Mann 2, Cuccinelli 0: Climate Denial Becomes Wedge Issue, As Hockey Stick Beats Tea Party

The pro-science side has won the latest skirmish in the climate wars. In a tight race where climate denial became a focus, pro-science candidate Terry McAuliffe was elected governor of Virginia over anti-science candidate Ken Cuccinelli, who infamously launched a (losing) witch hunt against leading climatologist Michael Mann.

And in a timely coincidence, that most vindicated of climate scientists has just published the paperback version of his excellent new book, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars. Anyone who wants to be informed about real climate science and the state of the climate fight should get a copy here.

Chris Mooney noted in his 2012 article on my blogging, “For years, he’s been arguing that talking about the science of warming is a winning political strategy. Now, new polling data are backing him up.”


More and more public opinion analysis is making clear that a candidate advocating climate action drives a wedge between the anti-science Tea Party extremists and the rest of the Republican party (and independent/moderate voters).

In fact, a Pew poll out just this month finds that the Tea Party is the only major political group in this country mired in denial. While 67% of all Americans say “there is solid evidence that the earth has been getting warmer over the last few decades,” and 61% of non-Tea Party Republicans say that, only 25% of Tea Party Republicans agree with that basic statement of fact.

Last year Climate Progress reported that “Senate Candidates Slam GOP Opponents Over Climate Denial.”

The Virginia governor’s race took the climate issue to the next level. Indeed, while the race turned out closer than some expected, the fact is that McAuliffe was the underdog, becoming the first Virginia governor since 1977 to be elected from the same political party as the president. As Salon’s Joan Walsh put it, “Democrats win a race they lost by 17 points in 2009.”

And climate change denial became a central issue, with fossil fuel companies backing Cuccinelli while climate activists spent millions for McAullife and even ran TV ads:

“It’s been called Cuccinelli’s witch hunt,” says the ad. “Designed to intimidate and suppress…Ken Cuccinelli used taxpayer funds to investigate a UVa professor whose research on climate change Cuccinelli opposed. Cuccinelli, a climate change denier, forced the university to spend over half a million dollars defending itself against its own attorney general. Ken Cuccinelli. He’s focused on his own agenda. Not us.”

At the same time, McAuliffe publicly endorsed EPA regulations to limit carbon pollution from new power plants and withstood attacks from the GOP and fossil fuel interests that he was anti-coal. Yet he still prevailed in what Cuccinelli labeled “coal state.”


Mann, who is now 2-for-2 in his battles with Cuccinelli, said of his anti-science nemesis, “I am pleased that Virginia voters rejected his dangerous brand of politics & his contempt for science & rational thought.”

Lincoln was right, “you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists has a good piece on this, “Can Attacking Scientists Be a Political Liability?” as does the UK Guardian, “Virginia governor’s race shows global warming science denial is a losing political stance.”

Related Posts:

  • Poll: Independents, Other Republicans Split With Tea-Party Extremists on Global Warming
  • Pew Poll: Clean Energy Is A Political Wedge Among Republicans
  • Democrats Taking “Green” Positions on Climate Change “Won Much More Often” Than Those Remaining Silent: “Our research suggests that it would be wise for the President and for all other elected officials who believe that climate change is a problem and merits government attention to say this publicly and vigorously, because most Americans share these views. Expressing and pursuing green goals on climate change will gain votes on election day and seem likely to increase the President’s and the Congress’s approval ratings.”