Texas Sen. Ted Cruz sought to establish himself as a leading opponent of climate action among Republican presidential hopefuls yesterday as he continued to target conservative voters less than two months before the Iowa caucuses.
Cruz, who last month said that Democrats were lying about climate change to advance their policies, lampooned climate scientists, environmentalists and the Obama administration yesterday in a hearing meant to raise doubts about people's responsibility for climbing temperatures (ClimateWire, Nov. 19).
He claimed that there has been "no significant warming" since 1998 and made fun of an expedition of scientists who were stranded in sea ice while investigating melting in the Antarctic.
"The global warming alarmists don't like these data. They are inconvenient to their narrative," Cruz said of a recent study showing that some areas of the Antarctic are gaining ice. "Public policy should follow science."
The hearing in the Commerce Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness brought high-profile scientists who question whether greenhouse gases cause warming to Capitol Hill as negotiators from nearly 190 nations are meeting in Paris to work on a global climate agreement.
It allowed Cruz, the panel's chairman, to stand out among Republican candidates for president, most of whom have avoided explicit attacks on the science behind warming. Some strategists have said Cruz could benefit from taking a hard-line position on warming when conservatives caucus in Iowa on Feb. 1. It also stands to raise his profile as he continues to climb in opinion polls.
One of Cruz's strongest Republican opponents in the presidential race, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, did not attend the hearing. Rubio, a subcommittee member, has criticized President Obama's climate policies, but he tends to avoid talking about the science.
Cruz also scolded the media for assuming that mainstream scientists are correctly portraying the likelihood of climate risk while ignoring the message of skeptics. He said "facts" that counter the theory of climate change go unreported. He pointed to greater crop yields, an 18-year "pause" in warming, a slowdown in sea-level rise and other things.
"None of these ... facts tend to make it through the media gatekeepers that instead enforce, like the inquisition, a discipline on the heretics that would dare stand in the way of their political ideology of imposing trillions of dollars of cost on people who are struggling," Cruz said.
'Senator Cruz is out of touch'
The hearing was titled "Data or Dogma? Promoting Open Inquiry in the Debate over the Magnitude of Human Impact on Earth's Climate," and it featured key scientists who are skeptical of people's role. They included John Christy, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Alabama, Huntsville; Judith Curry, a climate scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology; and William Happer, a physics professor at Princeton University.
Also in the lineup was Mark Steyn, the Canadian National Review writer who compared climatologist Michael Mann to Jerry Sandusky, the former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach convicted of child sexual abuse (E&E Daily, Dec. 7, 2015).
Democrats criticized Cruz before the hearing for filling the witness panel with skeptical speakers, while allowing them just one expert, David Titley, a retired rear admiral with the Navy and a meteorology professor at Penn State.
While the hearing could polish Cruz's conservative credentials among evangelical and tea party voters in early voting states, it also exposed him to attacks by Democrats who are eager to cast the entire Republican Party as climate skeptics.
"Senator Cruz is out of touch," Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) said before the hearing.
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) added: "The science is settled. The politics is increasingly settled, and we've seen that during the Paris climate talks. The only remaining place where this isn't a settled question is on the Republican side of the United States Congress."
Many scientists have long said that the argument about a warming "pause" is exaggerated. Cruz picked his starting point in 1998, an abnormally warm year, and said temperatures have been stable since then. But scientists like Titley say it doesn't represent long-term warming because it's a relatively short period of time that begins with a very warm year.
Cruz: Scientists are 'cooking the books'
A recent study by scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that surface temperatures during the "pause" were higher than initially reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It finds that the rate of warming from 2000 to 2015 was "at least as great" as the rise between 1950 and 1999.
"These results do not support the notion of a 'slowdown' in the increase of global surface temperature," says the paper, which was published this summer in the journal Science.
Cruz challenged the idea that the "pause" is driven by a warm starting point, 1998. Even if you began with 1999 or 2000, he said, temperatures would still be flat. But Titley corrected him. He said a "warming bias," or upward trend, would be seen in the temperature record if you begin with a cooler year.
Others accept that the temperature is rising. Curry acknowledged that point. The bigger question, she said, is whether humans are causing that increase. She said temperatures have been on the rise for more than 200 years.
"And that's not human," she said, suggesting that something other than industrial greenhouse gases is causing them to climb.
That viewpoint is not accepted by most climate scientists. They point to corresponding rises in greenhouse gases and temperatures as evidence that human activities are a key driver of warming.
Yet Cruz expressed a deep mistrust of those mainstream scientists. When asked to square his views with the fact that 2014 was the warmest year on record and 2015 is poised to overtake it, he said federal agencies have been "systematically cooking the books and adjusting the data."
And he said contrarian scientists can't get federal funding for research that would question the consensus.
"One of the most disturbing things we heard in that hearing was the culture of suppression of dissent, driven politically by Democrats, by those in control of the funding stream," Cruz said after the hearing. "We heard academics talking about that if you dare disagree with the global warming alarmists, you find your career destroyed, you find yourself the target of vilification."