Why a climate change denier will almost certainly win Tuesday's GOP primary.
Jeremy SchulmanFeb. 8, 2016 7:00 AM
At a campaign stop in Henniker, New Hampshire, last week, Ted Cruz was asked what he'd do as president to combat climate change. Cruz's answer—an eight-minute rant that you can watch below—was essentially that he would do nothing—because global warming isn't happening. It's "the perfect pseudoscientific theory" to justify liberal politicians' quest to expand "government power over the American citizenry," he said.
"It's almost a litmus test in the Republican Party that you have to reject climate science."
New Hampshire is a famously moderate swing state. Fifty-five percent of the state's residents believe that humans are warming the planet, according to polling by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. Kelly Ayotte, New Hampshire's Republican US senator, agrees, and she recently bucked her party by supporting President Barack Obama's new regulations restricting power plant emissions. Since 2009, New Hampshire has been part of a regional cap-and-trade program designed to limit carbon pollution.
So will Trump, Rubio, and Cruz's extreme views on climate hurt them in New Hampshire? Probably not, at least not among the voters who will likely decide Tuesday's primary. Ayotte's position on the issue may align with the state as a whole, but among Republican voters climate change denial is extremely common.
"Rejecting climate science is pretty much mainstream" within the New Hampshire GOP, says Lawrence Hamilton, a University of New Hampshire sociologist who studies environmental public opinion. "It's almost a litmus test in the Republican Party that you have to reject climate science."
Take a look at the chart below, which shows data compiled by Hamilton and his colleagues as part of the University of New Hampshire's Granite State Poll. The orange line represents self-identified tea party supporters in the state, and the red line represents non-tea-party Republicans. The results are pretty striking. Even among the state's non-tea-party Republicans, only about 40 percent believe that climate change is mainly caused by human activity, according to the most recent survey. And among tea party supporters—who, according to exit polling, made up 51 percent of voters in the state's 2012 GOP primary—that number drops below 30 percent.
Not only are New Hampshire's Republican voters skeptical of climate science, many of them say [PDF] they simply don't trust what scientists say about global warming (or vaccines, for that matter). This attitude tracks closely with the anti-scientist rhetoric employed by a number of Republican politicians. Trump, for instance, once said that "the scientists are having a lot of fun" perpetrating the climate "hoax."
Back in September, the University of New Hampshire asked supporters of each of the presidential candidates whether they believed humans were causing climate change. Because the GOP field is so splintered, many of the sample sizes for this question were small, which means the margins of error were enormous. Still, the chart below gives you some sense of the situation. At the time, Trump and Fiorina were the two front-runners in the state, and roughly a third of their supporters said they accepted the scientific consensus on climate change. The rest of the Republicans were all polling in the single digits. Kasich was the only Republican with a majority of supporters saying they believed in human-caused global warming. (According to Hamilton, Cruz was polling so poorly at the time that any similar analysis of his voters wouldn't be very meaningful.) Meanwhile, the vast majority of Hillary Clinton's and Bernie Sanders' supporters embraced the scientific consensus.
Here's one final chart from Hamilton's research illustrating just how extreme New Hampshire's GOP voters are when it comes to climate change. The University of New Hampshire asked respondents whether they believed that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere had increased in recent decades. This shouldn't be a controversial issue. Scientists have daily measurements showing that CO2—the primary driver of global warming—has been steadily rising for years. But somehow, fewer than half of those who said they would support Trump in a hypothetical matchup against Sanders agreed with this indisputable scientific fact.
These voters have an "ideological way of knowing that trumps science," said Hamilton.
That's bad news for the climate change debate in this country. But it's very good news for Trump, Rubio, and Cruz.
"Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it," Obama said. "You will be pretty lonely, because you'll be debating our military, most of America's business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it's a problem and intend to solve it."
"Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn't deny Sputnik was up there."
Of course, many of the politicians whom the president was addressing still do want to dispute the science. That includes Ted Cruz, the current Republican presidential front-runner in Iowa. While the Obama administration was busy hashing out the Paris agreement in December, Cruz literally was debating with the US military (the retired oceanographer of the Navy, anyway) on the realities of climate science.
