Texas debate moderator questions Sen. Ted Cruz about his history of climate denial

Cruz: “The climate will change as long as we have a planet Earth.” 

During the October 16 Texas Senate debate, moderator Jason Whitely, a reporter at ABC affiliate WFAA-TV in Dallas, asked incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz (R) about his history of climate change denial. Cruz responded by saying, “The climate has been changing from the dawn of time. The climate will change as long as we have a planet Earth.” He then pivoted to accusing his opponent, Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D), of voting for new taxes on oil and gas. Whitely followed up and tried to get Cruz to clarify his views on climate change, but Cruz again dodged the question. O’Rourke, for his part, said, “manmade climate change is a fact,” and noted that scientists "tell us that we still have time, but the window is closing to get this right.”

Media Matters is tracking debates in competitive Senate and gubernatorial races and encouraging moderators to ask candidates questions about climate change. So far, only 8 of 39 debates analyzed nationwide have included a climate-related question. See our scorecard.

From the October 16 Texas Senate debate:

Video file

JASON WHITELY (MODERATOR): President Trump said on Sunday that something is changing in regards to the climate. You're clearly on record, for years, saying there's no evidence to back that up -- that nothing exists yet to back that up. But major oil companies, including Texas-based ExxonMobil, says, even on its website, “The risk of climate change is clear and warrants action.” That's ExxonMobil's own words there. So what do you tell Texas companies who think this really is a problem?

TED CRUZ (R): Well, listen, of course the climate is changing. The climate has been changing from the dawn of time. The climate will change as long as we have a planet Earth. I am the son of two mathematicians and computer programmers. I believe in science. I chair the Science and Space Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee. And, indeed, in that capacity, I chaired a hearing looking on the science and data behind global warming. And we heard testimony -- we heard actual science and data.

Far too many Democrats approach this issue, not as a matter of science -- I think we should follow the science and follow the evidence -- but instead, what they approach it as, as a matter of government power; they want the power to control the economy. That has led, for example, Congressman O'Rourke to cast some votes that I think are really harmful to the people of Texas. For example, Congressman O'Rourke voted in favor of a $10-a-barrel tax on every barrel of oil produced in the state of Texas. That would have been absolutely devastating to the state of Texas. By the way, $10-a-barrel, that works out to about 24 cents a gallon that every one of us would pay when you go fill up your car or truck. That would hurt the people of Texas.

And let me point out, look, a robust energy sector is good for all of Texas. There are millions of jobs that depend on a robust oil and gas sector. And Congressman O'Rourke’s record, voting against Texas oil and gas, voting against energy, that hurts the economy, it hurts jobs, it's not right for Texas. And let me point out: All of those oil and gas workers, they buy homes, they buy cars and trucks, they get health care, they give to churches and schools. And, by the way, the University of Texas and Texas A&M get hundreds of millions of dollars from our energy sector --

WHITELY: That's your time, Senator. Let's move on to a 90-second response from Mr. O'Rourke.

BETO O’ROURKE (D): This is what you can expect over the course of this debate. Sen. Cruz is not going to be honest with you. He's going to make up positions and votes that I've never held or have ever taken. He's dishonest. It's why the president called him “Lying Ted,” and it's why the nickname stuck, because it's true.

Look, the climate is changing, and man-made climate change is a fact. Three hundred years after the Enlightenment, we should be able to listen to the scientists and follow their advice and guidance. And they tell us that we still have time, but the window is closing to get this right. If we're going to make our commitment to the generations that follow -- and not just think about the next election or our political career or pursuit of the White House -- then we can make the right decisions now.

We can support Texas being a proud energy leader in oil and in gas, but also in renewable energy. Today, Texas leads the country -- we're No. 1 in the nation in the generation of renewable wind power. We're No. 5 and moving up quick when it comes to solar. The two fastest growing jobs in the United States of America today: wind and solar jobs. We can continue to grow this economy. We can reject the false choice between oil and gas and renewable energy, make sure that we produce and refine and transport and use our energy resources more responsibly. And listen, this isn't one political party saying this. This is people of both parties and every single county in Texas that we've had the chance to listen to people. These are folks who work in the energy industry. Amy and I were in Ira in Texas listening to those who work in some of these fracking operations. What they want is predictability and consistency in the regulations, and then they will perform to them.

WHITELY: Congressman, that's your time. Mr. Cruz, 60-second rebuttal. The question is: Does ExxonMobil have it wrong here?

CRUZ: Well, it's clear, Congressman O'Rourke's pollsters have told him to come out on the attack. So if he wants to insult me, and call me a liar, that's fine. But you know John Adams famously said, “Facts are stubborn things.” So, if you want to see the vote he cast for a $10-a-barrel tax on oil, go to our website. It's TedCruz.org, and we will put up the exact text of the vote and a link to Congressman O'Rourke's vote against the people of Texas. Let me say: If you work in energy, if you work in oil and gas, Congressman O'Rourke's record on this is extreme. He didn't just vote for a $10-a-barrel tax on oil, he's also voted for aggressive regulations of fracking, aggressive regulations of exporting liquefied natural gas. He's a prominent supporter of President Obama's Paris climate deal, which would have killed thousands of jobs in the state of Texas. That's not good for Texas, and it's an example of, over and over again, Congressman O'Rourke sides with liberal extremists on the national level instead of the people of Texas, instead of jobs of Texas. And, by the way, alternatives are great, too. Texas leads in energy across the board.