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Journalists love a counterintuitive story, like when a Democrat criticizes unions or a Republican endorses gay marriage. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), with his idiosyncratic libertarianism, provides them with a lot of good stories, like his opposition to mass incarceration. In that vein, a couple of recent media reports assert, on the thinnest reeds of evidence, that Paul has accepted climate science or endorsed regulating carbon pollution. He hasn’t. Sorry, reporters: There is no counterintuitive story about Paul and climate change.
How the 2016 contenders will deal with climate change
Paul, who is announcing a presidential run on Tuesday, is an anti-government extremist and a climate change denier. Just last April, he said he is “not sure anybody exactly knows why” the climate is changing. He went on to call the science “not conclusive” and complain about “alarmist stuff.” If you’re wondering what he means by “alarmist stuff,” in 2011, while arguing for a bill that would prevent the EPA from regulating carbon emissions, Paul said, “If you listen to the hysterics,…you would think that the Statue of Liberty will shortly be under water and the polar bears are all drowning, and that we’re dying from pollution. It’s absolutely and utterly untrue.” Paul went on to assert that children are being misled into believing that “pollution” has gotten “a lot worse,” when “It’s actually much better now.” Paul, of course, was conflating conventional air pollution—like sulfur dioxide, which has declined in the US—and climate pollution, which is cumulative and global, and therefore gets worse every year, even if America’s annual emissions drop.
Indeed, Paul is prone to making ignorant, conspiracist statements about science in general. In October, he suggested to Breitbart News that Ebola may be more easily spread than scientists say and that the White House had been misleading the country on the issue. And in February, Paul told CNBC, “I’ve heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines.” This despite the fact that the supposed connection between autism and vaccination has been thoroughly debunked.
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