Climate Desk

Sen. Ron Johnson Thinks Climate Change Is Fine Because People Like Warmer Temperatures

This is a strange case of combined acceptance and denialism.

US Senator Ron Johnson speaks during the second day of the Republican National Convention at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on July 19, 2016.
Sen. Ron Johnson speaks during the second day of the Republican National Convention at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on July 19.

Jim Watson/Getty Images

This story originally appeared on the Huffington Post and is reproduced here with permission as part of Climate Desk.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, on Monday said he doesn’t think people should worry about finding solutions to climate change―because historically, “civilization thrives” in warmer temperatures.

“Climate has already changed, always will. I’m just not an alarmist. We will adapt,” Johnson told Wisconsin radio station WHBY. “How many people are moving up toward the Antarctica, or the Arctic? Most people move down to Texas or Florida, where it’s a little bit warmer.”

Climate change has been described as one of the most urgent issues facing mankind, and scientists say immediate policy action is necessary to mitigate its effects. But you wouldn’t know it from the tone of Johnson’s remarks on Monday.

“Obviously, man affects the environment, and we should do everything we can to maintain a clean environment, but you need an affluent society. You need a strong economy,” the senator said. “Let’s not shoot ourselves in the foot with policies.”

Johnson made a similarly dubious argument in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Friday, when asked about his claim that sunspots cause climate change.

“I’ve never denied climate change. It has always changed, always will,” he told the Sentinel. “The sun has the primary effect on weather and climate on planet Earth, so I’m just not a climate change alarmist.

“Mankind has actually flourished in warmer temperatures,” he continued. “I just think the question always is what is the cost versus the benefit of anything we do to try and clean up our environment. … I’m highly concerned about the climate alarmists that are going to spend a lot of money and have no impact whatsoever on the climate but have a great deal of harm on our economy.”

Johnson also claimed that “the jury’s out” on climate change, even though virtually the entire scientific community is in agreement about the cause, the nature, and the seriousness of the problem. In fact, many groups of scientists have said their models actually underestimate the magnitude and impact of climate change.

“The jury’s out,” Johnson said. “The models have not been predictive. They were predicting much higher temperatures, and that hasn’t panned out yet.”

When pressed, he admitted that he is a climate change skeptic, but added that “it’s not the right question.”

Johnson has a record of making shaky claims about climate change. This summer, he incorrectly said that “the climate hasn’t warmed in quite a few years,” even though 2014 and 2015 were the hottest years on record and 2016 is on track to surpass both of them.

He also claimed that liberals and progressives who want to address climate change―including former Sen. Russ Feingold, Johnson’s Democratic opponent in this year’s Senate race―are like Josef Stalin and Hugo Chávez in that they “want to control everything.”