“I’m not a scientist” has become the latest popular response among Republican politicians for refusal to address climate change
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April, 13, 2010. Photograph: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is hoping to become the Senate Majority Leader after the forthcoming election on November 4th, although despite hailing from conservative Kentucky, McConnell is in a very tight race. The Cincinnati Enquirer editorial board recently had a long discussion with McConnell and tried to pin him down on the subject of global warming.
McConnell wouldn’t directly answer whether he believes in climate change.
Enquirer’s editorial board volleyed several questions about what it would take to convince him of climate change. He turned the subject every time to jobs. McConnell said he believes imposing regulations to reduce greenhouse gases blamed for climate change would only hurt America and not mitigate what other countries, such as China, are doing…
“We can debate this forever,” McConnell said. “George Will had a column in the last year or so pointing out that in the 70s, we were concerned the ice age was coming. I’m not a scientist. I’m interested in protecting Kentucky’s economy.”
Leaving aside McConnell’s reference to the 1970s ice age myth, the cop-out about not being a scientist is a strange and dangerous one. Most members of Congress aren’t scientists, or doctors, or military experts, or teachers, and yet they set our country’s science, health care, defense, and education policy. Usually they do this by listening to the experts in each subject, which is the smart approach.
For example, as Lee Papa has pointed out, McConnell had no hesitations in expressing his opinions about dealing with the threat of Ebola and deferring to the experts at the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),
I’m not an expert on this, but it strikes me that it would be a good idea to discontinue flights into the United States from that part of the world … I think we ought to listen to what the CDC thinks they need either in terms of financing or certainly they’ll decide the procedures for travel and all the rest. I think we need to follow the advice of the experts who know how to fight scourges like this
These comments stand in stark contrast to McConnell’s unwillingness to take a position on human-caused global warming, or to listen to the climate scientist experts on the subject.
McConnell is far from alone – this refrain has become one of the most popular responses among Republican politicians when asked about the climate. “I’m not a scientist” is used to abdicate responsibility for mitigating the immense risks posed by climate change. This abdication would be considered unacceptable in the face of other threats like ISIS and Ebola, and the same should be true for global warming.