A new crop of anti-climate governor candidates

Brad Johnson highlights four gubernatorial races which could shut down the clean energy revolution in the Midwest.

In Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Wyoming, four Democratic governors who have supported clean energy may be replaced by Republicans who have expressed fealty to big oil. The Republican candidates “” Terry Branstad in Iowa, Sen. Sam Brownback in Kansas, Rep. Mary Fallin in Oklahoma, and Matt Mead in Wyoming “” hold commanding leads in the polls over their Democratic opponents. The Republicans mock global warming as a conspiracy, doubt that it is caused by manmade pollution, and promote the expansion of the coal and oil industries in their states.

The heartland of America is under extreme threat from the destructive power of global warming, including increasingly frequent catastrophic storms, heat waves, and drought. Furthermore, by denying the opportunity of clean energy jobs, these potential governors risk turning their states into economic wastelands.


Terry BranstadFormer governor Terry Branstad is leading Gov. Chet Culver (D-IA) in the race to run Iowa’s government. Remarkably, even though Iowa is increasingly devastated by catastrophic floods, Branstad’s only public policy position on global warming pollution is:

– To “wholeheartedly” support a coal-fired power plant opposed by NASA scientist Jim Hansen because it would emit 5.9 million tons of carbon dioxide each year, and

– To support the construction of a South Dakota oil refinery near the Iowa border that will emit 19 million tons of carbon dioxide each year.

Furthermore, Branstad has attacked Culver’s $875 million flood recovery plan, falsely claiming “it saddled Iowans with excessive debt.”


Sam BrownbackSen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) is positioned to take the seat formerly held by climate champion Kathleen Sibelius. Under Gov. Sibelius, Kansas fought against coal pollution. Her successor Mark Parkinson established a renewable electricity standard but permitted a coal plant expansion.

Although Brownback said in 2007 that “we need to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere,” he has since embraced radical conspiracy theories about climate science. Last December, he embraced the Climategate smear campaign:

The recent disclosure of the manipulation of scientific evidence by climate researchers is exactly the kind of important information that needs to be brought to light. The emails and documents recently disclosed paint an alarming picture of the state of climate research. In the emails that have been disclosed we’ve seen evidence of manipulation, efforts to avoid freedom of act information requests, abuse of the peer review process and a research process that that is driven more by a political agenda than a quest for truth. [Brownback, DeMint, Ensign, Isakson, Vitter, and Wicker, 12/8/09]

Although Brownback is a supporter of a federal renewable electricity standard, he called Obama’s climate plan “one of the worst ideas to come along in a long time,” and his gubernatorial campaign is heavily supported by Kansas-based Koch Industries, the right-wing pollution conglomerate that directs right-wing global warming denial. Over his career, Brownback has received about $200,000 from the Koch brothers in campaign contributions.

Unlike Brownback, Democratic candidate Tom Holland is “not questioning the science. We need to take this subject seriously.”


Mary FallinRep. Mary Fallin (R-OK) has a dominant lead over Democratic Lt. Gov. Jari Askins. Fallin has mocked the national security threat of climate change:

Protecting our nation should be a number one priority. Does leadership really think that our surveillance satellites should be aimed at polar ice caps and not terror cells, and that spies should be investigating global warming? Congress must adequately fund our intelligence operations. If we don’t, we may need to be more concerned about global warming in the U.S. caused by a nuclear attack in our own back yard. [Rep. Fallin, 5/9/07]

Fallin has called climate legislation “entirely unnecessary.” Fallin signed the Americans for Prosperity No Climate Tax pledge and has been endorsed by global warming deniers Sarah Palin and Sen. Jim Inhofe. She received $5000 from Koch Industries in campaign contributions.

Democratic Gov. Brad Henry signed a renewable energy standard that also promotes natural gas this year. Fallin’s position: “My goal as governor would be to stimulate the oil and gas industry in the state and support the Legislature for incentives for oil and gas production.”


Matt MeadIn Wyoming, Republican millionaire Matt Mead holds a commanding lead over Leslie Petersen to replace Democratic governor Dave Freudenthal. Mead is a proud global warming denier:

I am unconvinced that climate change is man-made, but I do recognize we may face challenges presented by those who propose and believe they can change our climate by law with ill-thought-out policy like cap and trade (the latest version of which is the Senate Climate Bill, S. 1733, unveiled May 12th). [Mead for Governor]

We have been very blessed for many, many years to have the energy industry here in Wyoming,” Mead said in June at an energy policy debate. As a U.S. Attorney under George W. Bush, Mead defended Koch Industries in a lawsuit that alleged massive natural gas royalties fraud by the company.