Obama sought to push past these distractions by broadly outlining how he planned to address the problem in his final year in office. "We've got to accelerate the transition away from old, dirtier energy sources," he said. Obama criticized fossil fuel subsidies. He nodded to one of the top priorities of environmental activists when he said he planned to "push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet." And he called for putting "tens of thousands of Americans to work building a 21st-century transportation system."
Still, Obama couldn't resist taking a shot at his Republican critics who reject scientific facts. "Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn't deny Sputnik was up there," he said. "We didn't argue about the science, or shrink our research and development budget. We built a space program almost overnight, and 12 years later, we were walking on the moon."
Obama has made big climate policy promises before. My colleague Tim McDonnell examines the mixed results of proposals the president laid out in his past seven State of the Union speeches in the video below:
Think weapons, air conditioners, and ice cream, for starters.
Jeremy SchulmanDec. 22, 2015 7:00 AM
New York officials tour flood damage in a Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopter in 2011.
Climate change will have some pretty terrifying consequences. Experts have predicted everything from deadly heat waves and devastating floods to falling crop production and even increased political instability and violence. But according to some of the world's biggest companies, these future disasters could also present lucrative business opportunities.
In a remarkable series of documentssubmitted to a London-based nonprofit called CDP, big-name corporations describe global warming as a chance to sell more weapons systems to the military, more air conditioners to sweltering civilians, and more medications to people afflicted by tropical diseases. CDP, which stands for "Carbon Disclosure Project," asks companies all over the world to disclose information about their greenhouse gas emissions and how the changing climate will impact their operations. Each year, thousands of companies send in responses. Below, we've compiled a list of some of the most striking—and, in some cases, disturbing—scenarios laid out by those businesses.
It's important to keep in mind that these companies aren't rooting for catastrophic warming. In the same documents, they outline huge risks that climate change poses to humanity—and to their profits. Many of them have also taken significant steps to reduce their own carbon footprints. Still, the fact that corporations have spent so much time thinking about the business opportunities that could emerge as the world warms underscores just how colossal an effect climate change is going to have on our lives.
Republicans have recently mocked President Barack Obama and Sen. Bernie Sanders for saying climate change poses a national security threat. But Democratic politicians aren't the only ones making this connection. In 2014, the CNA Military Advisory Board, a group of retired US generals and admirals, warned that the impacts of global warming "will serve as catalysts for instability and conflict." Saab, a Swedish defense firm (and former parent company of the struggling automaker), agrees. In its CDP submission, the company cites the CNA report and adds that climate change could "induce changes in natural resources e.g. water, oil etc., which may result in conflicts within already unstable countries" as well as illegal deforestation, fishing, and drug smuggling. Saab sees these dangers as a business opportunity that will result in an "increased market for civil and military security solutions." As an example, the company points to its Erieye Radar System, which "works in a dense hostile electronic warfare environment" and is "capable of identifying friends or foes."
Raytheon, the Massachusetts-based defense contractor, warned in a 2012 CDP document that climate change might "cause humanitarian disasters, contribute to political violence, and undermine weak governments." The company wrote that it expects to see "demand for its military products and services as security concerns may arise as results of droughts, floods, and storm events occur as a result of climate change." Connecticut-based United Technologies Corporation cites arguments that a devastating drought contributed to instability in Syria. The company notes that helicopters made by its Sikorsky business (which has since been sold to Lockheed Martin) were "deployed during population dislocations and humanitarian crises," and that last year it provided support to the US military's efforts to "mitigate population dislocations in Syria." Cobham, a British corporation that manufacturers surveillance systems, stated in a 2013 CDP document that "changes to countries [sic] resources and habitability could increase the need for border surveillance due to population migration."
