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Climate debate takes a farcical turn in GOP-led Senate

Is the Republican Party is "at war with science"? it would seem yesterday's Senate votes speak for themselves.
A man throws an earth balloon into the air as people fill 58th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue before a global warming march in New York Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. (Photo by Mel Evans/AP)
A man throws an Earth balloon into the air as people fill 58th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue before a global warming march in New York Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014.
About a week ago, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) published a Politico op-ed with a provocative headline: "No, the GOP is not at war with science."
The far-right lawmakers have heard the criticisms about Republicans' hostility towards research and empiricism, but Paul and Smith wanted to make it clear that, at least from their narrow perspective, the GOP isn't "attacking science."
After watching developments late yesterday in the Republican-run Senate, the op-ed seems almost amusing, in a morbid sort of way.

On Wednesday, the Senate got together to take a couple of votes on whether global warming was real or not. This was serious business, and they had a lot to think about.

Indeed, just a few days ago, the public learned that 2014 was the warmest year on record for the planet -- and that 14 of the warmest years ever recorded have come within the last 15 years.
It led to a series of votes yesterday on amendments to the Republicans' Keystone XL pipeline bill, all of which were intended to get members on record, either endorsing or opposing the basics of climate reality.
First up was a measure that said that the climate is, in fact, changing. It passed 98 to 1, with only Sen. Roger Wicker, a Mississippi Republican, voting against it. (Asked yesterday to explain what in the world he was thinking, Wicker's office didn't respond.)
Then came a second vote on an amendment acknowledging that "human activity significantly contributes to climate change." The vote wasn't about taking any action, per se, it just asked senators if they agree with what climate science tells us is true. It failed -- the measure needed 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster and it came 10 votes short.
Finally, there was a third vote on whether humans simply "contributed to" -- as opposed to "significantly contributes to" -- climate change. A Republican filibuster killed this one, too.
In all, out of 54 Senate Republicans, only five -- Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Susan Collins (Maine), Lindsay Graham (S.C.), and Mark Kirk (Ill.) -- were willing to acknowledge what climate scientists tell us is painfully obvious. In other words, about 91% of Senate Republicans have effectively positioned themselves as climate deniers, evidence be damned.
Making matters slightly worse, one of the five Republicans who managed to get the issue right yesterday, Illinois' Kirk, recently sounded an awful lot like a denier earlier this month, complaining that "political correctness took over climate science" and seriously arguing that Greenland's name is reason to be skeptical of the intensifying crisis.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) helped lead the debate on behalf of the GOP yesterday, arguing that a United Nations conspiracy is responsible for the debate itself. Inhofe is the far-right lawmaker that Republicans recently put in charge of the Senate Environment Committee. No, seriously.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), meanwhile, used to believe the science about climate change, but voted with the far-right yesterday and was not one of the five who acknowledged reality. It's probably worth noting that McCain is up for re-election next year, and if the longtime Republican senator is worried about a primary challenger, McCain may be casting a lot of indefensible votes this year.
I'd just add that Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who spent last year telling Coloradans that he's a "new kind of Republican" -- the kind who runs campaign ads in which he stands in front of wind turbines and celebrates "green" energy -- voted with Inhofe and other right-wing climate deniers yesterday, rejecting the scientific consensus on global warming.
It's almost as if the façade Gardner put on during last year's election, which was good enough to fool many voters and the editorial board of the Denver Post, wasn't an accurate reflection of his far-right ideology.
As for whether the Republican Party is "at war with science," it would seem yesterday's Senate votes speak for themselves.