Meet the Biggest Climate Skeptics Up for Re-Election in 2018

We looked into the environmental records of members of the House of Representatives with tough races ahead in November.
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Representative Devin Nunes talks to reporters on February 27th, 2017, in Washington, D.C.

Representative Devin Nunes talks to reporters on February 27th, 2017, in Washington, D.C.

Over the weekend, science advocates gathered in cities around the world once again to rally around the use of science in public policy. While the crowds this year were smaller than the inaugural event in 2017, marchers were still fired up in the wake of a series of scandals involved Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and the confirmation of a former coal lobbyist as his second in command. It was not lost on participants that the 2018 mid-term elections are just a few months away.

"The theme for all the marches this year is accountability, making sure that all of our elected officials are held accountable in terms of being able to respect science," David Kanter, an organizer of the march in New York told New Scientist.

People take part in the March for Science on the National Mall on April 14th, 2018, in Washington, D.C.

People take part in the March for Science on the National Mall on April 14th, 2018, in Washington, D.C.

In light of the upcoming elections, Pacific Standard took stock of the environmental records of members of the House of Representatives in what Ballotpedia considers "battleground" districts—in other words, "races that Ballotpedia expects to be competitive in the general election, based on the margins of victory from recent statewide elections, as well as how the state voted in the most recent presidential elections."

While not all of the following representatives are classic climate skeptics, none of them have stellar environmental records—something voters may want to keep in mind as they head to the polls in November.

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Jeff Denham (R), California's 10th Congressional District

Historically, Denham has fit squarely within the climate-skeptic camp. "We don’t have complete factual information yet,” the then-senator said of the causes of global warming in 2008. He's remained largely silent on the issues in the decade since, but his voting record is decidedly anti-environment.

Devin Nunes (R), California's 22nd Congressional District

Perhaps best known for his work investigating Russian interference in the election as the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Nunes is also a rigid climate denier. In 2014, as California was suffering through the worst drought in modern history, Nunes called global warming "nonsense," and criticized then-President Barack Obama's plan to create a climate resiliency fund.

Steve Knight (R), California's 25th Congressional District

Knight firmly rejects the climate-denier label, and last year called climate change "a growing issue in our international community" as he joined the House's bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus. But the congressman has a record of criticizing environmental policies as economically unsound, and the League of Conservation Voters has given Knight a 3 percent lifetime rating for his environmental voting record.

Dana Rohrabacher (R), California's 48th Congressional District

Rohrabacher, a member of the House Science Committee, is a vocal skeptic of the link between human emissions and climate change, and has called the campaign to rein in climate-altering emissions "a tangible threat to our freedom, and to our prosperity as a people."

Mike Coffman (R), Colorado's 6th Congressional District

Coffman no longer appears to be publicly questioning humanity's role in climate change as he did in 2012, and his campaign website calls on the United States to do "everything that it reasonably can to protect the environment and to reduce our carbon footprint," but his voting record tells a different story. The congressman, who voted against the Clean Power Plan, has a 5 percent environmental rating from the League of Conservation Voters.

Rod Blum (R), Iowa's 1st Congressional District

In an interview before his first election in 2014, Blum told Iowa Public Radio he was skeptical of climate change, citing a thoroughly debunked hoax involving a fake Time magazine cover story on a 1970s theory of global cooling. "I'm not a scientist, and I know most scientists' paychecks come from the federal government, and so right away that makes me a bit skeptical," Blum said. In his time in office, Blum has voted to exempt waste coal burning power plants from clean air standards, to open up the Arctic to drilling, and to slash EPA funding.

Jason Lewis (R), Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District

While Lewis is best known as a provocateur for his racist and misogynistic rants as a radio personality prior to his election in 2016, his environmental record is not at all redeeming. Before taking office, Lewis likened climate extremes to seasonal changes in weather, and he has a 0 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters. 

Erik Paulsen (R), Minnesota 3rd Congressional District

Since Paulsen told Minnesota Public Radio in 2008 that he wasn't "smart enough to know" whether or not humans are contributing to global warming, his voting record has remained largely anti-environment.

Don Bacon (R), Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District

A member of the bipartisan Climate Solution Caucus, Bacon has said that he believes climate change is caused at least "in part" by humans, has criticized President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, and has stated his support for tax incentives for renewable energy. But the congressman's voting record leans anti-environment overall.

Claudia Tenney (R), New York's 22nd Congressional District

Though a member of the Climate Solutions Caucus, Tenney's campaign page makes no mention of her stance on climate change or environmental issues. As a candidate in 2016, she said the science on climate change was "not certain," and, in 2017, Tenney called Trump's decision to exit the Paris Agreement a "good sign of leadership." Since taking office, her voting record on environmental issues is poor.

John Abney Culberson (R), Texas' 7th Congressional District

Culberson is a classic climate skeptic. He's questioned the integrity of climate research, voted almost exclusively against environmentally friendly legislation, and, in 2013, the congressman introduced a measure to block the EPA from using a social cost of carbon measure in its cost-benefit analyses of environmental regulations.

Will Hurd (R), Texas' 23rd Congressional District

"Here’s the deal," Hur said last year. "Humans are having an impact on the environment. Period. End of story. And so what we do about it is the conversation that we have to have." But Hurd's acknowledgement that climate change is both real and man-made does little to cancel out his poor voting record on environmental issues since taking office in 2014.

Mia Love (R), Utah's 4th Congressional District

Love has a mixed record. She's the only member of Utah's congressional delegation to call climate change a real problem, and has been honored by the Citizens' Climate Lobby for "extraordinary leadership and bold commitment to environmental stewardship." But her support for clean energy is undermined by a voting record that includes votes in favor of legislation that includes provisions that would open up the Arctic to drilling, cut funding for clean energy, and nullify the Clean Power Plan.

Barbara J. Comstock (R), Virginia's 10th Congressional District

Much like Love, Comstock has a history of voting against environmental regulations, but has joined a small number of her Republican colleagues—including Love—in signing a resolution that states that, "if left unaddressed, the consequences of a changing climate have the potential to adversely impact all Americans."

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