Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) caused a bit of a stir when he positioned himself as a climate denier
on Sunday. "I don't agree with the notion that some are putting out there, including scientists, that somehow there are actions we can take today that would actually have an impact on what's happening in our climate," the senator told ABC. "I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it."
Because the severity of the climate crisis is intensifying, most Republicans who want to be seen as credible national leaders steer clear of unapologetic climate denialism, but Rubio, hoping to impress far-right activists disappointed by his support for immigration reform, didn't hold back. It led to some commentary that the Florida Republican had "disqualified himself
" for the presidency.
As Benjy Sarlin reported
, Rubio tried to clarify matters yesterday, though it didn't go especially well.
In an appearance at the National Press Club, the Florida Republican clarified that he believed climate change was real, but he danced around the central issue of whether it was caused by carbon emissions, as the overwhelming majority of scientists have concluded. "Headlines notwithstanding, of course the climate is changing, because the climate is always changing," Rubio said. Then things took a bizarre turn. Rubio said he objected to "cap and trade" legislation designed to reduce emissions -- not because such reductions were unnecessary, but because he thought other countries wouldn't follow suit with similar legislation of their own.
So, according to Rubio, carbon emissions aren't a problem, though China won't do enough to reduce carbon emissions. He also believes climate change is happening, but not really, since he doesn't believe in the "notion" of climate change as defined by scientists.
The conservative senator was then asked "what information, reports, studies or otherwise are you relying on to inform and reach your conclusion that human activity is not to blame for climate change?"
to this question didn't go well, either.
"That's not the question before me as a policymaker. If we ban all coal in the U.S., if we ban all carbon emissions in the United States, will it change the dramatic changes in climate and these dramatic weather impacts that we're now reading about? And anyone who says that we will is not being truthful. The truth of the matter is the United States is a country. It is not a planet. And so there are things that we can do to become more efficient in our use of energies, there are things we can do to develop alternative sources of energy, there are things we can do to be better stewards of the energy resources that we have like natural oil and gas. But for people to go out and say if you passed this bill that I am proposing, this will somehow lead us to have less tornadoes and hurricanes. And that's what I take issue with."
It's hard not to get the impression that Rubio has formed firm opinions on this subject without having given it much thought. For example, who intends to "ban all carbon emissions in the United States"?
To be sure, this isn't entirely a new problem for the Florida Republican. A year ago, when Rubio delivered his party's response to the State of the Union, the senator dismissed efforts to combat the climate crisis by saying
, "Government can't control the weather." They were the words of someone who doesn't seem to grasp the basics.
Stepping back, when it comes to Republicans and the climate crisis, there tends to be a handful of categories. There are GOP officials who believe climate change is a hoax cooked up by radical liberals who hate capitalism, those who believe climate change is real but not caused by humans, those who believe climate change is real but it'd cost too much to address it, and a very small group of Republicans who believe climate change is real, humans are causing it, and we should take steps to fix it.
Here's the simple question for Marco Rubio: "Which group do you identify with and why?"