Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin has kept himself in the news for the last year by downplaying the severity of the coronavirus pandemic and undermining the public's faith in vaccines. But don't worry, Johnson isn't a one-trick pony; he'll doubt any science that doesn't align with his worldview. Take climate change, for instance. Johnson recently told an audience of fellow conservatives, "I don't know about you guys, but I think climate change is ... bullshit."
The senator's climate denialism came out during a speech given last month during the Republican Women of Greater Wisconsin Luncheon. Footage of Johnson's appearance was uploaded to Vimeo and uncovered by CNN this week. After his BS comment, Johnson goes on to tell the audience, "There are more and more scientists writing really good books just laying this to waste." He then questions why the United States should be spending any time or money addressing climate change. "What are we doing here? Well, we're killing ourselves," Johnson said. "It's a self-inflicted wound."
During his rant on climate change — which was prompted by an audience question about school vouchers and was preceded by a ping-ponging answer that included references to school vouchers, health care, chess, China, and negotiating business deals (none of this matters, it's just funny) — Johnson made reference to Christopher Monckton, a former British politician and high-profile climate denier. Monckton has a long history of rejecting the scientific consensus that climate change is real, claiming wrongly that it is an overblown phenomenon being highlighted by "a small number of totalitarian profiteers of doom in various self-serving national academies." Monckton has also stated that "a large number of papers from reputable scientists, and a larger amount of hard data, suggest that global warming is and will continue to be a non-event." He's capable of brevity, too: He once led a rally to chant, "Bullshit!" in response to the question, "Global warming is?"
Johnson, for his part, also briefly veered into an explanation of his own personal understanding of climate science. He told the audience, "I've known this for years, CO2 is actually a lagging indicator from temperature, because as the climate increases in temperature it unlocks the CO2 that is primarily captured in the oceans," he said. "It's not the other way."
This is, of course, not true. Previous periods of warning saw carbon dioxide released through natural means, as Johnson is claiming, but that is not what it happening now. Since the Industrial Revolution, human contributions of carbon emissions have increased exponentially, and the vast majority of warming has occurred after that. That human-caused warming is melting ice caps and destroying ecosystems that serve as natural carbon sinks, but that's not exactly the selling point that Johnson seems to think it is.
Despite his misinformation about climate change and citing a notorious climate science skeptic and calling climate change "bullshit," Johnson insists that he is not a climate change denier. In a statement to CNN, Johnson said, "My statements are consistent. I am not a climate change denier, but I also am not a climate change alarmist. Climate is not static. It has always changed and always will change."
Of course, the funny thing about being a U.S. senator is that lots of people write down what you say over the years. In 2010, he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "I absolutely do not believe in the science of man-caused climate change.” In 2013, he told the Madison Rotary Club, "I don't have a belief one way or the other," except that "until we know conclusively what's doing it and if any action we take would have any kind of measurable impact, I don't think we should be spending trillions of dollars unilaterally.”
Now, in 2021, he's mouthing that it's "bullshit." Johnson might get some points for consistency, but there shouldn't be much pride to be found in being the person who is wrong the longest.