Mark Robinson says climate change isn’t real. He could be NC’s next governor.

Mark Robinson and Climate Change

Climate change is making hurricanes stronger and more frequent. Flooding from Hurricane Florence in 2018 caused extensive damage across North Carolina, including in Lumberton and other parts of Robeson County. (Photo by Eamon Queeney/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

By Michael McElroy

June 10, 2024

Robinson, the Republican nominee for governor, has frequently called climate change ‘junk science,’ and accused scientists of lying about the risks.

Homeowner insurance in North Carolina is set to skyrocket, in part, because homes keep falling into the sea.

Hurricanes, too, are getting stronger, even as many homeowners have yet to fully recover from storms past. And climate change refugees are heading in droves to Asheville and other parts of North Carolina.

These are just some of the clear consequences of human-caused climate change, consequences that scientists have been warning about for years.

But while there is zero debate among actual scientists about the threats of climate change, to Mark Robinson, the Republican nominee for governor of North Carolina, it’s all a bunch of lies.

Robinson, who would be in charge of addressing these issues if he wins in November, has frequently called climate change “junk science,” mocked the increasing global alarm about the issue, and accused liberals and scientists of lying about the risks in order to scare people into voting for Democrats.

His words not only fall light years away from the evidence, they stray far from public opinion as well.

A big election in 2024

No place on Earth is immune to the effects of climate change, but North Carolina’s size, geography, and population growth make it particularly vulnerable to the most common consequences of a warming planet, including rising seas, wildfires in the mountains, and an increasing population fighting for finite resources in the cities.

And though reducing global fossil fuel emissions is the most urgent response needed, there are still lots of things states can do to help drive progress, which means as far as climate change goes, the governor is perhaps the most consequential election in North Carolina in 2024.

Gov. Roy Cooper has been very active on the climate front.

He has pledged that North Carolina would be carbon neutral by 2050, focusing on climate change’s disproportionate effect on low-income communities of color. He has also issued several executive orders to create an environmental justice task force and increase incentives for solar and wind power projects.

While Robinson’s Democratic opponent Attorney General Josh Stein, has pledged to continue much of Cooper’s approach, Robinson has said that climate change is a hoax because there are more polar bears on Earth than ever before.

That too, however, is demonstrably wrong.

Widespread concern over a warming planet

Robinson’s “junk science” comments received steady coverage during his 2020 campaign for lieutenant governor. In his 2020 memoir, he repeated the claim rather than trying to correct himself.

“Guess what,” Robinson wrote, “ Most of the people of North Carolina know global warming is junk science.”

Polls show quite the opposite.

A 2023 Yale poll showed that 72% of North Carolinians believed climate change was a problem.

A separate 2023 poll, conducted by North Carolina League of Conservation Voters and featuring more Trump voters than Biden voters, showed that 54% of respondents said climate change was already a crisis or would be soon. Another 24% agreed it would become a crisis in the distant future.

Other polls vary in the margins, but they still consistently show far more voters are worried about climate change than think it is a hoax.

Polls also show that climate change is one of the biggest issues for young voters in North Carolina, a key demographic that could help decide the election.

The damage caused by climate change

A recent report by Duke and three other North Carolina universities projected $7 billion in costs over the next several decades in just four coastal counties: New Hanover, Dare, Carteret, and Bertie. The report also showed that intensifying hurricanes in these areas would cause an additional $34 million in damages per storm.

That is on top of the billions climate change has already cost the state and the nation.

These certainties do not mean all is lost, climate scientists say, but they do mean, without a shadow of a doubt, that climate change is real and constitutes one of the gravest threats to the United States and to North Carolina.

To deny this threat either a brazen lie or acute denial. Which brings us back to Mark Robinson.

Rhetoric vs. the facts

Here are all the Times Mark Robinson has denied climate change and what science actually says.

Robinson’s quote:

Speaking at a Baptist church in Hickory last year, Robinson went on a long, error-filled rant against climate change.

“We have now allowed those folks to dictate what we do based on pseudoscience, junk science that has not proven a single solitary thing.”

“These people that are at the college telling your young people that … climate change is gonna kill us all … I’m gonna say it right now, they are liars. Liars.”

Reality: Climate change is expected to cause an additional 14.5 million deaths and nearly $4 trillion in damages worldwide by 2050. The data is undeniable that the planet is warming fast and the burning of fossil fuels is to blame. And, though you don’t need data to see the effects of that warming, there is plenty of evidence of increasing sea levels, flooding and hurricanes, sky rocketing insurance rates, climbing heat-related deaths, a growing number of climate refugees in North Carolina, and more frequent and intense wildfires, droughts, and displacement.

Robinson’s quote:

During the same speech, Robinson, who has said that schools should not teach science until the 6th grade, also confused climate with weather.

“Last month it was a little cool,” he said mockingly. “It was in the 60s, that was spring,” he said. “Then the climate changed because summer came and it got hot.”

Reality:

This is not how climate change works.

Temperatures on a given day counts as weather, but climate refers to weather trends over a long time period. And over the last several years, temperatures have been climbing across all seasons.

2023 was the warmest year overall since global record-keeping began. Last winter was also the warmest on record.

Robinson’s quote:

In the same speech, Robinson parroted a common far-right talking point on climate change that conflates the more gradual natural warming patterns of long ago with the rapid acceleration of global temperatures caused by human caused climate change.

In other words, he tries to compare apples to paper clips.

“Long, long ago, there was a great period of cooling. And people decided to take advantage of that and walk across something called the Bering Strait land bridge that froze. They found themselves trapped many years later, when there was a great period of warming. Long before there were cars and jets and SUVs and factories and Right Guard and gas ovens and gas lawnmowers. Long before that, there was these great periods of warming and cooling.”

Another misunderstanding of how climate works.

Reality:

Ryan Emanuel, a climate scientist at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, told WFAE last year that Robinson had made “a completely false comparison.”

“The thing that troubled me about what Robinson said is that he contrasted (the past) with climate change that we’ve experienced in the past 100-150 years, as if these are the same. And we know that they’re not the same at all,” Emanuel said.

“The climate change that we have seen in the recent century or two is at a drastically accelerated rate compared to climate changes that have happened throughout most of human history, and indeed, through most of geological history.”

Robinson’s quote: During a 2020 debate in the Republican primary race for lieutenant governor, Robinson said that he would surround himself with “good, strong conservative energy experts” because “If we are going to have success in energy and industry in this state and in this country, what we’re going to have to do is protect ourself against the globalist, climate change cabal.”

His biggest task as lieutenant governor, he said, would be “keeping the climate change cabal out of this state and if they are in this state, keeping them in chains.”

Reality: Cabal, of course, means a secret group that tries to manipulate a population for nefarious ends. Cabals, however, don’t publish scores of peer-reviewed scientific studies based on verifiable observations and backed by reams of data.

While most Republicans may doubt that climate change is tied directly to human beings, many still see it as a risk. Because Republicans are just as much in the path of hurricanes as everyone else.

In two of the four counties mentioned in the Duke report, Carteret and New Hanover, Trump beat Biden in the 2020 election by much larger margins than he did statewide.

Author

  • Michael McElroy

    Michael McElroy is Cardinal & Pine's political correspondent. He is an adjunct instructor at UNC-Chapel Hill's Hussman School of Journalism and Media, and a former editor at The New York Times.

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