U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is surrounded by students and cameras after confirming his candidacy for the 2016 U.S. presidential election race during a speech at Liberty College in Lynchburg, Va. on March 23, 2015.
Photo by Chris Keane/Reuters

Ted Cruz: Climate change believers are the new ‘flat-Earthers’

Ted Cruz is a modern day Galileo, according to the Texas Republican senator and newly minted presidential candidate.

In an interview with Texas Tribune political reporter Jay Root, Cruz likened criticism over climate change denial to the persecution that 17th century scientist Galileo faced for defying mainstream beliefs of his day.

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“What do they do? They scream, ‘You’re a denier.’ They brand you a heretic. Today, the global warming alarmists are the equivalent of the flat-Earthers,” Cruz said in the interview Tuesday. “It used to be [that] it is accepted scientific wisdom the Earth is flat, and this heretic named Galileo was branded a denier.”

(Fun fact: Fellow Texan and likely 2016 contender Rick Perry once made the same Galileo comparison in 2011. It didn’t go over well.)

Cruz continued to dig in. “I’m a big believer that we should follow the science, and follow the evidence. If you look at global warming alarmists, they don’t like to look at the actual facts and the data. The satellite data demonstrate that there has been no significant warming whatsoever for 17 years,” he said.

Heard that one before, too? Cruz has been using that factoid for years, most recently in an appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers, where the senator made a quip about how the “snow and ice everywhere” seen during a recent trip to New Hampshire somehow backed up the satellite data demonstrating “zero warming whatsoever.”

It’s a line from a long-debunked argument that climate change skeptics often lean on to refute global warming (“how can the Earth be warming while the Northeast experiences record snowfall?”). But countless experts say there’s one key problem with focusing on the last 17 years alone – not to mention citing satellite data rather than global land-ocean temperatures: It’s cherry-picking information.

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If you focus on the rate of warming, it’s true that temperatures have not changed as quickly since they peaked 17 years ago in 1998. Instead, warm peaks are now the new normal. Just look at a landmark joint announcement by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that 2014 was officially the hottest year on record. After that, 2010 was likely the next warmest year, followed by 2005 and finally 1998. (Cruz is in charge of NASA oversight as the chairman of the Senate Space, Science and Competitiveness Subcommittee in Congress.)

For the last month Cruz has been ridiculed for his views on climate change. On Sunday, California Gov. Jerry Brown slammed Cruz as “absolutely unfit” to run for president because of his “direct falsification of the existing scientific data.”

Climate Change and Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz: Climate change believers are the new 'flat-Earthers'