Peter Dykstra: Meet the Zeroes
Credit: Oljamu at Pixabay

Peter Dykstra: Meet the Zeroes

Back in the day, even the climate-denying, drill-baby-drill zealots tried to maintain a saving green grace. Not anymore.

Once upon a time, environmentalists’ favorite villains always kept a pet green cause in their back pockets.


James G. Watt, Ronald Reagan’s pious, libertarian Interior Secretary, sought to lease every square inch of American coastline whether or not it bore potential for oil and gas. He also suggested that if environmental regulation could not be overcome with the ballot box, then the “cartridge box” awaited. But even Watt tipped his political hat to environmental values, endorsing a halt to global commercial whaling during a 1991 whale watch excursion.

Years later, Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe was well on his way to establishing himself as the alpha dog of congressional climate deniers. But in 2004, he became champion of the endangered Kemp Ridley sea turtles, co-sponsoring a measure to protect their nesting grounds along the Gulf Coast.

But now, when the most basic environmental questions have turned brutally partisan, things have shifted. Conservatives no longer feel they need to put up a green show to keep appearances, according to the scores of the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), a half-century-old, non-partisan organization that tracks the behavior of congressional committees or individual congresspersons.

LCV bases its rating on key environmental votes in the House and Senate. What it shows is alarming.

That was then...

I looked at the 1990 Congress as a random year. Two senators and 23 House members rated a zero LCV score that year. Republican senators averaged 32%; Democrats, 65%. In the House, LCV gave the GOP a 40% average; the Dems scored 68% on average.

This is now...

Well, the zeroes actually haven’t grown by a lot: 33 House members and, in fact, none in the Senate. But, virtually every single Republican House and Senate member today is under 30%. Prominent among those with a 0% LCV score are several reps. whose outspoken-ness has raised eyebrows, like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Paul Gosar of Arizona, and Lauren Boebert of Colorado.

Why this matters

To me it’s horrifying to see things coming to a head as they are this summer and America’s two political parties more polarized than ever. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a senator with presidential dreams, is pulling a 5%, with his state barely five feet above rising seas. Presidential rival Ted Cruz, R-Texas, whose state has been ravaged by heat, drought and storms, is at 3%. Higher scorers like Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., at 30% are ending their careers, voluntarily or otherwise.

Hellacious wildfires and biblical downpours ought to be climate’s heralds, but these folks simply aren’t paying attention.

Peter Dykstra is our weekend editor and columnist and can be reached at pdykstra@ehn.org or @pdykstra.

His views do not necessarily represent those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate, or publisher Environmental Health Sciences.

To save salmon, U.S. approves largest dam removal in history

A U.S. agency seeking to restore habitat for endangered fish gave final approval on Thursday to decommission four dams straddling the California-Oregon border, the largest dam removal undertaking in U.S. history.
Sunrise in the woods

Get our Good News newsletter

Get the best positive, solutions-oriented stories we've seen on the intersection of our health and environment, FREE every Tuesday in your inbox. Subscribe here today. Keep the change tomorrow.

Climate migration Bangladesh flooding
UN Women Asia and the Pacific/Flickr

U.S. isolated on loss and damage

The United States is now seen as the biggest obstacle to what poor countries want most out of these talks — a new fund dedicated to help them bounce back from climate disasters.

Scientists try to restore climate change damage to Great Barrier Reef

Scientists studying coral reproduction in the Great Barrier Reef combine ancient knowledge with technology to tackle the effects of warming waters. Indigenous groups have a growing role in management of the reef and experts are seeing hope for regeneration.

Autumn Budget: What it means for UK efforts to tackle climate change

Jeremy Hunt’s autumn Budget will not mirror the wish list of policies advocated by environmentalists and climate campaigners in the UK and abroad.

Climate change, Sudan's hidden crisis

Record heats in Khartoum, rains in the North, droughts and drinking water shortages, dramatic floods, the Nile in mortal danger… climate change is hitting Sudan.

Photos capture detrimental effects of climate change

While no single disaster can be definitively linked to climate issues, the overall impact of climate change is growing more visible.

From our Newsroom
sperm count decline shanna swan

A new analysis shows a “crisis” of male reproductive health

Global average sperm count is declining at a quicker pace than previously known, chemical exposure is a suspected culprit.

WATCH: The latest evidence of widespread sperm count decline

WATCH: The latest evidence of widespread sperm count decline

"Pregnant women, and men planning to conceive a pregnancy, have a responsibility to protect the reproductive health of the offspring they are creating."

sperm count decline

Frequently asked questions on the new sperm count decline study

Sperm counts are declining everywhere — the implications are huge.

midterm elections

Peter Dykstra: Environmental takeaways from Election Day

What happened and, perhaps more importantly, what didn’t happen?

coal pennsylvania

Former coal plant near Pittsburgh is poisoning groundwater: Report

Groundwater near the site contains arsenic levels 372 times higher than safety threshold. Coal ash sites across the U.S. are seeing similar contamination.

midterm elections

Peter Dykstra: Election Day and beyond

The environment gets orphaned yet again.

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.