Pence suggests we don’t know why the Earth is warming. We absolutely do.

Source: By Dino Grandoni, Washington Post • Posted: Thursday, October 8, 2020

The vice president deflected questions about global warming during Wednesday evening’s vice presidential debate, suggesting that scientists are not sure why the planet is getting hotter.

“The climate is changing,” Pence said during his first and only debate with Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.). “The issue is, what’s the cause, and what do we do about it?”

Scientists, in fact, are much more certain about the causes of climate change than Pence suggests. The burning of fossil fuels and other human activity are pumping the air with heat-trapping pollution that is warming the planet.

USA Today’s Susan Page, the debate moderator, pressed both Pence and Harris at length about climate change during what turned out to be a far more civil affair than last week’s acrimonious debate between President Trump and Joe Biden.

Pence’s responses when asked about climate change were emblematic of GOP tension on the issue.

With his dodges, Pence was not only defying the vast majority of climate scientists, including those in his own government. Scientists from numerous federal agencies agreed in a major 2018 assessment that the effects of higher temperatures, including deadlier wildfires, hurricanes and heat waves, are already impacting the country.

He was also bucking a trend among many in his own party who increasingly acknowledge the reality of human-caused climate change — and even putting forward modest climate bills, knowing that some younger Republicans are concerned about the issue.

Even President Trump, when pressed during last week’s debate, said humans are responsible for climate change “to an extent.”

It has become more difficult for Republicans to deny the clear rise in temperatures scientists are seeing around the globe. The planet is more than 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than during preindustrial times.

So Pence, who has not commented much climate change since being elected in 2016, has dropped his old talking point that “global warming is a myth.” In an op-ed two decades ago, he falsely argued the Earth “is actually cooler today than it was about 50 years ago.”

Instead, he demurred when asked by Page about the links scientists see between climate change and events such as the historic wildfires in California record-breaking hurricane season in the Atlantic.

When Page followed up to ask if Pence believed global warming poses an “existential threat,” Pence repeated the “climate is changing,” but quickly pivoted to claiming that Joe Biden’s platform would raise taxes.

Pence hammered Harris over her support for the Green New Deal.

During her own presidential run, the senator from California co-sponsored that broad proposal for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across the entire U.S. economy within just 10 years.

The resolution quickly became a punching bag for Republicans who claimed, falsely, the Green New Deal would ban cows and airplanes. Biden never embraced the Green New Deal like Harris and other rivals for the party nomination, instead offering his own $2 trillion plan to fight climate change.

Pence suggested the Green New Deal and Biden’s climate plan were one and the same. “They want to bury our economy under a $2 trillion Green New Deal,” he said.

Harris ducked a question from Page about what role, if any, the Green New Deal will play in a Biden administration, instead criticizing Pence for the Trump administration’s muzzling of scientists over the past four years.

“Do you know, this administration took the word science off the website? And then took the phrase climate change off the website?” Harris said. “This — we have seen a pattern with this administration which is they don’t believe in science.”

Harris and Pence also had a fracas over fracking.

Pence claimed, falsely, that Biden wants a nationwide ban on that controversial oil and gas extraction technique. “They want to abolish fossil fuels and ban fracking, which would cost hundreds of thousands of American jobs all across the heartland,” he said.

He added that the boom in fracking helped the United States cut its carbon dioxide emissions, even though the Trump administration has slashed regulations from oil and gas drilling meant to prevent the release of methane, an even more potent greenhouse gas.

While Biden’s climate change plan is ambitious compared to past Democratic nominees’ proposals, he has refused to call for a ban on fracking, which has earned the ire of environmentalists for its effects on drinking water but is economically important in the swing state of Pennsylvania.

“I will repeat, and the American people know, that Joe Biden will not ban fracking,” Harris said. “That is a fact.”

But Biden’s position still put his running mate in a tough spot since it stands in stark contrast to what she said last year during the Democratic primary.

“There’s no question,” Harris said in September, “I’m in favor of banning fracking.”