking climate change. Now there are potentially 20 people in the running.
Breaking down the environmental credentials of every one of these upstanding young Turks might take a while, so why don’t we focus on the one Republican candidate who hasn’t suggested scientists are committing witchcraft? (That’s not entirely fair. Former New York Governor George Pataki has advocated for green energy and climate change action in the past, but as The Atlantic put it, he is one of the “longest long shots” in the 2016 race.)
Does Sen. Graham Believe in Anthropogenic Climate Change?
It seems so. On June 8, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told CNN, “If I’m president of the United States, we’re going to address climate change, CO2 emissions in a business-friendly way.”
He added that he does “believe that climate change is real.”
In the interview, Graham alluded to the 97.1 percent consensus among climate scientists that the climate is changing due to man-made greenhouse gas emissions. To Graham, the issue is evidently one of logic: “When 90 percent of the doctors tell you you’ve got a problem,” said Graham, “do you listen to the one?”
This is in stark contrast to his Republican colleagues in the Senate, of which 72 percent dispute or deny climate science. Among Graham’s fellow presidential candidates, Sen. Ted Cruz (TX) has said “global warming alarmists are equivalent to flat-Earthers”; former Governor Jeb Bush has said the climate is changing but the science around it is “convoluted”; Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) has said he does “not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it,” and that any government attempt to combat climate change will ruin the economy. Meanwhile, Rand Paul (KY) has called the worst predictions of climate change “absolutely and utterly untrue.”
Oh, also, Rick Santorum (yes, he’s running again too) said that the 97 percent consensus is reason enough to doubt it. “All of this certainty…is what bothers me about the debate,” Santorum told Fox News Sunday, “the idea that science is settled. Any time you hear a scientist say science is settled, that’s political science, not real science.”
Meanwhile, Graham has said that he believes climate change is real and will impact the country in a negative way. As he told The Huffington Post,
“At the end of the day, I think carbon pollution is worthy of being controlled, whether you believe in global warming or not. I do believe that all the CO2 gases, greenhouse gases from cars, trucks and utility plants is not making us a healthier place, is not making our society better, and it’s coming at the expense of our national security and our economic prosperity.”
But What Has He Done About It?
Well, that’s where the wicket gets a bit stickier. Between 2009 and 2010, Graham co-wrote legislation that would have established a cap-and-trade system for the U.S. Unfortunately, more than a little politics got in the way.
Days prior to the vote on his legislation, an immigration bill arose that pushed it from Congressional prominence, leading eventually to Graham saying he would vote against the cap-and-trade bill and even declaring the “science about global warming has changed.” The Huffington Post has a full piece on the confusing sequence of events.
So Does It Matter What Graham Thinks?
It could. Sen. Graham has bemoaned the polarization of climate science, which is good, and blamed Al Gore for it, which is less good. Graham has accused Gore of turning global warming “into a religion” when he considers it economic and environmental in nature.
And while the potshot at Gore is troubling, if Graham truly believes emissions need to be curbed and investments made in green energy, who he has a problem with is less important than who he might convince to work together.
If Graham did win the presidency (unlikely), he would have a strong Republican majority in Congress to support his platform. However, Graham’s position on climate change is precisely what makes his nomination by his party so unlikely.
After all, with the amount of money the Koch brothers are willing to throw around, they can afford to be choosey.