The “I’m not a scientist” chorus has found a dissenter.
In recent months, American politicians from House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) and U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst (R-IA) have all responded to questions about humanity’s role in climate change with some version of “I’m not a scientist” — though this does not prevent them from opposing the policies that would be needed to curb humanity’s carbon emissions.
But Rep. Dan Benishek (R-MI) feels no such reticence.
“The climate may be changing, but I don’t think man is contributing to it,” Benishek told ABC 10’s news director Greg Peterson, according to a Tuesday report from the Michigan news station.
“I could throw some science at you,” Peterson pressed.
“Well, I am a scientist,” Benishek responded. “You know, I believe in peer-reviewed science. But, I don’t see any peer-reviewed science that proves there is man-made catastrophic climate change.”
Benishek is running for re-election in Michigan’s 1st Congressional District, which he first won in 2010. His opponent, Democratic nominee and Army veteran Jerry Cannon, has said he does believe in global warming, according to ABC 10 News.
According to his congressional website, Benishek earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from the University of Michigan back in 1974. He went on to graduate from Wayne State Medical School in 1978, and has since worked as a general surgeon in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and worked part-time at the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain.
Data from the website OpenSecrets shows the oil and gas industry has been Benishek’s third biggest supporter in the 2013-2014 election cycle, having given his campaign $58,550. Leadership PAC’s were his largest supporter, with health professionals just behind. And Follow the Money ranks Benishek’s total haul from the oil and gas industries since 2010 at over $125,000.
As for climate scientists themselves, a recent roundup of peer-reviewed literature in the field found a 97 percent agreement that humanity’s carbon emissions are a major driver of climate change.
The latest report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC) — a massive international effort to synthesized scientific knowledge on climate change from around the world — concluded with 95 percent certainty that the vast majority of the rise in global temperatures observed since the 1950s has been man-made. (Ninety-five percent is the same certainty that scientists assign to the assertion that cigarettes kill.)
The IPCC’s reports also show that humanity can only emit so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere before a global temperature rise beyond 2°C becomes inevitable, and that on our current course we will blow well past that threshold. Past 2°C, most scientists believe we risk climate change on a scale and severity that could be truly catastrophic.