At first glance, newly-declared Presidential candidate Rand Paul might seem like a breath of fresh air on climate change — at least compared to most other Republicans.
The junior Senator from Kentucky was, after all, one of only 15 GOP Senators who voted for an amendment earlier this year stating climate change is real and that humans contribute to it. What’s more, he told Bill Maher last year that he’s not necessarily against regulation of carbon dioxide, the main driver of human-caused warming.
On these matters, Paul’s stances are certainly strategic. The only other declared Republican Presidential candidate is essentially a climate conspiracy theorist, while the two others expected to run are aggressively skeptical of the overwhelming body of scientific literature that says human-caused carbon emissions drive climate change.
So, it’s safe to say that none of these guys would take action to fight climate change as President — except maybe, just maybe, Rand Paul. Right?
Unfortunately, there is little reason to believe Paul would ever do such a thing. For one, his proclamation via Senate vote that humans do contribute to climate change was directly contradicted by a vote he made a couple months later on a resolution stating Congress should cut carbon pollution. Indeed, Paul has spoken against the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, deeming them “illegal” and vowing to repeal them.
It’s also questionable whether Paul actually believes the amendment he voted for in January stating humans cause climate change, as it’s contradictory to almost every other time he’s spoken in public about the phenomenon. Last year, he said in an interview that he is “not sure anybody exactly knows why” global warming is happening. He then called the idea that humans cause climate change “alarmist stuff,” explaining that the theory agreed upon by 97 percent of the climate science community is “not conclusive.”
This is not surprising if you consider his roots. Paul’s father — the two-time Republican presidential candidate and Libertarian darling Ron Paul — is a truly aggressive denier of climate science. In his 2011 book “Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom,” he wrote about the “radicalization of the country by environmentalists,” spearheaded by the “propaganda” and “psuedoscience” of climate change.
“Most Americans have been bamboozled into believing that all reputable scientists believe in global warming and that CO2 emissions are a major problem,” Ron Paul wrote. “The truth is there are just as many and even more qualified scientists refuting the sketchy and questionable evidence regarding global warming.”
As a U.S. Congressional Representative, Ron Paul even went as far as suggesting that the increased carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere were actually beneficial to humans during a 2009 vote on cap-and-trade legislation, submitting testimony that stated “no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.”
Now, Rand Paul’s politics are markedly different from his father’s in a number of ways, but their stances on climate change are strikingly alike. The only difference, though, is that Paul seems to be trying to make us believe they’re not.