McCain baffled about GOP climate denial: ‘I can’t divine their motives’

Asked about Irma, he tells CNN that "unprecedented" things are happening with the world's climate

Screenshot of CNN's State of the Union
Screenshot of CNN's State of the Union

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) says he has no idea why his GOP colleagues deny basic climate science. But the former GOP nominee for president — who campaigned on climate action during the 2008 election — knows that climate change is real, its effects are “unprecedented,” and solar energy is one of the cheap solutions.

On Sunday, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked McCain a long question about Hurricane Irma and global warming and GOP climate denial, noting “the storm is more intense, experts say, because of climate change.” Tapper pointed out that back in 2012, in the context of superstorm Sandy, McCain’s daughter Meghan tweeted, “So are we still going to go with climate change not being real fellow republicans?”

Tapper then asks McCain why, with a few exceptions, the Republican party, “the president, the governor of Florida, et cetera, act as if it’s not real, even though the overwhelming scientific consensus is that it’s real and it’s man made?”

“I don’t know because I can’t divine their motives,” McCain said. “But I know this.” There are “things happening with the climate in the world that is unprecedented” (sic).


McCain then launches into a discussion of the solutions. The bad news is that he believes nuclear power is “the cleanest, cheapest, in many ways, source of power,” even though over half of all existing U.S. nuclear power plants are “bleeding cash” according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance report released earlier this summer.

McCain also pushes the tired myth that it’s environmental opposition that is stopping nuclear power, rather than its unaffordable cost. The nuclear industry has simply priced itself out of the market for new plants. As one business columnist wrote last month, “Let it be written that environmentalists didn’t kill the nuclear power industry, economics did.”

But, McCain does understand that “we can take common sense measures which will not harm the American people” in the fight against climate change. “In fact, solar and other technologies make it cheaper energy for many of the American people, including a state like mine where we have lots of sunshine.”

McCain ends by saying “it’s time for us to sit down again” on this issue. But even if he doesn’t know why his fellow Republicans deny basic climate science — hint, it has something to do with the Koch brothers and other fossil fuel companies that donate large sums to them — he must know that with the current president and current makeup of Congress, that is unlikely to happen.