Petersen, by contrast, says Wyoming will have to do something about global warming “whether we believe it or not.”

— Brad Johnson, in a Wonk Room cross-post.

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23 Responses to A new crop of anti-climate governor candidates

  1. Colorado Bob says:

    ScienceDaily (Oct. 12, 2010) — The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s Bocas del Toro Research Station and Galeta Point Marine Laboratory are reporting an anomalous sea temperature rise and a major coral bleaching event in the western Caribbean.

  2. Esop says:

    This is the official party line, obviously.
    With the current destabilized climate, an AGW induced heatwave like the one that devastated Russia could settle over the Midwest next summer. That could mean big trouble for the GOP. The Russians flipped 180 degrees on their opinion of AGW.

  3. Peter M says:

    From what climate models suggest, the heartland could very well become semi arid to arid by the mid 2020’s.

    Oklahoma is perhaps the most vulnerable state- with drought and rising heat- temperatures exceeding 90 degrees for the majority of the summer- and 100 degree weather 20-30 days.

    Kansas is as vulnerable as Oklahoma- its vast wheat-fields will become barren by 2025.

    Iowa is facing drought and increased heat from its mid latitude continental position- with crop failure near the states to the south.

    Wyoming- basically high plain,

  4. Peter M says:


    Wyoming- Mountain, will see less snow- and runoff into the Intermontaine regions west of the Rockies, drought in the high plains to the east- will present near desert conditions.

    It amazes me of the short term thinking of the republican party- they surely realize that once the adverse climate change conditions begin to really effect the mid latitude continental locations of these states – the climate outcomes will begin to resemble the events of Continental Russia this past summer- only worse- with more aridity and prolonged heat-

  5. mike roddy says:

    This is especially sad in the case of Kansas, where Sibelius had shown such courage.

    The counterrevolution is well under way. Not sure how you fight stupidity and greed, but shaming them may be a good way to start.

  6. Lewis C says:

    Esop at 2 –

    It would be nice to assume that US Democrats, led by the president, are waiting for a Pearl Harbour event by which to see the GOP’s corrupt denial discredited and rejected by the public, but there are several items undermining this view.

    First, there has been no public education effort at all by the Whitehouse. Such a program will take time to ramp up, and a lot of time to actually inform people of the degree of threat and of the requisite stringent policies. This could not be done fast without either affirming denial and/or generating panic.

    Second, the Democrats are so tardy on the climate issue that they’ll be exposed to the charge of ‘failure to warn and to initiate action’ once a major climate destabilization event impacts ordinary Americans en masse. That failure will diminish any gains from such an event.

    Third, America has already had its Pearl Harbour event – in the wreck of New Orleans – and Democrats failed to identify it by stating publicly that ‘while no weather event can be attributed solely to climate destabilization, Hurricane Katrina increased in power from a minor to a major event in unprecedentedly short period, due to the unprecedentedly high GOM sea temperature’. The fact that it hit a city of the ‘wrong’ colour for easy promotion as a national climate event was no excuse for their failure on this critical issue.

    When the Whitehouse decides it wants to take action on climate, we’ll see a change – until then, it seems content to give away the farm in service of its international priorities.



  7. It is unbelievable that in the face of the hottest summer in the hottest year in the hottest decade on record, climate change deniers continue with their pseudo-science and fact manipulations. The house is on fire and climate change deniers are asking “what’s for dinner?” at the global barbeque.

  8. Peter M says:


    the WH still is still playing ‘centrist’ political MO- whatever that means- when the harsh realities of AGW hit this country- the element of politics- with climate change will be mostly shattered.

    Unfortunately, AGW right now is still considered a radical leftist ‘intellectual’ ‘Un-American idea- that the WH will not support-

  9. Robert Nagle says:

    I realize that the article is spotlighting a specific region, but we must not forget the governor of Texas Rick Perry, state with the largest amount of GHG emissions. Unfortunately in Texas climate change is not even on the political radar (aside from the fact that Rick Perry accepted a $250,000 donation from BP to build the governor’s mansion).

    Here’s a summary from my blogpost:

    1. Rick Perry falsely claimed that climate change legislation would cost the typical Texas household $1200 per year. In fact, CBO and EIA estimate the cost to taxpayers at $180 per household (and potential economics benefits to Texans run to about $100 per household. (More). He directed his Attorney General to sue the US government for its EPA CO2 endangerment finding – even though the Texas climate expert Perry appointed strongly objected to this action. (I’ve read the Petition (PDF) to the EPA; its scientific basis is laughable).

