Hand drawing a line around the words "Climate Change" with surrounding words and images showing impacts

All 6 Republicans in Colorado’s 4th District primary deny the science of climate change

© iStock - tumsasedgars
Chase Woodruff

(Colorado Newsline) The first televised debate between the six candidates vying to represent Colorado’s most conservative congressional district began with a unanimous rejection of the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change.

The debate hosted Wednesday night by CBS Colorado featured all six candidates who will appear next month on the Republican primary ballot in the 4th Congressional District. The winner of that primary will be heavily favored to win election in the seat previously held by former U.S. Representative Ken Buck, who resigned from office in March.

The GOP hopefuls were asked to give a “quick yes or no” response to the question, “Is climate change real, and is it caused by humans?”

All six answers sidestepped or contradicted the overwhelming scientific consensus on global warming and its causes, reflected in regular assessments conducted on behalf of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change by thousands of leading scientists from around the world.

PROMO 64J1 Politician - Lauren Boebert 2021 - public domain

Lauren Boebert

Two-term U.S. Representative Lauren Boebert, who has moved across the state and jumped to the 4th District race after winning reelection in 2022 by fewer than 600 votes in the 3rd District, which she still represents, repeated a line she has used on multiple occasions when discussing climate issues on the drought-stricken Western Slope.

“Climate change occurs four times every year. It’s absolutely real,” Boebert said. “There’s many things we can do to manage our environment.”

One of Boebert’s first actions as a member of Congress in 2021 was to introduce legislation seeking to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement on limiting greenhouse gas emissions. A member of House Republicans’ far-right Freedom Caucus, she has frequently spread viral misinformation relating to the Biden administration’s climate policies, which she has claimed reflect a determination to “destroy this nation” and linked to the racist great replacement conspiracy theory.

Former state Senator Jerry Sonnenberg, a longtime fixture in Colorado Republican politics endorsed in the 4th District primary by many party insiders, also repeated climate-denial talking points and didn’t respond when pressed to say whether humans are the cause.

PROMO Politician - Jerry Sonnenberg

Jerry Sonnenberg

“We’ve had climate change since the Ice Age. We’ve had climate change our entire earthly history,” Sonnenberg said. “Quite frankly, we have, right now, the cleanest water and cleanest air that we’ve ever had over the last hundred years.”

During his time in the state Legislature, Sonnenberg consistently voted against Democratic-backed efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions, and during floor debate on a climate bill in 2019 he claimed that global warming had been “quite benign” and that carbon dioxide emissions are a “net positive” to the climate.

Since the 19th century, average temperatures in many parts of Colorado have risen by more than 4 degrees Fahrenheit above previous levels, fueling a regional drought worse than any dry spell the upper Colorado River Basin has experienced in at least 1,200 years. All of the 20 largest wildfires in state history have occurred since 2001, destroying thousands of homes and causing billions of dollars in damages.

‘A contribution through industry’

In a video announcing his retirement from Congress last year, Buck cited his party’s “lying” about the results of the 2020 election and said that “a steadfast commitment to truth, even uncomfortable truths, is the only way forward.” But Buck himself frequently ignored and dismissed the science of climate change, which he once called “the greatest hoax that has been perpetrated.”

The 4th District encompasses Douglas County, parts of Weld and Larimer counties and much of Colorado’s Eastern Plains — boundaries that span many of the state’s most productive oil fields, home to many fossil fuel industry workers and local governments that have enjoyed windfalls from oil and gas property taxes. The extraction and combustion of fossil fuels in power plants, home appliances and gas-powered vehicles accounts for the vast majority of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

Three candidates during Wednesday’s debate offered slight variations on the same false claim — that while human activity may have contributed to climate change, natural changes have been a bigger factor.

PICT Richard Holtorf

Richard Holtorf

“There is a contribution through industry, but there’s a larger contribution through environmental factors that we do not control,” said state Representative Richard Holtorf of Akron.

“Humans have very little impact on it, changing it one way or the other,” said state Representative Mike Lynch of Wellington.

“It is driven more predominantly by factors outside human exports or what we produce,” said Deborah Flora, a conservative talk radio host.

In fact, virtually all of the observed rise of over 1.1 degrees Celsius in average global temperatures since 1850 is attributable to human causes ranging from industrial activity to land-use changes, according to the IPCC’s latest comprehensive report in 2021. Summarizing vast bodies of existing research, the report estimated that natural drivers like solar and volcanic activity, as well as internal variability in the climate, have had no net effect on global temperatures.

“It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land,” the report’s authors wrote. “Evidence of observed changes in extremes such as heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts, and tropical cyclones, and, in particular, their attribution to human influence, has strengthened since (the IPCC’s previous assessment).”

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