The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Opinion

May 15, 2014

Rubio's changing climate

‘I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it,” said Sen. Marco Rubio.

Thus did the Florida Republican undermine his other assertion, to ABC’s Jonathan Karl: that he is prepared to be president.

“Our climate is always changing,” Rubio further hole-dug. “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.”

Rubio certainly isn’t alone among Republicans in dissing the scientific consensus — “these scientists,” he says, flicking away reams of data as the fevered imaginings of climate true-believers.

And his phrasing is cleverly careful, with caveats and straw men that allow him to stop short of outright denialism while comforting the party’s denialist base.

Consider Rubio on CNN last week: “I understand that there’s a vast consensus of scientists that are saying that human activity is what’s contributing to changes in our climate.”

So far, so good, but does Rubio agree? He doesn’t say, but in an interview last year with BuzzFeed — an interview Rubio’s office flagged for me as emblematic of his views on climate change — Rubio suggested there was “reasonable debate” on the role of human activity.

With CNN, Rubio instead pivoted straight to the straw man: “I think it’s an enormous stretch to say that every weather incident that we now read about or the majority of them are attributable to human activity.” But of course, no reputable scientist is making that stretch.

Rubio has a more serious argument — that unilateral action will be unavailing, that the costs of responding to climate change exceed the benefits. But he undermines this point — and with it, his broader credibility — by refusing to acknowledge scientific reality.

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