Climate science denier Darrell Issa joins House climate change caucus

This is a stunning reversal.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) during a mock swearing in ceremony on Capitol Hill, January 3, 2017. AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) during a mock swearing in ceremony on Capitol Hill, January 3, 2017. AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) announced this week he has joined a bipartisan House caucus on climate change. But the news, first reported by Reuters, glossed over one major point: Issa has been a long-time climate science denier.

He is now part of the Climate Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan group looking at “policy options that address the impacts, causes, and challenges of our changing climate.” But in August 2013, Issa won a “Climate Change Denier” award by the League of Conservation Voters for “his extreme anti-science views, which put him at odds with 97 percent of scientists and a majority of the American people.”

Issa’s website still sports a 2009 statement that contains this classic climate denier talking point:

One of the difficulties in examining the issue of the climate change and greenhouse gases is that there is a wide range of scientific opinion on this issue and the science community does not agree to the extent of the problem or the critical threshold of when this problem is truly catastrophic.

It wasn’t true then, and it isn’t true today.

Another bizarre aspect of Issa joining the Climate Solutions Caucus is that Issa has been a steadfast opponent of climate solutions, and he voted against the market-oriented 2009 climate and clean energy jobs bill.

His policy page on “Energy and Environment” still trots out the long-debunked claim that President Obama used “taxpayer dollars to subsidize a political agenda resulting in the loss of billions of taxpayer dollars as we saw with Solyndra and countless other companies.”

Issa is so ill-informed on this subject that, as Climate Progress reported in 2012, he could not “distinguish the extraordinary differences between a tax credit and a loan guarantee.”

In fact, as the AP reported in December 2014, the Department of Energy’s loan program — which Solyndra was part of — is already in the black, and is expected to make a $5 billion to $6 billion profit. (Funny how critics of the loan program never mention its huge job-creating winners, such as Tesla.)

But maybe anyone can change. “I’m a great believer in redemption,” said climatologist Michael Mann, one of the targets of Issa’s anti-science investigations when he chaired the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“If Darrell Issa, once a proponent of climate change denier conspiracies, who abused his congressional authority to issue witch hunts against climate scientists, now embraces action on climate, more power to him,” Mann told ThinkProgress. “I welcome his late conversion and I thank him for it.”

So what led to Issa’s conversion? Most likely it was the near-death experience he had during the 2016 election, which he won by only slightly more than 1,600 votes out of 310,000 cast. The New York Times described it as “his first seriously competitive race in more than 15 years.”

Issa, the “richest member of Congress,” a car alarm mogul, used to be the voice of the Viper alarm system that warned, “Please step away from the car.”

If Issa can step away from the deniers, anyone can — with a little push from voters.