Denial of climate change is an article of faith in the Tea Party, according to a New York Times news story.
The news report cited a New York Times/CBS News Poll that found that only 14 percent of Tea Party adherents think global warming is a problem, compared to 49 percent of the rest of the country.
The story quoted two local Tea Party leaders who rejected climate change.
“It’s a flat-out lie,” said Norman Dennison, sharing that he based his position on Rush Limbaugh and the Bible.
Lisa Deaton said global warming is being used to take away the liberty of the people.
“Being a strong Christian,” said Deaton, who opposes climate change legislation, “I cannot help but believe the Lord placed a lot of minerals in our country and it’s not there to destroy us.”
The news story identified two organizations financed by big oil that back Tea Party candidates – Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks.
The most devastating disclosure was that 19 of 20 Republican Senate candidates in heated races expressed doubts about the science of climate change.
The Times’ source was a report from National Journal Magazine, a nonpartisan organization.
In a May report, the National Academies of Science said, “Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for – and in many cases is already affecting – a broad range of human and natural systems.”
But scientific certitude is no match for ideological absurdity, especially when Republican candidates must prove their commitment to the fringe beliefs of organizations backed up by special interests and secret money.
While one should not be surprised at the oddball views of Delaware’s Christine O’Donnell, one should be appalled that California’s Carly Fiorina, a Hewlett Packard executive, who once supported legislation to deal with greenhouse-gas pollution that was advocated by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), has flip-flopped on climate change.
In a pressurized primary, McCain also flip-flopped away from his long-held stance that global warming was a threat. He said the science was “an inexact science.”
McCain’s inexact science is a far cry from calling it a myth, however, as West Virginia’s John Raese did.
“When you look at the scenario here in the state of West Virginia and really the myth, and I say myth, that there is global warming, and then the other myth that man causes that global warming, I think that really differentiates me from other candidates, certainly here at the front table today because I don’t believe in that myth,” said Raese.
Nevada’s Sharron Angle said that she didn’t buy manmade global warming and asserted that it was a “mantra of the left.”
Angle said, “I believe that there’s not sound science to back that [climate change] up.”
Angle sounded a lot like Missouri’s Roy Blunt who said, “There isn’t any real science to say we are altering the climate path of the earth.”
Florida’s Marco Rubio said, “I don’t think there’s the scientific evidence to justify it.”
Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson said, “I absolutely do not believe that the science of man-caused climate change is proven. Not by any stretch of the imagination.”
He said that trying to address climate change was a “fool’s errand.”
Out of 20 Republican Senate candidates in tough races, only one stands publicly with the established science on climate change – Illinois’ Mark Kirk.
Only two years ago, some Republican senators accepted the science of climate change and supported legislation to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, including McCain and Virginia’s John Warner.
“I choose not to debate the science. I accept the fact that we as a country and we as a world need to address this issue,” said Tennessee’s Bob Corker.
Just last year, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham supported a climate change bill.
“[W]e agree that climate change is real and threatens our economy and national security. That is why we are advocating aggressive reductions in our emissions of the carbon gases that cause climate change,” wrote Graham with Sen. John Kerry (D- Mass.).
“We know that sending nearly $800 million a day to sometimes-hostile oil-producing countries threatens our security. In the same way, many scientists warn that failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will lead to global instability and poverty that could put our nation at risk,” they wrote in an op-ed column.
Disbelief in the science of climate change within the Republican Party is not new – Oklahoma’s James Inhofe being the most extreme example.
Nor is it new that Republican senators have been attacked for wanting governmental action to address global warming – as McCain was by James Dobson in 2008.
What appears to be new is that the denial of global warming and the rejection of established science have become litmus tests for the election of Republican senators.
Surely, not all of those on November ballots really believe what they’ve said. Surely, some will back away from what they have said if they are elected.
Here’s the rub, however. Part of being a leader is speaking truth despite opposition to it. Real leaders don’t have to play to the crowd – in this case the toxic blend of angry Tea Partiers and corporate interests opposed to regulation to protect the environment.
The biblical witness warns about playing to the crowd and how the crowd hungers for the easy way.
Paul warned about those who had “itching ears” and wandered “away to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Jesus noted that “no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown” (Luke 4:24). The prophet Isaiah spoke of faithless people who said, “Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions” (Isaiah 30:10).
We are now witnessing 19 Republican Senate candidates who are telling Tea Partiers and special interests what they want to hear. They are not speaking right; they are speaking smooth words of ideological acceptability.
And that’s a failure of leadership.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics.