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Exploring how the way we live influences climate change and its impact across the Carolinas. You also can read additional national and international climate news.

As he runs for governor, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson casts doubt on climate science

Mark Robinson speaks
Winkler's Grove Baptist Church
Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson used a speech last month to call concerns about climate change "junk science."

This story appeared first in reporter David Boraks' weekly email newsletter. Sign up here to get the latest news straight to your inbox first.

North Carolina gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson isn't leaving anyone to guess where he stands on climate change: He calls it "junk science."

As the front-runner for the Republican nomination, Robinson is winning cheers from friendly audiences with his outspoken views on abortion, education and transgender people. His climate change lines draw applause too, but he's bucking public opinion on climate change.

Nearly three-quarters of Americans of all political backgrounds think climate change is happening and most of those believe humans are the cause. That's according to the most recent climate opinion survey by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication.

There's a broad consensus among scientists that climate change is happening and that it's caused mainly by our burning of fossil fuels. (NASA has a helpful summary of the research and statements from scientists and scientific organizations at NASA.gov.)

Robinson's anti-climate-science views are part of his strategy to outrun other Republicans, including State Treasurer Dale Folwell and former U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows.

In a speech last month, Robinson criticized people — presumably the scientists, public officials and activists — who call for reducing the use of fossil fuels and other efforts to reduce the climate pollution that causes global warming.

"We have now allowed those folks to dictate what we do based on pseudoscience, junk science that has not proven a single solitary thing," Robinson said.

The July 9 speech is posted on the YouTube page of Winkler's Grove Baptist Church in Hickory. (You can read more about the rest of the speech in this article by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan of the Raleigh News & Observer, where I first heard about it.)

Robinson ridiculed climate scientists by suggesting that sure, climate change is real. It happens four times a year with the changing seasons.

He also took aim at educators: "These people that are at the college telling your young people that it's the climate change is gonna kill us all … these people, I'm gonna say it right now, they are liars. Liars," he said, drawing a loud cheer from the congregation.

It's yet another way Robinson would present a stark contrast with his expected Democratic opponent, Attorney General Josh Stein. Stein has been an advocate for climate action, especially when it comes to clean energy. He has pushed for more renewable energy in Duke Energy's carbon plan and supported incentives for rooftop solar.

The big question for people concerned about climate change is whether it will be an issue in next year's election for governor. Robinson may be talking about it to solidify his base. But will Democrats bring it up? Polls suggest it could be a good issue for them.

A 2021 Yale/George Mason state-by-state poll found that North Carolina sits right at the national average when it comes to the belief that climate change is happening (71% for NC, 72% national average). The same poll found that 55% of North Carolinians believe global warming is caused mostly by human activity, vs. 57% nationwide.

And when asked if they'd personally experienced the effects of global warming, 45% of North Carolinians said yes — one point below the national average. With more of us in the state facing intense heat waves, wildfire smoke, stronger hurricanes, flooding and other extreme weather each year, that share could go up.

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David Boraks previously covered climate change and the environment for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.