    2. Rick Perry, in refusing to implement any state plan to regulate greenhouse gases, has prevented Texas from getting early credit for 42 million tons of emission credits resulting from renewable energy. Because Texas did not provide a plan when EPA asked for one, future EPA rules may not take this into account. One environmental group claims that this delay in coming up with a plan may cost Texans billions of dollars (Source).

    3. Rick Perry has praised the work of major denialist Sen Inhofe and according to his policy analyst “is not convinced” that global warming is a threat. (Source). Asked for elaboration on the scientists who Perry said are abandoning the “global warming bandwagon,” his office listed two dozen recent articles, almost none about scientists. They range from calls for Gore to lose his Academy Award to a posting from the Tehran Times (“Iran’s leading international daily”) stating that Gore doesn’t deserve the Nobel Peace Prize because as a senator he voted to authorize the first Gulf War. Despite the fact that almost every scientific body have endorsed the connection between CO2 and global warming (source) , Perry has continued to imply that the science is unsettled and wrongly states that Climategate casts doubt on this conclusion (source). In fact, the allegations of impropriety from ClimateChange are false, and even if they were true, it would not undermine the basic conclusion that CO2 is responsible for a large part of global warming (Source).

    4. Rick Perry tried to fast-track the approval process of 11 coal plants for Texas, something Bill White played a part in opposing (more).

  10. George Ennis says:

    Comment # 2

    Actually even if there are extreme weather events over the next 4 years I seriously doubt it will spell trouble for the GOP. How many more extreme weather events do you believe will actually tip the scale against the GOP and their climate change denial mantra?

    I think the only ones who will be in trouble are the voters who put them in office. Unfortunately many of these same voters will cling to their anti-science screed and the politicians who reflect that viewpoint right to the bitter end. For many others they will in the typically amnesiac state of most voters just adapt their world views to accommodate extreme weather events as the new normal in weather.

  11. Mimikatz says:

    I do not think these people can be shamed. I think that it is imoportant to winnow down a few (less than 10) things that reasonably can happen near term, that is within 4-6 years, the term of most of these people, as sort of “benchmarks” that is this is happening, the climate models are on target and we should take seriously the projections in the NOAA report and others.

    Examples are:

    The cuurent coral bleaching event
    A new Arctic summer ice minimum in 2012 or 2013, Ice-free Arctic in summer by 2016
    400 ppm CO2 by 2016
    Average temps go up by a degree or two by 2016, with more heatwaves
    Hurricane and flood projections
    Greenland ice sheets accelerate melting 2016? 2020? One study says it starts at 400 ppm, which is 2016 at current rates.

    Once agreed to, these then need to be publicized so that as (if) each one is reached, it can be demonstrated as evidence that we need to get cracking so that the mid-term (2040-2050) and longer-term threats like seriously melting ice sheets, increase of 11 degrees F, and no corn in Kansas by 2100 etc aren’t realized.

    I don’t think shame works but there is a middle group of people who are either already persuaded or persuadable, plus some of the media. One day the GOP is going to be reviled for what they have done, but that day is a ways off. We need to be building the case now in terms people can understand and see near term.

  12. Peter M says:

    George 10

    Crop failures, fires, smog, locusts, water shortages can do much to change the minds of even the most brain dead climate change ignorant voter. Look what happen in Russia this summer- the populace dying like flies, struggling to breath, wheat fields in the Kuban drying up- even there the people and Government had a quick wake up call-

    judging from the geographic latitudes of these states- compared to the different sun angle of Russia at mid summer- what could happen in our farm belt and great plains will make events in the Continental Eurasian look tame.

  13. Andy says:

    The real issue here is not what these candidates are saying…candidates will say whatever they think will get them elected. The real issue is that these anti-science, conspiracy-theory arguments are getting traction with a significant fraction of the electorate. Why is that?

    I think it’s because the nation is grieving, and this no-nothing narrative fits right into the stages of grief. CP readers have been processing the implications of climate change and other boundaries on human society and US power for a long time, and we’ve reached the final stage of acceptance, but that’s not the case for many Americans. As I nation I think we are grieving the loss of (1) the promise of an ever-expanding economic future, (2) American exceptionalism, (3) a life where most of us can be assured of the basics without struggle, (4) our international prestige and economic power, and (5) access to ecosystem services (like a livable climate) without having to pay for them.

    The first stages of grief are denial and anger, and we’re seeing plenty of that, made ever more pointed by the rampant racism that Obama’s election and leadership has brought to the surface. The Democrats in office are bearing the brunt of this, and nobody wants to hear the truth. This is not only evidenced in the climate debate, but also by the desire for less taxes with more services and the unwillingness to grapple with liabilities for state and local governments represented by unfunded retiree health care benefits.

