Stephen Colbert is tired of the often-heard “I am not a scientist” excuse from politicians who continue to deny that climate change has anything to do with man. Colbert took particular issue with the idea that Sen. James Inhofe (R – Okla.) is slotted to take over the leadership role in the Environment and Public Works Committee. Inhofe wrote a book about climate change in 2012 entitled The Greatest Hoax and is a fervent climate change denier.
Colbert described the book as being “like Harry Potter for people who thought Harry Potter had too much science in it.”
But Colbert didn’t just take issue with Inhofe. Focusing on George P. Bush, Colbert took down the many Republican leaders who use the oft-repeated phrase, “I am not a scientist” in order to evade direct questions on their views on climate change.
And Colbert isn’t the only one who is tired of hearing it.
As the New York Times reported, the “I am not a scientist” or some variation thereof has become the automatic statement when Republicans were questioned about climate change during the 2014 midterm campaigns. In the past, Republicans openly questioned or flat-out denied all the science behind climate change, but since recent polls show that the majority of citizens accept the fact that climate change is real and man-driven, and furthermore support policies crafted to slow or halt the process — Republicans have found it increasingly difficult to continue to deny it.
Hence, the “I’m not a scientist” sound byte heard from so many Republican candidates and politicians, especially as the 2016 presidential elections loom closer.
Michale McKenna is a Republican energy lobbyist who has advised Republicans on energy and climate change messaging, and even he agrees that the argument is weak and invalid.
“It’s got to be the dumbest answer I’ve ever heard,” said McKenna. “Using that logic would disqualify politicians from voting on anything. Most politicians aren’t scientists, but they vote on science policy. They have opinions on Ebola, but they’re not epidemiologists. They shape highway and infrastructure laws, but they’re not engineers.”
One man who conducts polls on public attitudes towards climate change finds the “I’m not a scientist” phrase to be strange and useless.
“What’s odd about this ‘I’m not a scientist’ line is that there’s nothing in the data we’ve seen to suggest that this helps a candidate,” he said. “We can’t find a single state where the majority of voters are skeptical. To say, ‘I’m not a scientist’ is like saying, ‘I’m not a parakeet.’ Everyone knows that it just means, ‘I’m not going to talk about this.'”
Colbert, however, is a little more blunt about what he thinks is the meaning behind the statement, saying that those who say it really all mean the same thing: “We don’t know what the f*ck we’re talking about.”
But whether or not Republicans are willing to admit to their own views on climate change during an interview — if they confirm James Inhofe, who claims climate change is a giant hoax, as leader of Environment and Public Works Committee — it seems as though they will be speaking clearly enough.
As Colbert said, “You don’t have to worry about global warming anymore, because the Senate sure won’t.”
For more on the impact of climate change, click here.
[Image via the Colbert Report]