Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) announced that he’s running for President on Monday, officially becoming the ninth declared Republican candidate. Of all of them, he’s only one of two who publicly accept the science behind human-caused climate change, while most of the rest are sticking to staunch denial.
To be totally clear, the science behind climate change is this: the earth’s atmosphere and oceans are warming, and this is primarily due to human-caused carbon emissions. That warming is going to have harmful effects, including sea level rise and increased risk of extreme weather. The worst impacts of this warming will primarily fall on developing countries, but the U.S. will see harmful impacts as well.
Marco Rubio says “there’s no consensus” on that science. Ted Cruz says people who believe in climate change are like “flat-Earthers.” Rand Paul has said the idea that humans cause climate change is “alarmist stuff,” and Ben Carson once said “We may be cooling.” Carly Fiorina; Mike Huckabee; Rick Santorum — all have expressed heavy to mild denial of the overwhelming scientific evidence that says humans cause climate change.
Aside from Graham, former New York governor George Pataki is the only other Republican presidential candidate with a background showing he accepts climate science and wants to do something about it. But as it stands now, Pataki’s pretty low on Americans’ radar — he’s been deemed one of the “longest long shots” of the 2016 GOP race. As the Atlantic’s Russell Berman explains, Pataki has “no devoted national followings, no networks of deep-pocketed financiers, not even radio or TV platforms with which to introduce [himself],” nothing.
All of which brings us to Lindsey Graham, who has been sort of a dark horse Republican Senator when it comes to climate change. In March, he said that global warming is “real,” and that “man has contributed to it in a substantial way.” He’s publicly called out his Republican colleagues for continuing to deny the science, and urged them to come up with a better platform for addressing the issue. He’s also said carbon dioxide is “worthy of being controlled,” and that it’s “worthy to clean up the air and make money doing so.”
All that certainly does not make him a climate hawk. Indeed, it’s largely because of Graham’s backtracking that a deal on cap-and-trade failed back in 2010. He has also said he thinks the issue of climate change has been “oversold” and over-hyped.
Still, of all the Republican candidates, he’s a far better alternative for those concerned about climate change. And while neither Pataki nor Graham have made much of a peep on the most recent polls, Graham has at least some national name recognition because of his current Senate seat, while Pataki, as 538 points out, “hasn’t been part of the political conversation since ‘Friends’ ended.” Graham’s also never lost a race.
Climate change is increasingly becoming a more prominent campaign topic, even as most Republican candidates deny it exists. During the 2014 midterm election cycle, ads mentioning climate change surged to record levels, an increase that reflected “the priorities of some of the nation’s wealthiest donors,” according to the New York Times. Many of those donors represented the fossil fuel industry, which collectively spent more than $721 million during that election cycle, according to a Center for American Progress analysis.