On Tuesday, all four Republican candidates vying for North Carolina’s Senate seat were asked if climate change is a fact. All four said no.
It was the first televised debate of the primary campaign, and featured four candidates: State House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-NC), who is leading in funding and in the polls; physician Greg Brannon, a Tea Party member and Tillis’ main rival; Charlotte pastor Mark Harris; and nurse practitioner Heather Grant. It was the first of three scheduled debates, after which a primary election on May 6 will decide which of the four will face off against incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) in the fall.
“Is climate change a fact?” the moderator asked in the video, which was posted by Buzzfeed. The questioned produced a brief flurry of laughter from the audience as well as several repressed snickers from the candidates. All four then followed with a curt “no” — though Brannon did append “God controls the climate” to his answer.
At the national level, over 58 percent of Congressional Republicans throughout the House and Senate have gone on record denying that climate change is happening.
North Carolina’s political culture specifically has long had problems with climate and environmental issues. In 2012, the state legislature banned officials from using sea level rise predictions in designing rules for coastal development. Meanwhile, Governor Pat McCrory worked 28 years for Duke Energy and received hefty financial support from the company during his campaign. Duke runs seven coal-fired power plants in the state, along with over 30 coal ash slurry ponds. Those ponds have been the subject of an ongoing lawsuit, with environmental groups charging that poor safeguards and lax oversight have allowed the coal ash slurry to pollute North Carolina’s drinking water.
A massive new spill from one of Duke’s ponds earlier this year generated renewed scrutiny of McCrory’s relationship with Duke, and sparked a federal investigation into whether the state’s environmental regulator — the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources — failed in its duty to properly oversee Duke’s activities.