The “Honorable Gentleman” from Kentucky on Climate Change

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been outspoken in his denial of climate change, but many of his "facts" don't add up.

People's Climate March in Brisbane, Australia in 2014.
University students demonstrate during the People's Climate March in Brisbane, Australia in 2014. As world leaders begin climate negotiations in Paris, we debunk climate denial from Congress. (AMR_Photos/iStock Photo)

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) often asserts that he’s not a scientist, and hence can’t opine on climate change. Yet opine he does, and often. Perhaps it’s the millions of dollars he’s received in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry?

The United States is currently joining with scores of other nations in Paris to negotiate a bold, vital plan to counteract climate change. Perennial doubters like McConnell—among the most powerful men in Washington— are trying to undermine President Obama’s mission in France, but we’re confident the rest of the world sees right through him.

Here are our top ten picks for most outrageous McConnell quotes on the state of our environment:

  1. “For everybody who thinks it’s warming, I can find somebody who thinks it isn’t.” 

    Sorry, Senator, your math doesn’t add up. At least 70 percent of Americans now believe that global warming is real and supported by solid evidence, coinciding with the lowest percentage of Americans who doubt climate change exists, according to an October poll.

  2.  “I’m not a scientist.” 

    And we’re not sure the senator knows any scientists, either (see #10).

  3.  In 2010, during a record snowstorm in Washington, D.C., McConnell asked, “Where’s Al Gore now?”  

    We’re pretty sure Al is still busy raising the alarm about climate change. See here, here and here.

  4. I don’t buy” that climate is changing. 

    Really? Well, NASA does. And that’s good enough for us.

  5. McConnell warned foreign leaders last spring to “proceed with caution before entering into a binding, unattainable deal” on climate with Obama, noting that “two-thirds of the U.S. federal government”—Congress and the Supreme Court—hasn’t signed off on the president’s Clean Power Plan. 

    At least we know he went to civics class, even if he missed science. But wait, the president doesn’t need congressional approval for the Clean Power Plan, so maybe he missed civics too?

  6. The climate change agreement between the United States and China “requires the Chinese to do nothing at all for 16 years.” 

    Nothing except build between 800 and 1,000 gigawatts of non-fossil energy generation capacity by 2030, according to this White House fact sheet. That’s close to the U.S.’s total current electricity capacity, and it will include 200 gigawatts of solar and 100 gigawatts of wind energy, which will drive the price of renewables down worldwide. China has also committed to installing 70 gigawatts of new solar capacity by 2017—in itself a game-changer.

  7. McConnell opened his campaign on March 3 with an op-ed article published in The Lexington Herald-Leader in Kentucky with the headline, “States should reject Obama mandate for clean-power regulations.” 

    Someone forgot to tell him how popular clean power is with voters—63 percent of registered voters say they support the Clean Power Plan and its public health and environmental protections, according to a new Morning Consult poll.

  8. “Even if the job-killing and likely illegal Clean Power Plan were fully implemented, the United States could not meet the targets laid out in this proposed new plan.” 

    Not true, senator! The U.S. cannot only fully implement the plan, but we can also strengthen it. Communities across the country are demanding clean power. In fact, 61 percent of the public supports the Clean Power Plan in the states suing to stop the rule from going into effect!

  9. When asked by the Associated Press if the Senate has any obligation to address global warming, McConnell replied, “Look, my first obligation is to protect my people … who are hurting as the result of what this administration is doing.”

    The last time we checked, climate change will hurt the people of Kentucky, according to this recent report that explores the economic effects of climate change. Among other things, climate change will negatively impact the state’s agriculture sector, decrease productivity and increasing cooling costs for its residents.

  10. In our humble opinion, Senator McConnell often says it best by, well you know, #mcconnelling.

The Road to Paris and Beyond is a blog series exploring how Earthjustice’s climate and energy work will help strengthen the goals to be set by the United States and others during the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, and the development of the new global climate agreement. The Paris Climate Change Conference (aka “COP21”) begins on November 30 and runs until December 11, 2015.

Part of the International program, Erika's work focuses on climate change, at international negotiations and with U.N. Environment Programme and regional bodies like the Arctic Council to reduce emissions of atmospheric pollutants.

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