Scott Wagner is a Republican state senator from Pennsylvania, and this November, he is running to replace Democratic Governor Tom Wolf.
Like many opponents of PC culture, Wagner prides himself on saying things that he maybe shouldn't say. And nothing exemplifies Wagner's complete lack of verbal filter better than what happened at a Town Hall meeting this week.
But before we get into that, first you need to understand a little bit about Wagner's history. For those that don't know, Wagner is a firm climate change denier with a laughable understanding of basic science.
His thoughts on climate change are so bizarre, that John Oliver even used them as a punchline for an episode of Last Week Tonight in 2017.
"The Earth moves closer to the Sun every year," Wagner explained in a video clip used on the show.
"We have more people. You know, humans have warm bodies. So is heat coming off? We're just going through a lot of change, but I think we are, as a society, doing the best we can."
The whole thing is so ridiculous that it almost left the comedian speechless.
"I don't even know where to begin there," Oliver said in response to the video.
"I mean, yes, the Earth moves closer to the Sun every year, but then it moves away from the Sun, because that is what a f*cking year is. Our body heat is not warming the planet, and we are clearly not doing the best we can because we keep putting idiots like Scott Wagner in positions of power."
But it isn't just John Oliver that is shocked and outraged by Wagner's ignorance of basic scientific facts. Rose Strauss, an 18-year-old climate activist and Pennsylvania voter, asked Wagner about his absurd comments at a recent Town Hall meeting.
The video, which was filmed by climate activist Sean Kitchen, has already been viewed over 10,000 times.
"You've said that climate change is a result of people's body heat, and are refusing to take action on the issue," said Strauss, who is a volunteer with Sunrise, a political group that fights climate change.
"Does this have anything to do with the $200,000 that you have taken from the fossil fuel industry?"
Wagner began to answer the question politely, but then veered off into condescension.
"Rose, I appreciate you being here," he began.
"You're 18 years old. You're a little young and naive. Are we here to elect a governor, or are we here to elect a scientist? I'm here to be the governor."
Wagner then began to rant about a completely different local issue.
While Strauss may be young, she is certainly not naive. Even at 18 years of age, she knows how to identify when a politician is hedging or offering a false choice. Speaking to the media after the event, Strauss, an environmental studies student, said she felt patronized by Wagner.
"To say I'm naive? I've been studying environmental science since I was 12 years old," Strauss said.
"The governor doesn't have to be a scientist, but he needs to understand science," she continued.
"It's a problem if people in government don't understand issues they will make political decisions on."
Politicians like Wagner are alienating young voters like Strauss, who tend to understand the science behind anthropogenic climate change far better.
While 97 percent of active publishing climate scientists accept the reality of human-caused climate change, there are 180 climate deniers in the 115th Congress, with 142 in the House and 38 in the Senate.
Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of these politicians are Republican. In fact, not one Democrat in Congress denies the science behind climate change.
According to a 2017 analysis from the Center for American Progress Action Fund, 59 percent of the Republican House caucus and 73 percent of Republicans in the Senate deny the scientific consensus that climate change is happening, that humans are primarily to blame, and that the whole thing represents a serious threat to humanity.
The same analysis revealed these politicians have received more than $82 million in donations from the fossil fuel industry.
"There's unequivocal evidence that climate change is happening," Strauss said.
"Most people know that, even if Scott Wagner doesn't."
But while Strauss has received a bunch of support from environmentalists and liberals in the past few days (the state's Democratic Party called Wagner's comments "insulting"), Wagner's conservative base lauded the politician's insensitive and evasive response.
"Thanks for giving an honest answer instead of some kind of wimpy/politically correct one," one supporter wrote on Facebook.
When it comes to climate change, it appears that conservatives and liberals in Pennsylvania have very different ideas about what an honest answer actually entails.
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