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Trump’s Interior Secretary Pick on Humans’ Climate Change Role: ‘Not Settled Science’

Ally Boguhn

Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) falsely claimed during a 2014 radio interview that volcanoes cause more damage to the environment than humans. He envisions "fossil fuels playing a major role for the next 50 years.”

Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), who once said that humans’ role in climate change is “not settled science,” will be nominated by President-elect Trump as interior secretary, according to multiple reports.

Officials familiar with the decision confirmed the nomination on Tuesday to the New York Times, and “a person close to Zinke” confirmed the offer to the Associated Press.

The Department of the Interior, which Zinke will lead should he be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, “uses sound science to manage and sustain America’s lands, water, wildlife, and energy resources, honors our nation’s responsibilities to tribal nations, and advocates for America’s island communities,” according to a description on the department’s website. That work includes tackling topics such as climate change, “resolving long-standing injustices” with Native Americans, and managing the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

While he was a Montana state senator in 2010, Zinke signed onto a letter calling for clean energy that acknowledged climate change as a national security threat. Yet Zinke has consistently expressed skepticism about climate change and the impact humans have on it. Zinke later denied that he had ever supported the letter’s position, telling the Bozeman Daily Chronicle that he was only “supporting research and development then.”

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He added, “I see fossil fuels playing a major role for the next 50 years.”

Zinke, who studied geology as an undergraduate at the University of Oregon, told the Chronicle in 2014 that he is a geologist and claimed to have never seen scientific evidence that fracking is dangerous to the environment or that climate change exists. Studies have shown that fracking is dangerous for both the environment and those living in nearby communities.

As the Chronicle reported, Zinke falsely claimed during a radio interview that year that volcanoes cause more damage to the environment than humans:

“I’m a conservationist, but when there’s a volcano in the Philippines that erupts and produces more C02 than humans have produced in 200 years—is C02 really the problem?”

In a 2014 debate during his run for the U.S. House of Representatives, Zinke reportedly denied that climate change is a man-made phenomenon. “It’s not a hoax, but it’s not proven science either,” Zinke said, according to a report from the Billings Gazette. “But you don’t dismantle America’s power and energy on a maybe. We need to be energy independent first. We need to do it better, which we can, but it is not a settled science.”

Zinke’s voting record on the environment has earned him a 3 percent rating from the League of Conservation voters.

Zinke pushed his anti-choice values during his U.S. congressional race, claiming that “no one has worked harder” on the issue when he was criticized by some Republicans who claimed he did not oppose abortion rights as stringently as they wanted. Zinke countered by pointing to anti-choice legislation he co-sponsored in the state senate.

After winning a seat in the U.S. House, Zinke stood by his anti-choice position, consistently voting to defund Planned Parenthood. Zinke co-sponsored the House’s unconstitutional 20-week abortion ban, which relies on the debunked anti-choice claim that a fetus can feel pain at that point of gestation.

Zinke voted in 2015 to overturn the D.C. Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act, which protects employees from being fired for their reproductive health-care choices.

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Reproductive rights are a public health issue. That's a fact.

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