    Once we get through denial and anger comes bargaining, and we’ll get to see people suggest half-ass solutions that are essentially attempts to bargain with Mother Nature. All the while, extreme weather events will send these denialist Governors to DC with their hat in hand for disaster relief. I’m beginning to think that we have no choice but to reach for the low hanging fruit (energy efficiency, killing old coal plants), while we wait for the nation to process its grief.

  14. Michael Tucker says:

    These candidates “hold commanding leads in the polls over their Democratic opponents.” because that is what the people of those states want. The voters are making the choice and the candidates reflect their opinions. This illustrates the great gulf that exists between the polls that show “overwhelming support for comprehensive clean energy legislation that includes carbon pollution reductions.” and the election polling. We will see what happens in November but I think that many in the US would like to table the climate debate for awhile no matter how unwise and potentially destructive to our future that might be.

    Leslie Petersen, Wyoming Democratic candidate for governor, says Wyoming will have to do something about global warming “whether we believe it or not.” Not the US will have to do something but, if and when Wyoming voters acknowledge the problem, then the state of Wyoming will have to do something. As has been the case with other states, when the population of a given state finally recognizes the problem they eventually begin to make changes. It is a slow process and it guarantees that we will see significant, 2 degrees Celsius or more, warming before we begin to address GHG emissions in a serious way. I remember reading an article in 2008 where Steven Schneider pessimistically predicted that, in light of the political climate at the time, we would probably get to 450 ppm or even 550 ppm of CO2 before the our national government, and the governments of other nations, begin to take serious action. This was before the email theft and the ridiculous controversy that still exists today. Sadly I think Dr Schneider was right.

  15. Some European says:

    What I wrote was supposing that worst case scenarios continue to unfold.
    In the best case, there might still be a probability that there will be sone kind of stable civilization and that they spend their old age in prison. So, some of them might actually have longer to live.

  16. mike roddy says:


    I’m fine with your approach too. When I talked about shaming the deniers, I meant in the eyes of the public, since they themselves are obviously hopeless.

    Rational arguments and citations of climate events are helpful, but the deniers are bought off, and spouting phony science. Humiliating them is also a good tactic, in my opinion, especially since that kind of message is not difficult to support with facts.

  17. richard pauli says:

    Mimikatz may be right on target. Readers might want to see prognostications for the next 2 to 10 years. So much is inevitable. People do not want to read climate models and scenarios – but rather want predictions. CP might as well make predictions and attach the CP name to such a list.

    Besides, the progressively destabilizing climate events will not be influenced by near-term political events – Political events today can only have climate influence that will be felt decades from now.

    Joe, thanks for hosting this discussion. I hope you can put prognostication posting it on the publishing to-do list. Maybe a Jan 1st event?

  18. Wit's End says:

    Mimikatz, an addition to the list: 50% of trees that were alive in 2008 will be stone dead and leafless by the end of next August from ozone poisoning. That’s a conservative prediction. Don’t believe me? Go look at a tree. No only are their leaves and needles shriveled and falling off prematurely, their bark is falling off too.

    Crop yields will be down by a similar percentage, and not just from extreme weather – from air pollution.

    If the prospect of ecosystem collapse followed by imminent starvation won’t motivate people to conserve and switch to clean energy, I guess nothing will.

    Andy at 13, well said!

  19. Wit's End says:

    Forgot the link! Interesting article about legal fight between states over EPA regulations, in the NYT:

  20. Scrooge says:

    Wasn’t NE a dessert 6000 years ago? Looks like it won’t take much more for crop failures. IMO it will probably become real with a heatwave inland in the gulf coast states. High temps with high dewpoints could result in body counts that rival what happend in Russia this year and Europe a few years ago.

  21. Rob Jones says:

    The indescribable sadness and frustration that I feel towards these men of wealth and power.
    Has someone promised them a place upon a star ark for their treachery towards humanity?
    What is the point of money when the very place that you can spend it is under threat? Do these people have so little vision?

  22. catman306 says:

    Perhaps this new crop of Governors has been genetically modified. Something seems to have gone wrong. Or does Koch control Monsanto, too?

  23. Chris Dragon says:

    Wit’s End, what is your source for “50% of trees that were alive in 2008 will be stone dead and leafless by the end of next August from ozone poisoning”? I found research like at that suggests there’s been a 7% reduction in biomass since the late 1800 that is headed towards a 17% reduction by the end of this century, but that’s nothing close to 50% reduction in a few months.