The official Republican line on climate change has spread far and wide: “I’m not a scientist.” The poll-tested response threads a needle – it’s intended to avoid straight-up denial of science and evidence, while at the same time, keeping the GOP’s far-right base satisfied.
But House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has his own take, which not only involves ignoring science, but taking the next step of questioning what the science actually says. Jane C. Timm reported yesterday:
A full 97% of researchers taking a stance on climate change say it’s man-made, as do 97-98% of the most frequently-published climate scientists. But according to Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, they’re all wrong.When asked during an election debate Monday if he believed humans cause climate change, the former Republican vice presidential nominee joined the growing number of Republicans who refuse to acknowledge the overwhelming scientific consensus that humans are influencing the Earth’s climate. “I don’t know the answer to that question,” he said according to the Associated Press. “I don’t think science does, either.”
Remember, according to much of the Beltway, Paul Ryan, the failed vice presidential candidate, is supposed to be one of his party’s most intellectually engaging policy wonks.
According to the AP’s report on the debate, the Republican lawmaker went on to say that “we’ve had climate change forever,” adding, “The benefits do not outweigh the costs.”
I’ll confess, as annoying as “I’m not a scientist” is, it’s marginally less ridiculous than Paul Ryan’s forceful rejection of reality. He’s effectively saying he knows what scientists have found, he’s heard the warnings, and he’s aware of the potential consequences, but Ryan just doesn’t care.
Jon Chait’s response rings true:
In fact, science does know the answer. Climate scientists believe with a 95 percent level of certainty (the same level of certainty as their belief in the dangers of cigarette smoking) that human activity is contributing to climate change. There are things science knows, and this is one of them. Scientists may not have the answer to what policies are appropriate for responding to the fact that greenhouse-gas emissions cause changes to the environment, but they can tell us what happens when we release heat-trapping gasses into the atmosphere.This is another way of saying that Paul Ryan is a nut. His ideological fantasies prevent him from accepting even basic scientific facts.”
And in Republican politics in the 21st century, Ryan’s brand of climate-denying nuttery is common enough to barely even get noticed anymore.
History will not be kind.