Meet the Minnesota Legislature's Top 5 Climate Change Deniers

If the polar caps weren't melting, the polar bears would have nothing to drink.

If the polar caps weren't melting, the polar bears would have nothing to drink.

Every so often, Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen (R-Glencoe) will stand up in the Minnesota House and remind everyone that the United Nations made up global warming. It’s all a conspiracy, he believes, to pad the pockets of those who work in renewable energy and destroy capitalism.

The avuncular lawmaker has never shied from stating his view that climate change is a fraud and a lie. The junk science articles that he posts on Facebook and emails en masse make that clear. 

Gruenhagen thin grasp of science is not unusual for Minnesota's Republicans. Last April, when state House members were asked to acknowledge that climate change is real and that human activity contributes to it, Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) – chair of the jobs and energy committee and the proud owner of a Tesla – was the only Republican to vote yes

To be fair, there are lots of reasons why lawmakers would refuse to recognize climate change aside from actual ignorance — though none particularly honorable. They include party loyalty, staying on the right side of coal and oil money, and the sport of pissing off Democrats. In other words, just because 99 percent of House Republicans voted to say they disagree with 97 percent of the world’s scientists doesn’t mean they actually do. Some are just shameless. 

Here are the worst of the worst:

  1. Rep. Joyce Peppin (R-Rogers)

    At the April debate over whether climate change is real and exacerbated by humans, Peppin called the whole discussion "ludicrous."  Only a handful of lawmakers are also scientists by trade, so the House is vastly under-qualified to decide one way or the other, she said. Where are all the scientists at? she asked, squinting into the crowd, before Democrats pointed out that legislators are actual experts on very few things, yet regularly vote on everything.

  2. Rep. Jim Newberger (R-Becker)

    During the same debate, a humble Newberger said he would defer to the scientific community when it comes to climate change. 

    "I'm not going to put words into the mouths of scientists," he said. "I'm going to trust that they're a lot smarter than I am. These are distinguished men and women who have accomplished many great things." 

    Nevertheless, he went on to vote that climate change isn't real. It's his personal belief, he said, asking that others be sensitive to it. 

    "We have to be very careful about voting red," he said. "We will be labeled deniers, we will be persecuted. I respect everyone on both sides of this issue. I don't question your beliefs. Please don't question mine." 

  3. Rep. Peggy Scott (R-Andover)

    Once, when Scott was asked whether the state should assess the health impact of new power plants before they're built, she compared the risks of breathing coal emissions to that of owning a cat. 

    Burning coal causes asthma. Cat dander causes asthma. If the state wanted to study coal plants, it should also study cats, she reasoned. 

  4. Rep. Eric Lucero (R-Dayton)

    Lucero believes that the melting of the last Ice Age proves that humans have no impact on global warming.

    "Weren't we at one time in an ice age?" he asked during debate. "Are we in an ice age today? If we were in an ice age, and we're not in an ice age now, we must have experienced some kind of climate change. How much human activity or internal combustion engines was it, or did it take at the time, to increase greenhouse gases and emissions to do away with our ice age?"

    Gotcha, Lucero seemed to imply. 

  5. Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R- Mazeppa) 

    Democrats tend to spend a lot of time explaining the basic science behind weather whenever they try to set limits on greenhouse gas emissions. Sometimes, they're rewarded with really choice insights from the mind of Steve Drazkowski. 

    As legend — and this UpTake clip — has it, Drazkowski once pointed to a pile of snow in the Sears parking lot in response to another member's presentation of some research behind climate change. 

    That pile of snow was proof that global warming is a hoax, he said. 

    Former legislator Kate Knuth had to explain that a warmer atmosphere contains more moisture, resulting in more snow.