Security from "social unrest"
G4S provides security for the enormous refugee camps outside Dadaab, Kenya. Many of the camps' residents fled conflict and drought. Jerome Delay/AP
Private security firms also see opportunities in climate change. G4S, a London-based corporation that operates around the globe, told CDP that extreme weather is a potential source of business. The company deployed hundreds of security officers to protect its clients following Hurricane Katrina, and it sent officers throughout the Northeast following Superstorm Sandy. G4S also sees financial opportunities in responding to humanitarian disasters such as droughts and famines in the developing world. The company currently provides security for refugee camps in Kenya that are home to hundreds of thousands of people, including many who have fled conflict and drought. G4S says the United Nations "has projected that we [the planet] will have 50 million environmental refugees." (The United Nations appears to have backed off that particular prediction; according to its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [PDF], "there are no robust global estimates of future displacement.")
Securitas, a Stockholm-based firm that owns the fabled Pinkerton agency, also provided security in the aftermath of Katrina. That company says extreme weather linked to climate change will increase demand for its services "when properties…need to be protected from looting, burglary and social unrest."
Monitoring, Responding to, and Rebuilding From Extreme Weather
According to Raytheon, the possible impacts of climate change—including hurricanes, tornadoes, severe storms, and rising seas—could present opportunities to sell the company's "weather satellites services, radar and sensing technologies, disaster response, homeland security, and emergency response communications, as well as alternative energy technologies." Cobham anticipates opportunities to supply cameras to monitor flash floods, "large antennas" for extreme weather conditions, and emergency communications systems for "areas where severe storms have destroyed communications infrastructure." 3M, the Minnesota-based manufacturing company, says it sells a number of products that can be used to protect buildings during extreme weather and to rebuild after a storm.
One of the most striking climate developments in recent years has been the opening of Arctic shipping lanes that were once obstructed by sea ice year-round. Hanjin, a major South Korean shipping company, acknowledged in a 2014 CDP document that a new polar route would be a "tragic consequence" of climate change. But, the company added, Arctic melting would also have environmental and financial benefits: It would allow the shipping industry to "drastically reduce CO2 emissions and cut transit time by 1/3."
Global warming could have some benefits for companies that specialize in transporting tourists, as well. According to Carnival, "change in mean temperatures could open up new routes and ports" for its cruise ships, while "change in precipitation [might] make some ports more attractive."
Energy companies have long viewed melting Arctic ice as an opportunity to extract once-inaccessible oil and gas. That hasn't worked out well so far. In September, Royal Dutch Shell announced that it was ending its costly Arctic exploration project. But Chevron is still optimistic. "Should the current trend in global warming be sustained, both access to and the economics of Chevron's offshore oil and gas production in the arctic could potentially improve," states the California-based oil company in its CPD disclosure. "The greatest effects will be associated with an extension to the summer operating period which will tend initially to favor access to and the cost of exploration operations in many arctic basins."
In a report last year, a panel co-chaired by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, and former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson warned of risks posed by hotter temperatures:
By the middle of this century, the average American will likely see 27 to 50 days over 95°F each year—two to more than three times the average annual number of 95°F days we've seen over the past 30 years. By the end of this century, this number will likely reach 45 to 96 days over 95°F each year on average.
That's an opportunity for United Technologies, which—in addition to its defense products—makes air conditioning, refrigeration, and energy efficiency systems. "Annually, extreme heat events kill more Americans than any other environmentally related events, and an increase in extreme heart [sic] events as a result of climate change is forecast for many parts of the world," the company states. "UTC believes changes in temperature extremes will result in a need for more energy efficient building and other infrastructure, especially chillers and cooling units…We anticipate this demand to be global, with strong increases in tropical and some temperate zones." According to UTC, "air conditioner sales have increased more than 20% per decade in the developing world 1990 - 2010 in response to increasing temperatures and increasing wealth." UTC believes these trends could lead to $5 billion in new demand over the next two decades. Halliburton sees related opportunities. The oilfield services company states that it could see increased revenue from the additional energy resources needed for "increase[d] cooling and/or heating."
