Pence Said Trump Listens to Scientists. That’s a Joke, Right?

The vice president prevaricated on climate, as usual.

Jack Gruber-Usa Today Via Cnp/CNP via ZUMA

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Surprise! Vice President Mike Pence said a bunch of gibberish on climate change.

During the vice presidential debate, when moderator Susan Page of USA Today asked Pence about his views on climate, Pence claimed that he and Trump are listening to the scientists.

“The climate is changing,” he said. “But the issue is, what’s the cause and what do we do about it? President Trump has made it clear that we’re going to listen to science.”

Remember: The president polls terribly on climate change. His denial that carbon pollution is fueling our warming planet and extreme weather ranks among his most unpopular positions. So it makes sense that Pence would dodge the question with a quick echo of the old climate denier excuse that we don’t know the real causes.

Then, another predictable pivot: Pence attacked Harris over the Green New Deal and rejoining the Paris climate accord, while greenwashing the administration’s own record. “I’m proud of our record on environment and conservation,” he began, repeating an often-debunked line about the United States having cleaner air and water since Trump was elected despite the hundred-plus environmental rollbacks of the administration. Ironically, any gains on clean air and climate emissions can be attributed to Trump’s failed attempt to revive coal from its deathbed.

Pence equated denying decades of scientific consensus with the charge that the Biden ticket would raise taxes—he never missed the opportunity to mention that Democrats favor a Green New Deal-style stimulus to tackle climate change.

“The climate is changing,” Pence repeated later, when the moderator asked point-blank if he accepts the science. “We’ll follow the science, but once again senator Harris is denying the fact that they’re going to raise taxes on every American.”

Tellingly, Pence treated each climate disaster as a separate, isolated problem. Asked about the hurricanes, the flooding, and the wildfires that have ravaged the United States during the pandemic, Pence took them one-by-one. He dismissed the wildfires consuming California as a forest management issue, and cited NOAA, saying there are no more hurricanes than there were 100 years ago (however, he didn’t mention that the severity of flooding is getting worse). 

The administration takes a similar approach with its COVID-19 science denial: It claims that more than 200,000 deaths from COVID are completely unrelated to the White House’s actions—instead of a consequence of the administration’s science denial. 

Pence doesn’t want people to see the pattern. Kamala Harris does. “Joe understands the West Coast of our country is burning, including my home state of California. Joe sees what is happening in the Gulf states, which are being battered by storms,” she said.  “Joe believes in science.”

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