Reporter brings science to politics of climate

Reporters can fall into ruts and become predictable and dull, like anyone else, so it’s worth noting when a veteran reporter tries a new trick. Such was the case this past week, as the Associated Press’s Seth Borenstein, a veteran reporter who continues to cover big daily stories, tried something original with the political candidates’ views on climate change.

Instead of going out and interviewing the candidates and grading them on accuracy himself, which would of course make him a judge of their views, he gathered statements from debates and speeches, stripped their names off the statements, and ran them by a panel of eight scientists.

The results were predictable, but still striking. Here it is in tabular form:


Note that Bernie Sanders was dinged for stating that the earth could become “uninhabitable” within the next two generations. Yes, it’s serious, but it’s not that hopeless.

The scientist’s opinions were often all too revealing. Donald Trump, for example, spouted this:

“It could be warming and it’s going to start to cool at some point,” Trump said in a September radio interview. “And you know in the 1920s people talked about global cooling. I don’t know if you know that or not. They thought the Earth was cooling. Now it’s global warming. Actually, we’ve had times where the weather wasn’t working out so they changed it to extreme weather and they have all different names, you know, so that it fits the bill.”

The scientists were not impressed with his meandering.

McCarthy, a former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, called Trump’s comments “nonsense,” while Emmanuel Vincent, a climate scientist at the University of California, Merced, said, “the candidate does not appear to have any commitment to accuracy.”

Borenstein called this a “fact check,” which is true enough, and suggests that facts are important, and we should be paying attention. Rebecca Leber, writing for the New Republic, puts it much more bluntly:

For now, though, electing a Republican—any Republican—is as good as saying America welcomes a world of 4 degrees Celsius or more of warming.

Scary that it’s that important, but Leber makes a strong case for this election as an inflection point. Her story’s headline?

The planet’s worse nightmare: Republican White House

Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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