What Every Governor Really Believes About Climate Change, In One Handy Map

Written by Tiffany Germain, guest contributor, and Ryan Koronowski

With all the recent talk at the federal level about the EPA’s proposed carbon regulations for new and existing power plants, it’s easy to forget about the executives that have front row seats to cutting American carbon pollution. And though climate deniers run rampant through the halls of Congress, a new analysis from the CAP Action War Room reveals that half of America’s Republican governors agree with the anti-science caucus of Congress.

Fifteen out of twenty-nine sitting Republican governors deny climate science despite the overwhelming level of scientific consensus, the enormous cost to taxpayers, and the critical place governors occupy in implementing new limits on carbon pollution. None of the country’s Democratic governors have made public statements denying climate change.

This map from the analysis categorizes governors into four groups: green for those who both accept climate science and are taking action to fight climate change; orange for those who either accept or haven’t openly denied climate science, but also have yet to take serious action to address climate change; red for those who have failed to take action or openly rejected to federal safeguards to address climate change, and red with stripes for climate deniers.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has made it clear through countless meetings with governors and state figures that the only way the new Clean Air Act regulations targeting carbon pollution will work is if the nation’s governors are on board.

Indeed, much of the progress that has already been made to address climate change and begin the switch from fossil fuels to clean energy started in the states. California has been busily implementing its cap-and-trade law, doubly approved by voters in 2010. It’s been going so well that recent auctions have sold out of permits, and its governor, Jerry Brown, is implementing the rest of the law fairly smoothly. California is so far ahead of the rest of the country that when Congress passed the Clean Air Act, it granted special authority to the Golden State so it could adopt even stronger fuel efficiency standards.

RGGI (pronounced “Reggie”) is the cap-and-trade program adopted by nine states in the northeast. Though it stalled at first, a simple correction last year lowered the cap and its last two auctions have been quite successful. This means that as those states seek to comply with the Clean Air Act regulations on power plant carbon pollution once they are finalized, it will be that much easier because their economies have already started to build in a cost of emitting carbon dioxide through RGGI. Most of their governors have taken additional steps to invest in energy efficiency and renewable power sources, but one of them, Maine Governor Paul LePage has denied the reality of climate change and stood in the way of clean energy development. Chris Christie actually pulled his state out of RGGI, and has rejected recent suggestions that rejoining the pact would be the easiest way for businesses to comply with the Clean Air Act carbon rule.

Governors who deny the science behind climate change can do significant damage to our nation’s environmental and public health protections. LePage has claimed that “scientists are divided on the subject,” when in actuality, less than 0.2 percent of published researchers reject global warming. During LePage’s tenure, he has argued that Maine could potentially benefit from the effects of climate change, vetoed legislation that would help the state prepare for extreme weather, and has attempted to dramatically reduce the states renewable energy standards to benefit large corporations. He also tried to sneak through a proposal that would exempt the state from certain anti-smog regulations, undoing protections that have been in place for almost 25 years. These views are wildly unpopular among his constituents –- a 2013 poll found that 85 percent of residents believe climate change is happening and 75 percent believe it’s the government’s responsibility to take action.

Meanwhile, Governor Rick Perry (R-Texas) has reiterated time and again that he’s “not afraid” to call himself a climate change denier. Yet his home state has suffered more climate-fueled disasters than any other, with an astounding 58 climate-fueled disaster declarations since just 2011. The ongoing severe and widespread drought has directly impacted the agriculture industry, which is one of the largest in Texas. 2011 was the driest year in state history, causing a record $7.62 billion in agricultural losses.

When asked if he believes in climate change, Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) replied “No.” “I have not been convinced.” Yet Florida is one of the first states that will feel the very severe impacts of climate change, as sea-level rise and severe storms threaten to wipe away popular tourist destinations along the coast. In fact, Rolling Stone reported that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has listed Miami as the number-one most vulnerable city worldwide in terms of property damage, with more than $416 billion in assets at risk to storm-related flooding and sea-level rise.

Fossil fuel interests have been funneling millions to Republican governors who are willing to block regulations that could potentially hurt their bottom line. In total, the fifteen governors who have denied climate change have taken $15,013,754 in campaign contributions from oil and gas over the course of their careers, with a large majority of that going to Gov. Perry. Republican governors who haven’t denied climate change have taken only $3,019,123. In contrast, all Democratic governors have taken a total of $1,403,940. That means that over 77 percent of all oil and gas contributions are being funneled to governors who are outspoken about their disbelief in climate science. On average, climate deniers have taken $1,072,397, while the remainder of governors have only taken an average of $126,373.

While the oil and gas industry is able to reap the benefits, local communities and taxpayers are suffering the dire long-term consequences. Combined, the states who are represented by climate deniers have suffered from 167 climate-fueled extreme weather events that required a presidential disaster declaration in 2011 and 2012. This has cost the federal government, and therefore taxpayers, almost $17 billion in cleanup costs.