Experts have warned that rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns could reduce crop yields in vulnerable parts of the world, making it difficult to feed a growing population. Biotech companies are racing to develop products that will address this problem. Monsanto, for example, says its products could help farmers "meet increased food needs as available natural resources become more limited." Bayer notes that its crop sciences division is using "chemical and modern plant breeding approaches" to address the agricultural damage expected to be caused by "an increased occurrence of extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, heat, cold and storms."
On the consumer side, the Campbell Soup Company identifies "increasing humanitarian demands" related to climate as a significant opportunity—one that will allow the company to "leverage its key assets to provide relief for such demands." In addition to directly donating money and food to humanitarian causes, Campbell highlights a current program in which one of its brands donates one smoothie to a needy child for every four smoothies that it sells. According to the company, these types of promotions "can result in millions of dollars for the company."
Climate change poses a number of serious public health risks, and the pharmaceutical industry has certainly noticed. Walmart, for instance, believes that it could experience growing demand for prescription medications due to "increases in pollen exposure or climate-change induced medical conditions." (The retail giant is careful to note that it primarily views climate change, which a spokesperson calls an "urgent and pressing challenge," as a risk.)
"Businesses selling these drugs will become more profitable if the diseases spread to more developed and richer countries."
Several drug companies believe that rising temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and worsening extreme weather could increase the spread of tropical diseases that are transmitted by mosquitoes, such as malaria and dengue fever. In its CDP document, Bayer cites one estimate that climate change could result in 40 million to 60 million additional people being exposed [PDF] to these diseases. The company anticipates increased demand for its mosquito nets and other mosquito-control products, especially if malaria spreads to the developed world. GlaxoSmithKline also anticipates that climate change could affect demand for its anti-malarial products and notes that if the company's "sales rose by 1% around £300m [about $446 million] would be added to our turnover." A GSK spokesperson added, however, that the company is developing a malaria vaccine that it would offer to African children at a "not-for-profit price," and that under some scenarios, climate change could actually reduce demand for the company's products.
Novartis,which makes several malaria and dengue drugs, points out that it has provided millions of doses to African health officials at a not-for-profit price. But, the company notes, "businesses selling these drugs will become more profitable if the diseases spread to more developed and richer countries." A number of experts doubt that will happen, at least in the case of malaria. They argue that factors such as economic development and public health infrastructure are far more significant than climate in controlling malaria. Asked for clarification, a Novartis spokesperson stated that higher temperatures and increased extreme weather from climate change could "lead to large floods, social crises and challenges, which may allow vector diseases to spread further." Still, he added, Novartis agrees that malaria is unlikely to spread in the developed world.
Drug companies point to other health threats, as well. GSK warns that changing precipitation patterns and increased extreme weather events could "affect the spread of water-borne diseases" and respiratory and diarrheal illnesses, creating a need for "greater disease prevention and more patient treatments." These problems could be especially serious in the poorest countries, according the GSK spokesperson. In its CDP submission, Mercksays it is researching the negative impacts that higher temperatures could have on vaccines.
Rising temperatures don't just drive demand for air-conditioning units and better vaccines. According Nestlé, they can also boost sales of "refreshing products such as ice creams and bottled water." Nestlé notes that in 2014, Earth experienced its hottest summer on record (until 2015, anyway) and that a number of the company's local brands performed well that year. So how much of an impact does heat have? "Increased demand for bottled water and ice creams as a result of temperature increase can result in additional sales of CHF 100 million per year," says Nestlé. In case you aren't familiar with the exchange rate for Swiss francs, that's about $100 million.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham suspended his presidential campaign on Monday. And just like that, the Republican nomination battle got a little less sane when it comes to climate change.
You might be wondering how that's even possible. After all, the leading Republican candidate—Donald Trump—thinks global warming is a "hoax." Ted Cruz insists the planet hasn't warmed in 18 years. Marco Rubio says he doesn't believe "that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it." Ben Carson argues that there's "no overwhelming science" that people are altering the climate. And Jeb Bush once described himself as a climate "skeptic."
