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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

The Week in Climate Part 2: Grading the Presidential Candidates on Climate

By Phil Plait

One of the hardest parts of writing about global warming—and there are lots and lots of hard parts—is simply keeping up with the news. Much of it comes in short newsy bits, worth knowing but difficult to write about as an individual full post. Since the 2015 U.N. Climate Change Conference is being held in Paris this week, I’m posting a weeklong series of shorter articles about global warming and its fallout. You can also read Part 1. And read all of Slate’s coverage of the Paris climate talks here.  

In the “I’m shocked … shocked” category, a group of climate scientists graded the presidential candidates on their knowledge of accurate climate change science, and the Democrats came out on top, with the Republicans at best doing badly, and at worst humiliating themselves.

The study was done using anonymized statements made in tweets, interviews, and debates, which were shown to eight scientists. Hillary Clinton came out on top, followed by Bernie Sanders with quite high marks. None of the GOP hopefuls even got a passing grade (closest: Jeb Bush with a meager 64/100).

The only surprise I got was that Donald Trump (15/100) did better than Ted Cruz (a spectacular fail of 6—yes, six—out of 100 points). About Cruz’s (still at the time anonymous) statements, climatologist Michael Mann wrote:

This individual understands less about science (and climate change) than the average kindergartner.

Ouch. Also: true. I’ve written about Cruz’s bizarre and wholly unreal climate stance many, many, many times. He clings tenaciously to long-disproven claims, despite ample opportunity to learn the reality of the situation.

Not to put any of the other Republicans at the front of the class. Bush’s tepid grade is hardly a ringing endorsement, and of course Trump’s bloviating borders on cartoon-level nonsense.

Incidentally, William Ruckelshaus—a Republican himself, as well as the first Environmental Protection Agency chief (appointed by Nixon and reappointed by Reagan!)—has in no uncertain terms condemned the GOP cohort for denying science for political gain. This much is obvious; it’s just gratifying to see another Republican say so.

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