OR-1: Rob Cornilles, climate change, sleeping bags, and cheese

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Last night, Suzanne Bonamici and Rob Cornilles faced off in their only final televised debate of the special election. Ballots go out on Friday, and voters in OR-1 have until January 31 to cast their votes. The O's Jeff Mapes put together an excellent 10 minute highlights video of the debate, which was produced by KGW and the Oregonian. Check it out.

During the debate, Bonamici asked Cornilles directly about climate change. His answer was a bizarre word salad that reveals the core dissonance in his campaign -- how to sound like a well-meaning Oregon moderate while dog-whistling to his hard-core right wing supporters and major GOP funders like the pesticide and petrochemical industries.

Here's his full answer, with my notes:

I think that this is another issue that some people like to politicize.

That's an interesting bit of framing. After all, it's the Republicans that are largely to blame for politicizing what should be a fairly basic question of science. There is no doubt that there is widespread scientific consensus - and yet, most in the Republican Party like to pretend the question is still in doubt.

Science is always changing. I believe that the climate is changing as well. How it's changing, I'm not going to stand here and say that I know. I'm running for Congress, not scientist.

Here, Cornilles echoes a standard GOP talking point. But it's one that lets the framing get away from him. After all, if you're going to acknowledge that you're not knowledgeable about science, then shouldn't you rely on the scientific community to tell you what the facts are? In essence, Cornilles is rejecting the scientific consensus and putting himself in the shoes of the scientists. He's doing the exact opposite of what he says he wants to do. Rob, you're not a scientist, so why not accept their conclusions?

And I also think as you look at science, the fact of the matter is two weeks ago I read that cheese is now good for me. Who woulda thunk it?

I have no idea what he's talking about here. Was cheese declared bad for us at some point? Cornilles should be glad that Tillamook County isn't in the First Congressional District - those dairy farmers would be mighty upset at the implication.

These are serious issues that I don't want to politicize. I'm not going to stand here and suggest that all scientists are in agreement because they're not. It's not up to the majority.

Another internal contradiction from Cornilles. Like so many other right-wing anti-science nutballs, Cornilles hangs his hat on the idea that there are dissenting scientists. Now, there are very, very few of them - and in general, it turns out that the dissenters are typically not climate scientists.

On the one hand, Cornilles throws his hands in the air and declares "they're not in agreement!" and in the next breath acknowledges that it shouldn't be up to a vote. And on that, he's right. It's up to the data, not a vote. And the data is crystal clear - the Earth is heating up, and is heating up faster than ever before.

What we need to do though is focus on what we do agree on as Oregonians and that is - we need to preserve our environment. We need to conserve to a greater length.

Awww, that's a nice cute line. When in doubt, appeal to widely-held values.

And as one who's spent a lot of nights camping with my boys in the Oregon wilderness -- I've spent a lot of nights in sleeping bags; I've never slept in a sleeping bag, but I've spent a lot of nights in those --

I've listened to this line a dozen times, and I still have no idea what he's talking about. Does he sleep in the car while his kids are in sleeping bags? When he goes camping, does he suffer from insomnia? Is he bravely staying up all night protecting his family from marauding bears? This line makes no sense.

-- I can tell you that I teach my kids to be conservationists, to take care of these beautiful natural resources we've been blessed with in Oregon.

Well, that's nice. The Boy Scout ethic and all that ("'Leave it better than you found it.") I'm all for picking up litter from a campsite, but of course, Rob's policy prescriptions are the opposite of that. We're leaving the Earth worse for wear, not better.

And as a member of Congress, I will always remember that stewardship for this part of the world.

Wait, what?! As a member of Congress, you're going to be an environmental steward for Oregon - but not the rest of the planet? Yeah, let's use the rest of the planet as a dumping ground while protecting our little corner of it. And that doesn't even make sense. Oregon's natural resources, Oregon's environment, the beauty and livability of our state are threatened by climate change. It's a global problem that requires global thinking and global solutions.

Suzanne Bonamici's retort?

Rob, it's not what you do in the environment, it's what you do about it. Climate change is serious. Humans do contribute to climate change. It requires a serious approach that I will bring to Congress.

Spot on. Thank you, Suzanne.

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    I appreciate how you demonstrate the Republican line - I'm not a scientist - creates a problem for candidates who reject scientific consensus.

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    There was another televised debate between these candidates just last month. Wasn't there?

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    Debate watchers, which of the candidates had the better presentation?

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    Climate change is a theory and not a fact. A theory must account for all known facts and predict things we don’t yet know. A single peer-reviewed fact could reduce the climate change theory to rubble. There are hundreds of papers supporting climate change and not one that refutes it. Fear, uncertainty and doubt are easily portrayed as fact and such FUD is a very powerful political tool. Rob showed us a practical use of FUD.

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      Gravity is also a theory and not a fact.

      The word "theory", as you know, it's much stronger than the junior-high understanding of the word, as in "You don't know that, it's just a theory..."