Graham had a very different view. "You don't have to believe that climate change is real," he said during a GOP debate in October. "I have been to the Antarctic. I have been to Alaska. I am not a scientist, and I've got the grades to prove it. But I've talked to the climatologists of the world, and 90 percent of them are telling me the greenhouse gas effect is real, that we're heating up the planet."
Graham has also worked for actual climate action. He once helped draft a cap-and-trade bill designed to limit greenhouse gas emissions (though he eventually abandoned his own legislation.) More recently, however, Graham opposed President Barack Obama's signature EPA regulations that limit power plant emissions. And climate action was in no way central to his campaign for the White House. Instead, he focused largely on hawkish foreign policy proposals and on calling Trump a "race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot."
Still, Graham has been one of the few Republicans with a national platform to articulate a conservative view on climate change that acknowledges both the scientific realities and the obvious need for action. "I just want a solution that would be good for the economy, that doesn't destroy it," he said during that debate.
Graham acknowledged both the scientific realities of climate change and the obvious need for action.
Graham's campaign had been struggling to gain traction. He was averaging just 0.5 percent in the polls, according to Real Clear Politics. He never made it onto the main stage of a GOP debate, and he was even excluded from one of the undercard debates. Now, Graham's few supporters will have to find a new candidate. If they are looking for someone who has a reasonable position on the climate issue, their choices will be pretty limited. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and businesswoman Carly Fiorina all seem to accept the science these days, but they don't want to do much about the problem.
Update: A reader objects to me saying that Kasich seems to accept the science of climate change these days. I was referring to a recent statement Kasich's campaign made to the New York Times that he "believes that climate change is real and that human activity contributes to it." But "contributes" is ambiguous, and—as the reader points out—Kasich said in September: "I don't believe that humans are the primary cause of climate change." That's straight-up climate science denial.
One of the challenges of writing about the Republican candidates' views on science is that many of their statements are confusing and contradictory. It can be tough to pin down exactly where they stand. My colleague James West has actually spent a lot of time doing that in a systematic way. Here's a pretty cool matrix that he came up with:
James West/Climate Desk
As James wrote at the time: "Mapping politicians like this is always a tricky process, and some of our expert readers will no doubt disagree with these conclusions. So tell us what you think."
But somehow, over the course of four hours of Republican debates on Tuesday night, CNN never asked the candidates about the climate deal. The moderators never even bothered to ask about climate change at all. As Rebecca Leber at the New Republic (one of our Climate Desk partners) notes, the only mentions of the issue were short, garbled asides from a few of the candidates about why climate change is a distraction. "The biggest problem this world has today is not President Obama with global warming, which is inconceivable," sputtered Donald Trump.
The CNN debates focused on security and foreign policy. You don't have to be Bernie Sanders—who maintains that global warming is the greatest threat to US national security—to understand why CNN should have asked about the climate. Both Marco Rubio and Chris Christie complained that America's ability to fight ISIS has been degraded because our allies no longer "trust" us. It's hard to imagine that breaking the promises we just made in Paris would do anything to improve that trust. "Every one of America's allies has worked hard to see this deal come to fruition," writes Leber. "How does a Republican president plan on leading the world if he insists we should be the only nation to stand on the sidelines?"
The Task Force also finds that the developed countries, including the United States, have a direct national security interest in helping developing countries and vulnerable populations adapt to unavoidable climate change. Unless developing countries are assisted with adaptation, climate change is likely to affect them in ways that will ultimately have direct impacts on the United States, including on its national security. For examples, as climate change affects resource availability, migratory pressures will steadily grow, potentially intensifying existing sources of conflict.
The task force also included former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman. George Shultz, who served as secretary of state under Ronald Reagan and is reportedly one of Jeb Bush's foreign policy advisers, recently signed on to a statement declaring that "U.S. Security Demands Global Climate Action." According to the statement, "For years, America's intelligence community and armed services have recognized climate change as a threat to U.S. national security—shaping a world that is more unstable, resource-constrained, violent, and disaster-prone."* Another reported Bush adviser, former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, expressed similar views in the foreword to a report about climate threats that was issued by retired US generals and admirals.