Two prominent Republican presidential candidates offered their thoughts on the climate crisis on Wednesday, and came to two very different conclusions. The challenge comes in determining which one was worse.
Let's start with Ben Carson, who was asked by a voter in New Hampshire to explain his disbelief in climate change. The New Republic
's Rebecca Leber reported on
the GOP candidate's response:
"Is there climate change? Of course there's climate change," Carson replied. "Any point in time, temperatures are going up or temperatures are going down. Of course that's happening. When that stops happening, that's when we're in big trouble.” [...] Though he had been asked about climate change, he continued, "As far as evolution is concerned, you know, I do believe in micro-evolution, or natural selection, but I believe that God gave the creatures he made the ability to adapt to their environment. Because he's very smart and he didn't want to start over every 50 years."
Carson, whose views on science are genuinely bizarre, especially for a retired physician, added, “Just the way the Earth rotates on its axis, how far away it is from the sun. These are all very complex things. Gravity, where did it come from?”
At around the same time, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), the alleged "moderate" of the bunch, fielded a very similar question
. He responded:
"Getting the president and the Congress involved in fixing the weather? Look, there are natural cycles of science. Do I believe there is something called climate change? I do. Do I think that human beings affect it? I do. "How much? Not enough for me to go out and cost somebody their job."
At face value, Carson's approach to climate denial might seem more offensive, if for no other reason because his approach to science is so nutty.
But to my mind, Kasich's answer was considerably worse. Carson's appreciation for evidence and empiricism are certainly alarming, but it makes it easier to dismiss his rhetoric as being garden-variety bonkers.
Kasich, on the other hand, is supposed to know better. As we talked about
a couple of months ago, for many Republican officials and candidates, the idea of addressing global warming is absurd because climate science, they believe, is the result of a conspiratorial hoax, intended to undermine capitalism, cooked up by Al Gore, Big Science, Communists, and quite possibly Bigfoot and the Illuminati.
Such an approach is ridiculously dangerous, but there’s at least some internal consistency to it -- we should do nothing to tackle the problem because there is no problem to tackle. It's all a big "hoax."
Kasich, on the other hand, is willing to acknowledge that the evidence is real and that the threat exists. He's just willing to deliberately ignore it.
Carson, in other words, seems uncomfortable with reality, while Kasich prefers indifference to the dangers he recognizes. If there's a defense for such an attitude, I can't think of it.