Sunday, February 5, 2023

Why Ted Cruz’s Fake Climate Change Tweet Still Matters

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Did Texas Senator Ted Cruz really Tweet: “I’ll believe in climate change when Texas freezes over”? Whether he did or not, the Tweet matters.

Early in 2021, as so often happens on social media, a screenshot of an old Tweet started doing the rounds. And, again, as so often happens on social media, it caused quite a bit of backlash and controversy. The alleged Tweeter in question was Texas Senator Ted Cruz. And the Tweet itself? “I’ll believe in climate change when Texas freezes over.”

senator ted cruz
Senator Ted Cruz is one of millions of Americans denying climate change. | Courtesy office of Ted Cruz

The timing of the release of the screenshot, apparently dated September 2016, was unsurprising. It was right after the southern state had dealt with catastrophic winter storms that killed hundreds, caused almost $200 billion worth of damage, and triggered a major power outage. The latter likely happened because the power plants in Texas, where the winters are usually relatively mild, were unprepared for the extremely cold conditions.

For many in the state during the winter of 2021, it likely felt like Texas truly was freezing over, and as research indicates, the climate crisis did play a hand in the storms. In fact, studies have suggested that the cold crisis was linked to melting sea ice in the Arctic. And it’s not over: at the end of 2022, Texas once again endured a bitterly cold period of harsh winter weather.

It’s understandable that such a statement from the state’s senator would cause outrage. But, in reality, Sen. Cruz didn’t ever send that Tweet. Many publications verified that the screenshot was fabricated.

Fake Tweet or not, does it matter?

Fake statement or not, the Tweet does seem to accurately sum up the senator’s real attitude toward the climate crisis. Whether he wrote those exact words on Twitter in 2016 or not doesn’t really matter, because the outrage is still justified. His past actions back up the sentiment.

Did Senator Cruz Tweet about climate change in 2016?

In 2015, in a hearing regarding the debate around the climate crisis, Sen. Cruz said: “According to the satellite data, there has been no significant global warming for the past 18 years. Those are the data. The global warming alarmists don’t like these data — they are inconvenient to their narrative. But facts and evidence matter.” And, in 2019, he said the data was “inconclusive” on whether carbon dioxide was warming up the atmosphere.

His attitude has prompted a strong reaction from climate activists. Last October, protestors interrupted an interview with the senator on The View, claiming that “ABC needs to cover climate change more instead of platforming a climate denier like Ted Cruz.”

‘A hotbed of climate science denial’

Climate denial is dangerous. Action to tackle the climate crisis is not just necessary, it’s urgent. And when that action is undermined by people in power, the consequences are grave. 

Despite Sen. Cruz’s views on the data, more than 99 percent of scientists agree that the more greenhouse gasses we pump into the atmosphere, the worse the climate crisis gets. Extreme heat events, like droughts, heatwaves, and wildfires, become more likely. And so do other events, like floods, hurricanes, extreme cold snaps, and winter storms, because research suggests the climate crisis is messing with the earth’s natural weather patterns.

hurricane
Extreme weather patterns are increasing asa result of climate change. Courtesy NASA | Unsplash

Sen. Cruz isn’t alone. In 2019, one survey led by the Guardian suggested that the US was “a hotbed of climate science denial,” with 13 percent of Americans noting that human activity doesn’t have anything to do with our changing climate. But it’s not all bad news. In August 2022, the World Economic Forum reported 23 percent fewer climate deniers in U.S. Congress than six years ago. 

Perhaps, as the NGO speculated, this is because extreme weather is becoming harder and harder to ignore. In 2022, some of the most horrific climate disasters yet happened in various places all over the world. 

Pakistan’s floods killed more than 1,700 people and displaced nearly 8 million, while Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya faced continuous drought, after the fifth rainy season passed without, well, rain. Wildfires ravaged Europe, and China experienced its most intense heatwave since records began.

Time for action

The time for waiting has passed. Texas froze. So the world’s leaders and its biggest, most powerful corporations need to act. And if they don’t, research indicates they will be held accountable, with climate lawsuits becoming more common than ever before. In fact, according to the London School of Economics, climate change litigation has more than doubled in the last seven years.

melting ice
Scientists agree: climate action is urgent. Courtesy Annie Spratt | Unsplash

In 2022, for example, ClientEarth, which calls itself the “world’s most ambitious environmental organization,” took the U.K. government to court for its “inadequate net-zero strategy,” and won. At the time, the ruling was seen as a “breakthrough moment in the fight against climate delay and inaction.” One of ClientEarth’s lawyers Sam Hunter-Jones, said: “It forces the Government to put in place climate plans that will actually address the crisis.”

But as we’ve also seen in 2022, with climate activists hitting the headlines constantly, protests are going to become a part and parcel of life, until they feel heard, at least. Alice Hu, one of the protestors who interrupted Sen. Cruz on The View, told the Guardian: “The climate crisis has reached a point where it’s very clear that politely asking through petitions and voting for certain candidates, and so on, is not enough to stop the rapid climate collapse that we’re experiencing throughout the world.”

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