Lawmakers who denied Biden’s victory also embrace a deadlier conspiracy: climate denial

90 of the 147 members of Congress who voted to overturn the election deny basic climate science, a HEATED investigation has found.

The members of Congress who spread dangerous disinformation about Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election are the same lawmakers spreading dangerous disinformation about the climate crisis, a HEATED investigation has found.

According to an analysis of their public statements and votes, 90 of the 147 Republican members of Congress who voted to overturn the results of the presidential election explicitly deny or have denied that climate change is human-caused and dangerous. 

These lawmakers’ denials of basic scientific facts range from delicate expressions of doubt to preposterous claims of conspiracy. Maryland Rep. Andy Harris, for example, has merely said he believes climate science “is uncertain,” while Texas Rep. John Carter calls climate change “a chicken-little scheme” to use “government propaganda” to brainwash the “unwashed masses.” (You can check out all their statements here; I highlighted what I felt were particularly wild ones in yellow).

But the disinformation all serves the same purpose: to convince Americans that the jury is still out on climate change, so legislation to solve it may be delayed as long as possible. 

The outcome of this climate disinformation will be far deadlier than the election disinformation-inspired riots at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Indeed, the climate disinformation spread by these lawmakers and others has already proven a deadlier threat to Americans and the world. 

Deadlier than election denial 

Climate change is as bad as it is today because of disinformation. Had the fossil fuel industry not stepped in to create, promote, and fund denialism in 1989, bipartisan efforts to address climate change would have very likely begun in the U.S. more than 30 years ago. 

But the industry did step in, and America—the world’s largest historical contributor to the climate crisis—became a model for the world for deflecting and ignoring the problem instead of solving it.

Now, the world is barreling toward the deadly, dangerous, and irreversible warming threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius—and it’s doing so with the help of the same public servants who promoted deadly misinformation about the presidential election. While the Jan. 6 riot inspired by election disinformation led to the deaths of five people, climate disinformation is leading to policy inaction that threatens the deaths of millions.

Should carbon emissions continue unabated, scientists predict that by the end of the century, heatwaves alone will kill “roughly as many people as all infectious diseases combined, including HIV, malaria and yellow fever.” The World Health Organization predicts an additional 250,000 deaths per year as a “conservative estimate.

There’s evidence climate disinformation has already been deadlier than election disinformation, too. Deaths due to extreme weather, decreasing crop yields, and disease spread have all been on the rise as the climate has warmed. Scientists have also begun to attribute mass death events directly to climate change: In 2019, for example, researchers at the Japan Meteorological Agency published a study showing the 2018 heatwave that killed more than 1,000 people “could not have happened without human-induced global warming.” 

Election deniers vote against climate policy 94 percent of the time

Over 100 professional health and medical groups have called on policymakers to recognize climate change as “a public health emergency.” As a whole, the 147 members of Congress who voted against certification of Joe Biden’s victory aren’t listening.

Only 14 of the 147 lawmakers who objected to certifying electoral ballots earlier this month have said they accept the scientific consensus that climate change is human-caused and dangerous. The other 42 members who raised objections to Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory have not stated clear positions on climate science.

Still, most of those members have spoken against the need for aggressive climate regulation. And almost all consistently vote against legislation to address the crisis.

According to HEATED’s analysis (which you can explore further by clicking here), the 147 members of Congress who voted against certification of Joe Biden’s victory also routinely vote against protecting the climate and environment. Their average lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters, an organization which tracks environmental voting records, is a mere 5.7. That means the lawmakers who denied the results of the 2020 presidential election only cast pro-climate and environment votes 5.7 percent of the time. 

Looking at 2019 in isolation, the lawmakers who voted against certifying the results of the presidential election did a little better. They cast pro-climate and environment votes 8.4 percent of the time.

But these results make clear that it’s not just words that matter. Just as the election denial-induced violence of Jan. 6 didn’t just happen because of Trump’s tweets, the climate violence playing out today is not just happening because of the loudest climate deniers.

It’s happening because of people who quietly endorse disinformation with their dollars and their votes. 

Corporations pull support from election deniers, but not climate deniers

ICYMI, Yesterday’s newsletter argued that America’s disinformation problem won’t be solved until we stand up to climate deniers, too—and that starts with corporations treating them the same way they treat election deniers.

Since the violent riots on Jan. 6, at least 23 major companies now say they will no longer donate to lawmakers who voted against certifying the results of the election. ... [But] exactly zero of [those companies] have also pledged to cut off politicians who spread misinformation about the climate crisis, which has already killed far more people, and stands to kill far more.

We’ll be reaching out to those 23 corporations today to see if they plan to extend their corporate donation ban to climate deniers, too. We’ll update you if and when we get any responses.

Some climate tweets from election disinformers

Many lawmakers who voted against certification of the presidential election seem to take their cues on disinformation from Donald Trump, who has frequently tweeted that the existence of cold disproves global warming.



Some deniers are more original, though. Here are some more examples of current members of Congress spreading climate disinformation and bragging about defunding climate programs on Twitter:

You can explore more of the 147 lawmakers’ statements on climate change by checking out this spreadsheet.

And if you have anything you’d like to add, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Leave a comment

(Subscribers only though, sorry. Girl’s gotta eat).

Catch of the Day:

Fish has to eat, too. But he’s not going to eat this toast. (Which I made in the oven so he wouldn’t be scared. You’re welcome. Also the mug was a gift from a friend, but I can consider making more if there is demand. Sustainably, of course).

OK, that’s all for today—thanks for reading HEATED! If you’d like to share this piece as a web page, click the button below.


To support independent climate journalism that holds the powerful accountable—and to receive HEATED’s reporting and analysis in your inbox four days a week—become a subscriber today.

Give a gift subscription

If you’re a paid subscriber and would like to post a comment, click the “Leave a comment” button:

Leave a comment

Stay hydrated, eat plants, break a sweat, and have a great day!