Ted Cruz on climate change: Do his inaccuracies matter to voters?

Republican candidate Ted Cruz has maintained his stance as a climate change denier on the campaign trail. But recent polls of GOP voters suggest that may be the wrong approach, politically.  

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)
In this Jan. 19, 2016, photo, Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas speaks during a campaign stop at the Freedom Country Store in Freedom, N.H. Answering a question this week about climate change during a campaign stop in New Hampshire, Cruz was worlds apart from the scientific consensus that sees a world that is warming because of human activity.

In a field of Republican candidates who deny climate change, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz seems to find himself in a whole other category, say scientists.

Republican 2016 presidential candidates Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, John Kasich and Rand Paul have all made statements that climate change exists. While none of them offer comprehensive policy plans, or even admit that climate change is human-driven, they acknowledge its existence.

But Cruz says climate change does not exist at all. 

“The radical left loves attacking people as anti-science when anyone dares question their computer models on global warming,” Cruz said at an Iowa Agriculture Summit in March of last year. “They scream, ‘you’re anti-science,’ when someone points out, for example, that in the last 17 years, satellite data shows there’s been no warming whatsoever.” 

Carl Mears, senior scientist for Remote Sensing Systems, tells the Associated Press that Cruz is misusing this satellite data. Cruz specifically started his present comparison at 1997, a year with unusually high temperatures because of El Niño weather.

“If you start riding your bike at the top of a big hill, you always go downhill, at least for a while,” explains Mr. Mears.

In an Associated Press survey of Republican candidates in November, eight climate scientists agreed: Ted Cruz deserved the lowest score on his understanding of climate change. 

“This individual understands less about science (and climate change) than the average kindergartner,” Michael Mann, a Pennsylvania State University meteorology professor, told the Associated Press, referring to Cruz’s statements. “That sort of ignorance would be dangerous in a doorman, let alone a president.” 

While campaigning Tuesday at a general store in North Conway, N.H., Cruz was confronted by local residents about his climate change beliefs.

I see it first-hand here in the valley,” snowboard instructor Sean Carney told Cruz. “We’re a very climate-dependent economy with skiing and tourism. This year has been a banner year for bad snow. The restaurants around here are feeling it with low numbers. The hotels are feeling it.” 

A 2012 report by the University of New Hampshire found that the state’s skiing industry loses 17 percent of visitors when there is little snow.  

“In 20 years, we’ll see if the same kind of community exists around here,” Carney told Cruz. “I’m not sure it will.” 

Carney then asked Cruz why he continues to deny the science of climate change when the Pentagon recently released a report confirming it as an “urgent and growing” national security threat. 

“You ask why I don’t follow a study from the Pentagon? The Obama Pentagon is hopelessly politicized and partisan,” replied Cruz. Carney tried to ask a follow-up question on Cruz’s response, but the GOP candidate told the ski instructor: “I’m not going to engage in a debate.” 

Will Cruz witness backlash from blowing off voters’ climate change concerns? Possibly. 

In a November New York Times/CBS News poll voters were asked: “When a trade-off has to be made, which is more important to you – stimulating the economy or protecting the environment?” 

Some 54 percent of respondents picked the environment, and 34 percent picked the economy. 

And even Republican-only polls suggest Cruz may be taking a gamble on voters’ climate change interest. A 2013 Yale survey found that 52 percent of Republicans believe climate change is happening. 

And a fall 2015 poll by the University of Texas at Austin found that 59 percent of Republicans agree climate change is occurring, up from 49 percent a year before.

“There’s an unfair narrative that only liberals seem to care about having clean air and clean water,” James Dozier, executive director of Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, told Yale Climate Connections. Dozier’s group has conducted similar surveys of Republican voters, finding that more than half want the government to reduce climate-warming gases like carbon dioxide. 

He adds, “Regardless of how Republicans feel about the issue of climate change, they’re still more likely to support candidates that support clean energy plans that diversify our sources of energy, that include wind, solar, hydropower, nuclear.”

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