A Republican lawmaker from Florida dipped his feet deeper into climate denial on Monday, saying it is “foolish” to believe humans can cause global warming, and justifying his logic with a strange comparison to dinosaur extinction.
MSNBC host Richard Lui asked Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) if he was concerned about the fact that voters tend to believe scientists on the issue of climate change. Miller replied by saying scientists were not in agreement, and that the climate has been naturally changing for millions of years. Lui pressed:
Lui: Does this concern you though, when you look at 2014 and 2016?
Miller: I’m concerned with the truth. And the truth is, climate has been changing for a long time. They call it global warming, global cooling — now everybody wants to call it climate change. Yes, the climate is changing. But it has been doing that for centuries. And for us to say that it is a settled argument right now I think, again, is a foolish argument to make, because there are scientists on both sides of the issue that say that’s it’s not settled.
While Miller is correct that there are scientists who believe humans do not cause climate change, the amount of scientists who believe that are roughly equivalent to the amount who believe that cigarettes don’t kill, and that the universe is not 13.8 billion years old. The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change is a massive global effort to compile and analyze climate research by scientists and experts around the world. It found that there is a 95 percent likelihood that human activities drove 74 percent of the observed global warming since 1950. A comprehensive analysis of peer-reviewed research shows a 97 percent consensus among scientists that humans drive global warming.
Miller told Liu that he agreed the climate was changing, but said that he didn’t agree with the consensus that man was the cause.
Miller: It changes. It gets hot, it gets cold. It’s done it for as long as we have measured the climate.
Liu: But man-made, isn’t that the question?
Miller: Then why did the dinosaurs go extinct? Were there men that were causing — were there cars running around at that point, that were causing global warming? No. The climate has changed since earth was created.
While the implication that natural changes in the earth’s climate caused dinosaur extinction is a new one to most people, the argument that “the climate has always changed” is not, and has been thoroughly debunked by peer-reviewed research. While no scientist disputes that the climate has changed in the past, the issue is that heat-trapping greenhouse gases are forcing it to change faster and differently than it would without them. The argument is, essentially, a non-sequitur.
Miller’s home state of Florida also happens to be one of the places in the United States that is most vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change. Projections of sea-level rise due to climate change show Miami faring worse than any other U.S. city except New Orleans. That finding was parroted by The National Climate Assessment, which singled out Southeast Florida as a region particularly vulnerable to sea level rise, one where “just inches of sea level rise will impair the capacity of stormwater drainage systems to empty into the ocean.”
Still, this isn’t the first time Miller has implied that he knows better than a near-unanimous field of scientific studies. As first reported by Buzzfeed, Miller in August told a group of voters that climate changed because of the way God formed the planet, and not because of carbon emissions.
“Our climate will continue to change because of the way God formed the earth,” he said at the time.
Despite the overwhelming scientific consensus and high costs to taxpayers, there are still an overwhelming number of elected officials in Congress who refuse to accept that climate change is happening. More than 56 percent — 133 members — of the current Republican caucus in the House of Representatives deny the basic tenets of climate science, according to a Center for American Progress Action Fund analysis of public statements indicating questioning or flat-out rejection that climate change is real and caused by humans.
Climate denial in the House can often be directly correlated with campaign contributions taken from the fossil fuel industry. The 133 climate deniers in the House have taken $36,318,451 in dirty energy contributions, while the 293 voting members who haven’t denied the science have only taken $23,502,845 in career contributions. On average, House deniers took $273,071 each from dirty energy, while other members took $80,214 each.
However, as voters increasingly indicate that they are more likely to support candidates who accept human-caused climate change, the arguments against accepting the science have becoming more creative in recent months. Instead of outright denial, many prominent Republicans are refusing to talk about it on the grounds that they’re not qualified as scientists — a seemingly effective way for politicians to avoid talking about climate change while still getting to fight against any regulation to stop it.
Actual climate scientists have called the tactic irresponsible, noting that credible scientific information is readily available for policymakers whenever they decide to learn.