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        Gravity was a fact for 400 years. Then Einstein showed us a fact or two. Now we have strings and 11-dimensional space to threaten Einstein. Facts are indeed slippery but FUD is so much more powerful that facts in the hands of a politician.

        The power of the climate change theory is its predictions of the future. The predictions are what challenges people to change and are so strongly disputed. If we accept the climate change theory, a rational person would have to agree that we must make changes now. The problem is convincing people of consequences they will never see in their lifetime. I believe that 100 years from now people will curse us for our stupidity but too few others believe it.

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            True, true, true.

            What's the downside of addressing climate change? I haven't heard anything.

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              Kari, the RW has successfully painted the climate change issue as a liberal plot to take away people's gas engine cars, their coal fired power plants, and to increase taxes on gas and fossil fuel based products. All of which is a job loser in this scenario. In a debate like this I think climate change as an issue probably appeals largely to the left leaning crowd. Hence all the focus here is on the climate change issue as it was raised in the debate. Do Joe and Jill Sixpack really care about climate change? I don't know the answer. They should. Everyone should, but I doubt they do. Human beings tend to be reactive and not proactive. When the snowpack disappears from the Cascades and there's no water storage, maybe people in Oregon will take notice, but not before, I'm afraid. There are many many reasons to break with fossil fuels in a way that is win-win. But the RW has an easy task to call it lose-lose.

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            A couple of years, Sharon Astyk in her blog, dubbed this the Theory of Anyway, as in, everything we should be doing to slow climate change is stuff we should be doing anyway, if we want to leave a habitable planet to our descendants.

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    On climate change: "his answer was a bizarre word salad".

    That is a clever statement Kari and I am impressed with this piece, but the best line out of this election season that I have come across applies to nearly all Republicans and was spoken by the one, the only, Suzanne Bonamici.

    "Rob, I’ll make you an offer: You stop misleading voters about me, and I'll stop telling the truth about you."

    I know she didn't coin the phrase but still...Great stuff.

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    Cornilles takes the standard climate crank stance, which is the only one palatable to the insane GOP electorate.

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    Scientists I surveyed all agree, Mr Cheddar really is a walking, talking source of greenhouse gasses.

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    I suspect that no one is willing to live in unheated houses, take cold showers, and walk to work. So, we need a substitute for fossil fuels for heating and transportation.

    The problem we have now is the cost of every alternative is higher than fossil fuels. It is a really tough sell to ask people to pay more for heating and transportation with the promise that people 100 years in the future thank us.

    Hydrocarbons turn out to be one of the better forms of energy storage as they are stable, compact and safe. I believe that our future is a methane and ethanol-based economy. We know lots about turning sunlight into hydrocarbons but little of converting what we have into a usable gas or liquid form. It turns out there are some tantalizing ideas that work in the laboratory but that could transform this fuel issue if only they were developed enough to work at commercial levels.

    An enlightened public policy could change all this if we were to accelerate research and incentivize innovation. I look forward to the day when I can fuel my smart car with ethanol, perhaps aged a bit in toasted American oak barrels.

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      One word, Steve: Thorium.

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      "The problem we have now is the cost of every alternative is higher than fossil fuels. "

      I'm asking not to troll, but because I'm genuinely curious and don't wish to do the math if someone else already has: if we took away the ridiculous subsidization we provide the fossil fuel industry, how much would that change the cost ration?

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      Actually, Steve, conservation is much cheaper than fossil fuels.

      Americans are shockingly bad when it comes to converting energy into value. We produce less than a third as much GDP per energy consumed as Hong Kong, and less than half than places like Peru, Albania, Colombia, Botswana, etc. Ireland, the UK, Costa Rica, Sri Lanka, Gabon, Japan, Germany... the list goes on and on about who are more efficient than the US. We're bracketed by Honduras and Jamaica.

      Here are the data from the World Bank.

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    I googled Thorium and found a few things out that are fascinating. Seems that Thorium may be the safe nuclear reactor of the future and render fossil fuels nearly obsolete if any of this is true. http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2010-08/thorium-reactors-could-wean-world-oil-just-five-years

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    The choice to reject thorium and instead taking the path towards weapons while claiming a peaceful use of atomic power is one of the greatest hoaxes of the twentieth century. Now, with famous voices of science proclaiming that depleted uranium is a harmless as your toast at breakfast the reality is that all weapons are coated with the stuff and it has found its way to many sites in the US. Examine this a little further and you will find the Pentagon telling veterans of exposure to combat in Iraq that no record exists of them ever having been in the military.

    So, we honor our veterans by expanding the lie. Here is another good search. Joyce Riley and her efforts to help victims of gulf war syndrome. Guess we were all too busy watching the ticker tape parade in New York celebrating the great victory in Iraq and wondering why the peace community in Portland, you know those worthless flag burners, didn't have a ticker tape parade too. Pathetic.


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