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AFP Photo/Charism Sayat

In the horrific aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, which may have killed more than 10,000 people after ripping through the Philippines, climate change has rapidly returned to the forefront of the news. Just days after the storm made landfall, world governments convened the 19th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, at which they hope to negotiate a new accord limiting greenhouse gas emissions. As usual, the United States will play a central role in the negotiations.

President Barack Obama has quietly accumulated a very strong record on climate change (although environmentalists often wish that he’d do more). His successor, however, may not be nearly as receptive to policies that could slow climate change and protect the environment. Particularly if the next president is a Republican.

All of the early contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 have records on climate science that range from misinformed to frighteningly extreme. What follows is a brief look at where five of the politicians who could be the next president stand on the science of climate change.

Rand Paul

Rand Paul

Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Senator Paul has repeatedly mocked climate scientists and accused them of “making up their facts.

In 2011, while arguing for a resolution that would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing court-ordered clean air rules, Paul claimed that “all of our schoolchildren have been brainwashed by these environmental hysterics who say ‘Oh, it’s a lot worse now.'” He also declared that “if you listen to the hysterics…you would think that the Statue of Liberty will be shortly under water and the polar bears are all drowning, and that we’re dying from pollution. It’s absolutely and utterly untrue.”
Chris Christie

chris Christie

Bob Jagendorf via Flickr

Although Governor Christie recently said, “I think climate change is real and I think human activity plays a role,” his record raises doubts as to whether he really believes those words. As Mother Jones’ Kate Sheppard reports:

[A]s governor, Christie has gutted many programs that aimed to address climate change. He got rid of the Office of Climate Change and Energy within the Department of Environmental Protection shortly after taking office, withdrew the state from the Northeast’s cap and trade plan known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), weakened the state’s renewable energy standard, and took $210 million from the state’s clean energy fund to balance the budget.

Additionally, Christie has argued that New Jersey state agencies should not prepare for climate change because there’s “no proof” that it leads to extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy.
Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz

Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Senator Cruz is a proud climate change denier who has gone out of his way to strike even the most innocuous references to to climate change from Senate resolutions. The freshman senator’s extreme positions on green issues — which include a conspiracy theory that the United Nations and George Soros are teaming up to abolish America’s golf courses, grazing pastures, and paved roads — earned him a Climate Denier award from the Texas chapters of the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters, Public Citizen, and Environment Texas.
Scott Walker

Scott Walker

Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker has become one of the Koch Brothers’ favorite politicians, in large part due to his unyielding opposition to green initiatives. In addition to signing the Kochs’ “No Climate Tax Pledge” to kill cap and trade reform, Walker has rolled back pollution regulations, dramatically expanded the state’s sand-mining industry (while shielding it from serious oversight), and attempted to eliminate a state requirement that communities operate recycling programs.

In 2012, Governor Walker headlined a $150-a-head fundraising dinner for the Heartland Institute, a climate-change-denying think tank which is best known for comparing environmentalists to the Unabomber.
Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio

AFP Photo/ Andrew Burton

Senator Rubio has repeatedly argued that there’s “reasonable debate” among scientists over whether manmade activity is contributing to climate change (there’s not). He has also mocked efforts to protect the environment by declaring “the government can’t change the weather.

That Rubio doesn’t have a firm grasp on the facts related to climate change is not particularly surprising; when asked how old the Earth is during a November 2012 interview, the freshman senator infamously replied “I’m not a scientist, man.


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