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Paul Ryan: Science doesn't get climate change

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks at the Union League Club of Chicago on Aug. 21, 2014 in Chicago, Ill.
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks at the Union League Club of Chicago on Aug. 21, 2014 in Chicago, Ill.

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."

"I don't know the answer to that question. I don't think science does, either."'

Ryan has long doubted climate change and complained that mitigation efforts would be too expensive, but in recent months the representative has been telling voters specifically that climate change is not man made. His remarks Monday suggest that if Ryan does run for president in 2016, he’ll be campaigning firmly to the right on climate change.

Ryan is currently running for reelection in November against Democratic challenger Rob Zerman, and is expected to win handily. He's also widely thought to be a likely 2016 candidate. His remarks came just hours after the Pentagon released a report documenting that climate change will worsen poverty, food shortages, infectious diseases, and even terrorism, as well as create further humanitarian crisis for the military to fend off.

Ryan's not alone in his feelings on climate change. This month alone, several prominent Republicans have made similar remarks: Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell told the Cincinnati Enquirer's editorial board earlier this month that he’s “not a scientist” and couldn't weigh in on whether climate change is a problem; Iowa’s Joni Ernst said she doesn’t “know the science behind climate change” (but noted she does recycle “everything”); and Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner completely refused to answer the same question in his debate with incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall last week, earning boos from the crowd.

They may be at odds with science, but Republicans are in line with many voters. Growing evidence, extreme weather patterns, and devastating effects on the environment have not convinced Americans of the dangers of climate change: Only 40% of Americans believe in global warming caused by human activity, while the other 60% say either that the warming isn't happening, they don't know the answer, there isn't enough evidence, or that natural patterns are to blame. 

“Science is science,” a frustrated President Barack Obama recently said. “Look, it’s frustrating when the science is in front of us … We can argue about how. But let’s not argue about what’s going on. The science is compelling … The baseline fact of climate change is not something we can afford to deny.”