Trump’s VP Doubts Climate Change

Earth science professor says Mike Pence just “doesn't care”
Evan Lehmann
July 15, 2016
Governor Mike Pence of Indiana
Gage Skidmore/Flickr, CC BY-SA 3.0

It was a winter of record snowfall two years ago when Donald Trump’s reported running mate made a daring comment about climate change.

“We haven’t seen a lot of warming lately,” Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) said during a February interview with Chuck Todd on MSNBC.

It turns out that same year, 2014, would go down as the warmest since records began in 1880. The status was short-lived. The following year would supplant it as having the highest average temperature in the instrumental record, according to NASA.

Pence, a tea party favorite, is seen by many Republicans as someone who would be a calming choice for vice president in Trump’s unconventional candidacy. He would add legislative and executive experience to a party ticket headlined by a television celebrity who has never before run for political office.

Trump was expected to formally announce his choice of running mate this morning but announced last night that he would postpone his plans, citing the “horrible attacks” in Nice, France, that left at least 84 people dead. Authorities said a truck crashed into a crowd of people celebrating Bastille Day.

“Another horrific attack, this time in Nice, France,” Trump tweeted. “Many dead and injured. When will we learn? It’s only getting worse.”

Trump told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren that he had not yet made his “final, final” decision on his running mate but insisted the attack would “absolutely not” have an impact on his choice.

‘WE HAVEN’T SEEN A LOT OF WARMING’

If named, Pence would align with Trump on climate change by seeming to agree with the presumed nominee’s view that rising temperatures may not be happening. He has also questioned whether human activity resulting in the release of greenhouse gases could alter the climate.

“Well, look, I don’t know that that is a resolved issue in science today,” Pence said in the MSNBC interview in 2014, referring to people’s role in warming.

“I know we’re talking about climate change,” he added. “But a few years ago, we were talking about global warming. We haven’t seen a lot of warming lately. I remember back in the ‘70s when we were talking about the coming ice age.”

Republicans are mostly applauding Trump’s potential choice of Pence (E&ENews PM, July 14). They say he could help the campaign with his even temperament, practiced media experience and firm policy grip. His personality won’t compete with Trump’s boisterous persona as, say, other potential running mates like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) might have, observers say.

Other Republicans, however, held hope that Trump’s views on climate change would be expanded to include ideas of reducing emissions by choosing Gingrich, who once advocated for an economywide carbon price.

“Gingrich would reflect more of an openness to big, sometimes bold, ideas, which might include climate change,” said Eli Lehrer, president of the R Street Institute, a conservative think tank that advocates for a revenue-neutral carbon tax. “Pence would be a safer choice in some ways, and I don’t see him as having much of a policy influence either way.”

CHALLENGING THE CLEAN POWER PLAN

As governor, Pence placed Indiana among the leading states to legally challenge the Clean Power Plan, the cornerstone of President Obama’s effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. Pence said the state would not comply with U.S. EPA’s regulation if it survives in court. He later relented and acknowledged that Indiana would bend to federal climate rules (ClimateWire, Feb. 26).

Pence’s opposition to the Clean Power Plan is reminiscent of earlier disagreements over environmental efforts. Pence said on his campaign website during his 2000 House race that the Kyoto Protocol was an attempt by former Vice President Al Gore and environmentalists to raise taxes and centralize government.

“Global warming is a myth. The global warming treaty is a disaster. There, I said it,” according to the web page, discovered by one group that has done opposition research on Pence.

Since then, he has at times taken a softer stance on the science, making some climate experts believe that Pence is genuinely confused by the difficult topic. In 2014, Pence told Todd of MSNBC that “I’m keeping an open mind about the science of all of this.”

Later that same year, he said, “I’m sure reducing CO2 emissions would be a positive thing,” in an interview with Chris Matthews on the same cable news channel.

Still, Pence didn’t accept an offer by 22 climate scientists and other experts located in Indiana to help his administration prepare for the potential impacts of warming.

The experts wrote Pence a letter last year that points to the risks of rising temperatures in Indiana, such as potential agricultural losses from flooding and drought, stresses to municipal water supplies and growing strains to the electrical grid. They asked to be included if the administration conducts an “agency level strategic planning process” to plan for climate change.

They didn’t get a response, said Gabriel Filippelli, a professor of earth sciences at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, who organized the letter.

“I don’t think he is crazy anti-science, anti-climate change. I basically think he doesn’t care,” Filippelli said in an interview. “He was opposing these things because [to him] the science is not settled, not that we’re all fraud scientists, which is at least better than some people.”

Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500

 

July 15, 2016