The current House of Representatives has been called one of the most environmentally hostile in history. Part of the problem, according to leading environmental groups is that many members simply refuse to admit, for personal or political reasons, that humans are causing climate change.
To try and shake things up this election cycle, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), a nonprofit environmental advocacy group, is pouring $1.5 million into a campaign to defeat five of the most outspoken climate deniers currently in the House.
The campaign, called "Defeat the Flat Earth Five," will focus on running TV, mail, and phone initiatives to spread the message that the members are ignoring science and out of touch with what most Americans believe.
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"The Flat Earth Five is our first program ever to go after members of Congress specifically because they are climate deniers," said Jeff Gohringer, LCV's National Press Secretary. "We are focusing on races in swing districts where we know our money can make a difference."
First to receive the dubious honor of induction into the Flat Earth Five: GOP Reps. Ann Marie Buerkle of New York and Dan Benishek of Michigan.
Buerkle has said, "The jury is still out on climate change," while Benishek has referred to it as "unproven science."
"These members are representative of the all-too-common mindset of climate denial in the House," Gohringer said. "It was actually quite difficult to narrow it down to just five—this is the worst House of Representatives ever when it comes to environmental issues."
The other three members to be targeted by the campaign will be revealed in upcoming weeks.
Gohringer said that calling the members the "Flat Earth Five" was emblematic of their point of view and their denial of science.
"At a time when Americans are seeing the effects of climate change right outside their window—whether it's drought, extreme temperatures or wildfires—these members of Congress are stubbornly ignoring science," said Gohringer. "We can't expect them to fix a problem they can't or won't admit exists."
Neither Rep. Buerkle's nor Rep. Benishek's campaign returned calls for comment.
Gohringer categorized the response received by LCV as evasive
"They won't directly address the issue at hand—their denial of climate change. I think it's because they understand it puts them at odds with their constituents, scientists, and even the Pentagon, which has called climate change a national security threat. "
So far, LCV has spent more than $2 million this election cycle on House and Senate races.
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Joanna Foster is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. Her background is in ecology and evolutionary biology, and having always lived near water—be it Lake Michigan, the Indian Ocean or the North Sea—she is passionate about the conservation and restoration of this most precious resource. She is a regular contributer at the Energy and Environment blog at The New York Times, and her work has also appeared in OnEarth Magazine and at the American Museum of Natural History. TakePart.com