Sen. Kirk walks back on climate change

Sen. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkDuckworth announces reelection bid Brave new world: Why we need a Senate Human Rights Commission  Senate majority battle snags Biden Cabinet hopefuls MORE (R-Ill.) has reversed his opinion on climate change and now says that greenhouse gas emissions from human activity are not warming the Earth.

Kirk’s statement Wednesday to E&E Daily is a flip from 2009, when he was in the House and one of only eight Republicans to vote for legislation to establish a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gases.


Kirk said that the naming of Greenland, and the fact that it was once green, shows that the Earth’s climate changes regularly and naturally.

“We had the previous warming period, which was called the global optimum, and the best way to talk about that is when Leif Erickson went west from his home, he discovered a landmass that he called Greenland, because it was,” Kirk told Greenwire.

“And that was called the global optimum, because the planet was much warmer. By calling Greenland ‘green land,’ we know that the climate has been changing pretty regularly within recorded memory.”

Kirk later sought to clarify his comments, saying in a statement that “climate change is real and human beings definitely play a role.”

Kirk changed his position on cap-and-trade soon after the 2009 vote, but still supported cutting greenhouse gases and did not, until now, change his view from the prevailing opinion among scientists.

His comments came as Democrats and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are planning to force a Senate vote on whether or not climate change is real. It would come as an amendment to the bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

Kirk said he would vote against that amendment, calling it a “desperate attempt to derail Keystone.”

— This story was updated at 5:10 p.m.