GOP Governor Candidate: Plan Ahead (But Not For Climate Change)

CREDIT: AP Photo/Brennan Linsley

Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, center, gestures while answering a question, flanked by former state Sen. Mike Kopp, left, and former Rep. Bob Beauprez during a debate of the Colorado Republican gubernatorial hopefuls hosted by 9NEWS, in Denver.

In a televised debate against two of his primary opponents in the race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler criticized Democratic incumbent John Hickenlooper for failing to prepare in advance for natural disasters like the record wildfires and floods that have hit the state in the past year.

“What I do think, though, that deserves criticism is the unwillingness to plan and take steps to prevent tragedies like that and to respond in a way that, that fixes problems rather than just kicks the can down the road,” Gessler said in the debate sponsored by Denver television station KUSA and aired over the weekend. “We need someone who is willing to put together a plan and make a difference so that we can avoid” fires and floods, said Gessler.

Hmmm. Would Gessler be calling for something like a climate action plan? That would certainly make sense, given that there is ample evidence that climate change is driving the increase in the size and severity of wildfires in the West, and that it played a role in the weather system that brought record rainfall to a big swath of the state, causing devastating floods that killed 8 people and caused an estimated $2 billion in property losses.

No he would not.

Last fall, along with some of his fellow GOP gubernatorial candidates, Gessler made it clear he doesn’t think that rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is a problem and that restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions will actually make for more pollution.

“I think there’s been a lot of hysteria surrounding, uh, CO2,” said Gessler then, during a public television debate. “And I think, when you look at, rationally, over the last decade or so, there’s not been a, uh, there’s actually been a reduction here in the United States… and I think the fact of the matter is, when we push out industry, when we hurt our economy, other countries pick up the slack, and pollute more than we ever did.”

That obtuse analysis came just two months after the rains described as “biblical” hit Colorado, dropping nearly a year’s worth of rain on some communities in just a week. Even with Colorado’s history of severe precipitation and flood events, “we’d never seen anything quite like this magnitude over such a large area,” said Matt Kelsch, a hydrometeorologist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “The climate change is detectable.”

Just not to Gessler and his GOP colleagues in the race for governor in Colorado.