CBS' Tony Dokoupil shows how to push back against climate science denial

Rep. Steve Scalise used denier talking points about global cooling and temperatures going "up and down”

CBS This Morning co-host Tony Dokoupil refused to let Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) get away with denying climate science during an interview on June 14. At the end of a discussion on Scalise’s recent book, Dokoupil asked the congressman about his plans to deal with climate change, which is already affecting his home state of Louisiana. Scalise tried to sidestep the question by resorting to oft-repeated climate-denial talking points.

Scalise said the Earth's temperature “goes up and down.” The idea that the climate is always changing and that this explains recent dramatic global warming is a popular denier myth. Scientists have offered overwhelming evidence that the Earth’s temperature has been steadily rising in recent decades because of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and that the past five years have been the hottest on record. Scalise also mentioned a 1970s theory about global cooling, but it was not widely accepted by scientists even at the time and has been totally discredited by today’s climate science.

In response to Dokoupil’s question about his plan to address climate change, Scalise said Louisiana is using oil-drilling revenue to rebuild the coast. Dokoupil drew attention to the irony of that response. Indeed, climate scientists agree that we urgently need to phase out fossil fuels in order to stave off the worst effects of climate change.

It’s rare that climate change is discussed on mainstream TV news programs. When it happens, too often guests downplay or deny the threat of climate change and hosts or journalists fail to push back. Good on Tony Dokoupil for questioning Scalise’s climate denial and challenging him to explain how he proposes to deal with the climate crisis.

From the June 14 edition of CBS This Morning:

Video file

TONY DOKOUPIL (CO-HOST): Your book is in part about healing political division, so I just want to get you on the record on one major division in politics, and that’s about climate change. Louisiana, according to researchers, falling into the Gulf of Mexico at about a football field per hour. So, do you accept the science of man-made climate change, and if so, where’s the plan to address it?

STEVE SCALISE (CONGRESSMAN, R-LA): Well first of all, the reason that Louisiana loses a football field of land every single hour --

DOKOUPIL: Your own climate scientists say it’s man-made.

SCALISE: I was asked a question. Louisiana does lose a football field of land every hour because of coastal erosion, which is an important problem --

DOKOUPIL: And sea-level rise. And sediment displacement.

SCALISE: That is dealt primarily because we've cordoned off the Mississippi River. Sediment used to come down from the entire country. To build it --

DOKOUPIL: We can debate this for hours. The scientists have agreed that climate change is a catastrophic risk. Do you have a plan, as some other members of your party are beginning to, to address it?

SCALISE: I’ve got a plan. First of all, we do know that the Earth’s temperature changes. It goes ahead up and down --

DOKOUPIL: You don’t accept the science?

SCALISE: In the 1970s, they said we’re entering a new cooling period.

DOKOUPIL: That’s not what the scientists are saying today. So you don’t accept it?

SCALISE: So let me tell you what we’re doing, let me tell you what we’re doing in Louisiana. We’re actually taking revenues from drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and using that to rebuild land, to rebuild our coast, what was lost from cordoning off the Mississippi River, and it’s I think a real important step to show how people can actually take ownership of the problem that they have in their own community.

DOKOUPIL: So to save your constituents from climate change, you’re drilling more in the Gulf of Mexico?

SCALISE: The money from drilling is actually being used to help rebuild land. You should go see it, I’ll invite you out there.