In Alaska Senate Race, A Fierce Competition To Prove Who Knows Less About Climate Science

CREDIT: AP Photo/Ben Margot

Republican candidate for United States Senate Joe Miller speaks during a rally Monday, Nov. 1, 2010, in , Anchorage, Ak.

The tea party-affiliated candidate for Alaska’s open U.S. Senate seat is challenging his Republican primary opponents to “come clean” about their beliefs on man-made climate change, saying he’s the only true skeptic of the bunch.

In a Saturday statement, Senate candidate Joe Miller said his primary opponents — state Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and former natural resources commissioner Dan Sullivan — had “joined with climate change alarmists” to try and regulate greenhouse gas emissions, despite the fact that both men have well-tracked anti-climate histories. Treadwell, for example, is known for openly questioning the validity of climate science, while Sullivan led the charge in the U.S. Supreme Court to strip the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases.

“Clearly, both of my primary opponents have joined with climate change alarmists to push for top-down federal regulation,” Miller said. “It’s unclear how empowering the federal government to control even more of our economy, on the authority of dubious scientific claims, comports with free-market economics and Constitutional liberty.”

Sullivan’s position on the reality of human-caused climate change has been dubious at best. But Miller nonetheless called him out, saying he “unequivocally accepted the premise that climate change is man-caused and embraced numerous mitigation strategies: including a national goal of steep reductions in the consumption of fossil fuels.”

Treadwell, he said, has voiced support of “a similar agenda,” proven by the fact that he once testified before the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs in 2009 touting a plan to “us[e] cleaner fuels and methods to avoid emissions of soot, black carbon which promotes Arctic warming.”

According to Miller, there are “good reasons” to doubt that humans are causing climate change. Those reasons, he said, include a Fox News story last year on data that showed a 60 percent increase in Arctic sea ice between 2012-2013; a Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks study finding that the average temperature in Alaska declined by 2.34 degrees between 2000-2010; and a CNS news article about a Canadian evolutionary biologist who wrote a blog post claiming Arctic polar bears could be threatened by too much — not too little — sea ice.

Of course, as Skeptical Science notes, a one-year growth in sea ice is largely irrelevant to a long-term melting trend; The Geophysical Institute’s study specifically notes that the findings represented a “temporary variation” and that “in general, the temperature has increased in Alaska since instrumental records are available,”; And despite the points made by Dr. Crockford in her polar bear blog post, the majority of peer-reviewed scientific articles on the subject provide that early melting of summer sea ice plays a large factor in the bears’ endangerment.

In addition, the National Climate Assessment put forth by the White House last week referred to Alaska as “ground zero for climate change,” warming more than twice as fast as the rest of the country, with a statewide average annual air temperature increasing by 3 degrees and average winter temperature by 6 degrees.

Still, Miller — who also ran for Senate in 2010 but lost to write-in candidate Lisa Murkowski — called the science behind those claims “dubious,” and said it would be “unclear” how letting the federal government regulate emissions under the basis of that science would “comport with free-market economics and Constitutional liberty.”

Currently, Miller is trailing both Treadwell and Sullivan in the polls for the Republican nomination, the primary for which is scheduled for August 19. The Democratic opponent for the Senate seat is incumbent Senator Mark Begich, who Miller also recently called out for “embracing” climate science.

“Apparently, our junior senator is unaware that there are good reasons to doubt the alarmists’ conclusions,” Miller said, citing the same three articles.

Still, even Begich is more of a moderate when it comes to regulating heat-trapping emissions. Though he acknowledges global warming is real and has outwardly supported a cap on greenhouse gas emissions, he has said he is more concerned about the fiscal cost of action than the physical cost of inaction.

The sentiment is in line with his record, as Begich has been one of a small group of Democrats to vote with Republican senators to prohibit the regulation of greenhouse gases from certain sources. He has also declared support for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and allowing horizontal drilling into Alaska’s Coastal Plain.