Republican opposition to climate science is not monolithic; GOP officials can usually be divided up into some distinct categories.
The first and most dominant contingent espouses straight-up, James-Inhofe-style denialism -- the planet isn't warming, carbon pollution is having no effect, and scientists from around the world are trying to fool the public as part of a nefarious communist conspiracy. Other Republicans concede that global warming is real, but it's not worth the effort to address the crisis. Once in a great while, Jon Huntsman will acknowledge reality, but his faction within the party is quite small.
But Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the frontrunner for a U.S. Senate seat this year, appears to be in a brand-new category. The Charleston Gazette reports today
(via Igor Bobic
MetroNews' Hoppy Kercheval, who moderated the debate, asked the candidates if they thought climate scientists, who are nearly unanimous in saying humans are causing climate change, are wrong. Capito said that they were. "I don't necessarily think the climate's changing, no," she said. Questioned about her stance after the debate, she said she had misspoke, but couched her language with talk about the weather. "Is the climate changing? Yes it's changing, it changes all the time, we heard it raining out there," she said. "I'm sure humans are contributing to it."
It's hard to know sometimes when a politician is being foolish by accident or on purpose. I have no idea whether Capito understands the basics of the climate crisis, and makes bizarre comments like these for political effect, or whether she's genuinely confused about the difference between local weather and global climate changes over time.
But if a seven-term congresswoman, poised for a promotion, seriously sees random rain showers as evidence of "the climate changing," it's more than a little alarming.
That said, if the local report is correct, Capito added that "humans are contributing to it," which might offer a hint of hope. I suppose the next question is, aside from carrying umbrellas, what does the West Virginia Republican suggest we do about the changing climate?
Of course, this wasn't the only debate held last night.
Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), trying to shed his far-right record, still can't bring himself
to acknowledge climate reality.
Gardner was asked during a debate in Denver with Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) to give a simple answer as to whether "humans are contributing significantly to climate change." Pressed multiple times, he declined to say, insisting it was too complicated for a one-word answer. "Well, I've said all along, climate is changing --" Gardner began. He was reminded by debate moderators that he was supposed to say "yes" or "no," and then would have the opportunity for expansive comments later. "Look, this is an important issue and I don't think you can say yes or no," Gardner replied.
Actually, it's incredibly simple, even for Cory Gardner. Yes, you agree with scientists and you accept the overwhelming evidence, or no, you don't. The conservative Republican, perhaps best known for his right-wing views on social issues, was offered a full minute to explain his position, but the best Gardner could must was this: "I believe that the climate is changing, I disagree to the extent that it's been in the news."
So much for Gardner's claim that he's "different kind of Republican."
As the climate crisis intensifies, there's a real chance the U.S. Senate next year will be more inclined than ever to stick its head in the sand.