A top Senate Republican promotes climate conspiracy theory

By Scott Waldman | 01/26/2023 06:31 AM EST

Sen. John Barrasso, the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, falsely accused U.S. environmental groups of colluding with Russia.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.).

Senate Energy and Natural Resources ranking member John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). Francis Chung/POLITICO

One of the Senate’s top Republicans is pushing a debunked conspiracy theory that Russian President Vladimir Putin is funding U.S. environmental groups.

On Tuesday, Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, told reporters during a GOP leadership press conference that President Joe Biden was beholden to “climate crazies” who were working in collusion with Russia.

“I’m not sure if the president or his sidekick secretary of Energy even knows the fact that Vladimir Putin continues to subsidize the climate-crazy group of lobbyists and others who represent organizations that continue to lobby in this country against American energy,” he said. “Putin has spent lots of money over a decade on this. These are the people that argue against pipelines, against energy infrastructure, against oil and gas exploration.”


Republican lawmakers — along with conservative media and think tanks — have circulated such debunked claims for years. Sometimes they also accuse environmental groups of colluding with China, despite no evidence to support that claim and vehement denials from all of the groups accused.

House Republicans have pledged to hold investigations into the debunked claims in the coming months (Climatewire, Dec. 12, 2022). They falsely claim that Russia is funding anti-fracking campaigns in order to undermine the American gas industry and thus boost demand for Russian gas. There is no evidence that Russia made payments to environmental groups, but that has not stopped Republicans from making such claims for years (Climatewire, March 21, 2022).

A Barrasso spokesperson did not respond to a request to provide evidence for the senator’s claims.

This story also appears in Climatewire.