Maybe Sen. Ted Cruz has mastered some of the other skills of kindergarten, like tying his own shoes and coloring in the lines. But according to a crew of scientists, the average kindergartner knows more about climate change than Cruz. Based on Cruz's behavior this week, we're inclined to say the scientists are right.
The Associated Press recently had eight climate and biological scientists grade for scientific accuracy what a dozen top candidates said in debates, interviews and tweets, using a 0 to 100 scale. Cruz scored an average of 6, the lowest score of any of the presidential contenders from either party.
Some people might have been offended by such an evaluation, but Cruz seems to be taking his bad-at-science assessment and running with it. He really outdid himself this week in a congressional hearing that seems to have been set up so that Cruz could remind voters that he is as firmly anti-science and climate change-doubting as they come.
On Tuesday Cruz invited a panel of witnesses to a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing on Space Science and Competitiveness about global warming. “Facts matter, science matters, data matters. That’s what this hearing is about," Cruz said as the hearing opened.
And that was as close as Cruz ever got to talking about the actual facts and science and data behind global warming for the duration of the hearing.
“There has been no significant global warming in the past 18 years,” Cruz said. “Global warming alarmists don’t like these data. They are inconvenient truths, as Al Gore might say. But facts and evidence matters.”
Over the course of the two and a half hour hearing, Cruz and the witnesses he gathered to testify about how climate change is a bogus political sham dug in on that stance. Cruz and witnesses — including super conservative writer and pundit Mark Steyn, who went off on a bizarre rant about how climate change doesn't matter because we need to fight the terrorists, or something — used every argument in the climate denier book to justify their claims that NASA scientists and recognized studies are wrong about the whole thing. Cruz never missed a chance to play up his self-cast role as a climate doubting "heretic," going so far as to compare himself to Galileo "And yet it moves" Galilei at one point.
Along the way Cruz also made some claims that were scientifically and factually not true. This included Cruz saying that the Arctic isn't melting, when sea ice in both the Arctic and the Antarctic have been measurably decreasing for decades. He also said that CO2 isn't so bad because we've had more CO2 in our atmosphere than we do right now and everything was fine, but in reality the last time there was this much CO2 in the atmosphere, humans didn't exist. He also dismissed the fact that 97 percent of scientists agree on climate change science because back in the 1600s 97 percent of scientists believed the sun rotated around the Earth.
Anyway, not everyone at the hearing was on the Cruz climate science denial train.
Retired Rear Admiral David Titley, a meteorologist who previously served as the oceanographer of the Navy and now a meteorology professor at Penn State — the lone witness invited by the Democrats on the subcommittee — pointed out that Cruz's data set charting the global temperatures starts right before 1998, a super warm El Niño year, which makes the warming look less dramatic. Then Titley used his own chart, complete with more than a century's worth of temperature data to show how the warming trend. "I'm just a simple sailor, but it's hard for me to see the pause on that chart. So I think the pause has kind of come and gone," Titley said.
Cruz explained this away by saying that his data was gathered with satellites, but Titley was on it, noting that satellite data measurements have a number of problems so they aren't the most reliable way of gathering temperature information.
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Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, also wasn't having it, scolding the committee for essentially politicizing science and ignoring the reality of a warmer planet. “Miami Beach is essentially ground zero in the United States for what we are seeing as a consequence of global warming — that is, sea level rise,” said Nelson. “The seas have risen in South Florida from 5 to 7 inches. Some of us representing our constituents have to deal with the realities of what we see.”
On top of all of this, Cruz then popped up on NPR on Wednesday for an epic interview with Steve Inskeep. Cruz said pretty much the same stuff that he said at the hearing, with Inskeep pushing back. Then Inskeep asked Cruz about his views on science in general. Cruz dodged and talked about how he cares about single moms waiting tables, and then Inskeep asked his question again and we got this delightful exchange:
Inskeep: "Do you question other science, like evolution?"
Cruz: "Any good scientist questions all science. If you show me a scientist that stops questioning science, I'll show you someone who isn't a scientist. And I'll tell you, Steve. And I'll tell you why this has shifted. Look in the world of global warming. What is the language they use? They call anyone who questions the science - who even points to the satellite data - they call you a, quote, 'denier.' Denier is not the language of science. Denier is the language of religion. It is heretic. You are a blasphemer. It's treated as a theology. But it's about power and money. At the end of the day, it's not complicated. This is liberal politicians who want government power."
Inskeep: "You know that your critics would say that it's about power and money on your side."
Cruz then talked a lot and didn't say much. The best part about all of this is that right now this guy is a serious contender for the GOP presidential nomination. On the upside, at least he doesn't think he can see Russia from his house.