Now, more than ever, governors will play a critical role in combating the impacts of climate change. While Congress has refused to move forward on any climate action plan, even voting 109 times last year alone to undermine environmental protections, some governors have pushed forward on their own. “Governors see the impacts of climate change first hand, and have a real understanding of the costs related to health, infrastructure, and their state’s economy,” said Ted Strickland, President of the Center for American Progress Action Fund and former governor of Ohio.

“If the U.S. is serious about being a leader in addressing climate change and taking advantage of the economic opportunity in clean energy and energy efficiency, it is going to be because states and governors lead the way. The only way the Clean Power Plan is successful is with governors getting on board, as many already have.”

Still, many governors will not be guiding their states to lower greenhouse gas emissions because they aren’t convinced carbon pollution is a bad thing, while actively discouraging strong renewable energy industries in their states.

This post originally appeared on ThinkProgress

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim V1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Warren Webber
Warren Webber2 years ago

Live long and prosper!

Joan E.
Joan E3 years ago

Pathetic. I'm glad I live in the green part of the map, but it's not much help with all that stubborn ignorance in so much of the rest of the nation.

Carole R.
Carole R3 years ago

Thanks for the good information.

Michael T.
Michael T3 years ago

He can't seem to help himself Dennis. I think his goggles are tied on too tightly and he has been breathing noxious methane gases spilling all over his lab coat from that beaker he keeps holding up from his latest high school lab experiments.

I think his brain has been fried from these things. When the fumes wear off a bit he begins the Dan Dance of Dodging and Weaving claiming he didn't make the outrageous claims he made pretending it didn't happen.

Not so long ago he cited a paper. It was apparent he hadn't truly read the paper he was making claims from to see that the things he quoted out of context were flat out wrong. Then when the authors of the research paper appeared in public answering questions that showed Dan's assertions of the paper were flat out wrong and completely misunderstood the Dan Dance began anew.

Previous to that he claimed that the buybull, of all things was the best historical reference work of all time. A dozen people showed up out of nowhere to show him the exit door. He began retracting his claims and altering them.

Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld3 years ago

Dennis D.,

After reading the following, I now know why it is so hard to make people like you understand the science involved.


Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld3 years ago

Dennis D.,
I tried. I guess you just do not understand science, preferring to call it pseduo-science, when you do not understand it. There is nothing more I can do for you. Good luck in life. Hopefully, you will find someone you can help you through.

Dennis D.
Past Member 3 years ago

What part of "you are an idiot denier and I do not debate established science" is not getting through..

Take your pseudo-science and cram it..

Global warming/climate change is real deal with it..

On the other hand. Even if you are denier and hate science and/or a shill.

This website does have some good practical ideas. That just about any one can do in their own lives..


Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld3 years ago

Dennis D.,

The small temperature change over the past 150 years has had little effect on the planet, and are still within historic norms. The greatest changes have been obcerved in those areas on the edge, namely glaciers (many alpine glaciers were expanding during the 70s). Most scientists acknowledge that the warming has been overall beneficial to life here on Earth. Indeed, a recent report claimed that warming up to 1.6C was beneficial overall. Claims that temperatures while rise catastrophically over the next century are unfounded. Most are based on computer models, which are currently running 0.2 - 0.4C above observations over the past 30 years. This represents 50% of the temperature change during the entire 20th century! Many activists project these differences out over the next century, with crazy results. While temperatures may continue to rise at the current rate, the consequences will not likely be dire. The idea that there is a tipping point is unfounded. The claim that these changes are irreversible is also not supported - except if a species were to go extinct (although the IPCC admits that there is no evidence climate change has led to even a single species becoming extinct thus far) .

Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld3 years ago

Dennis D.,

The globe has warmed. The role of CO2 in that warming is not fully known (about half the scientists feels that it has played a dominant role). The climate has not changed - most observations are within historic norms. How the temperature or climate changes in the future is uncertain. Wild claims of impending doom belong in the same room as tarot cards. The following is a list of which claims are support by scientific data, and which are not:

Temperature rise - yes, cyclical averaging about 0.6C / century
Precipitation increase - yes
Sea level rise - yes, about 2.5 mm / year
Increased storminess - no
Increased flooding - no, although flood control programs may have prevented this
Increased tornadoes - no, decreased over the past 50 yrs.
Increased hurricanes/typhoons - no, no trend over the past century
Decreased Arctic sea ice - yes, about 10% in winter, about 33% in summer
Decreased Antarctic sea ice - no, increased about 5% in winter, 25% in summer
Decreased Antarctic glaciers - no, data shows no significant change
Decreased Greenland glaciers - yes, estimated 0.1% mass loss over the past 30 yrs
Decreased Himalayan glaciers - no, a recent study stated that 87% were stable
Decreased alpine glaciers - yes, about 75% declined
Increased drought - no, drought has decreased over the past two centuries
Decreased food production - no, crop harvests are at record highs.
Massive extinctions - no, habitat destruction and overhunting mask ever