Paul Ryan’s Alarming, Mistaken Beliefs About Climate Science

The state of the universe.
Aug. 29 2012 10:53 AM

Paul Ryan Is a Climate Change Denialist

Since entering Congress, he has been striving to perfect his anti-environmental record.

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Ryan’s legislative record is littered with the carcasses of environmental regulations he has attempted to gut. Over the years, Ryan seems to have been striving to perfect his anti-environmental record. According to the League of Conservation Voters, when he was first elected in 1999 he racked up a 27 percent positive rating, which is not great but at least it didn't put him in the top-10 Earth abusers. By the 111th Congress (2009-10) he had brought that down to 13 percent, and the scorecard for the first session of the 112th Congress was down to 3 percent.

Like almost all Republicans, he supports the climate-killing Keystone XL pipeline. Most tellingly, in a stunning attempt to legislate away a scientific conclusion, he voted to repeal the EPA finding that greenhouse gases endanger human health—the basis for EPA regulation of carbon dioxide emissions. Despite increasing evidence of the vulnerability of U.S. agriculture to global warming, he voted to bar the Department of Agriculture from implementing its climate change adaptation plan. It seems Ryan doesn't even like efforts to stimulate improvement in energy efficiency, despite the fact that these would have numerous benefits aside from their contribution to reducing carbon emissions. For example, he voted against the Department of Agriculture energy efficiency loans program, and voted to eliminate funding for the Department of Energy's energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. He even voted to block implementation of energy-efficient lighting standards despite the fact that these were first proposed in the Bush administration, are widely backed by lighting manufacturers, and do not even (as widely believed) ban incandescent light bulbs.

It's not just protection against global-warming pollution that gets Ryan's dander up—he has consistently voted against controls on the forms of pollution that can kill you by more conventional and obvious means. You don't like air pollution from industrial boilers or cement kilns? Too bad: Ryan does, and he has voted to block regulations that would reduce such forms of pollution. How about water pollution from toxic coal ash? Ryan's fine with that. It's hard to find any kind of pollution Ryan doesn't like, at least as long as it has something to do with the interests of the fossil fuel industry.

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With a track record like that, is it any surprise that Paul Ryan is the darling of the denialist crowd? S. Fred Singer, one of the favorite consultants of the Heartland Institute (responsible recently for this billboard) declared Paul Ryan to be "the perfect anti-Gore." Marc Morano, the Swift Boat mastermind who was point man for Sen. James Inhofe's jihad against climate science before setting up his own denial shop at ClimateDepot, has even more lavish praise for Ryan: “Rep. Paul Ryan has an awesome energy & climate record. It will be so refreshing to have a VP candidate who actually understands how warmists like James Hansen, Michael Oppenheimer, Michael Mann, Phil Jones, & Kevin Trenberth have perverted science and turned it into pure politics." What’s more, “According to his voting record on energy and oil, Ryan is about as conservative as they come.”

So yes, there can no longer be any doubt about what a Romney/Ryan victory would mean for those of us would like to preserve some chance that our descendants will be able to enjoy the same equable climate of the past 10,000 years, under which the rise of civilization was nurtured. There will be no Nixon-in-China moment, no silver lining; Christmas will bring only a lump of coal in the stocking, and we will have to suck on that.

Raymond T. Pierrehumbert is the Louis Block professor in geophysical sciences at the University of Chicago and the King Carl XVI Gustaf chairman in environmental science at Stockholms Universitet.

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