Critics accuse Buttigieg of “playing politics” after comments linking turbulence to climate change

Critics are responding to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who has attributed recent significant weather events and transportation crises, at least in part, to climate change.

On Sunday, Buttigieg appeared on CBS' “Face the Nation,” where he claimed that the effects of climate change are responsible for recent incidents of severe aircraft turbulence and extreme weather.

Anchor Margaret Brennan asked Buttigieg about the strain on the nation's transportation system when bad weather complicates a tough travel weekend like Memorial Day and what he thinks of NOAA's latest outlook predicting a more severe hurricane season this year.

“The reality is that the impacts of climate change are already hitting us in terms of our transportation,” Buttigieg responded.

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“We've seen that in the form of heat waves that statistically shouldn't even be possible and that threaten to melt the cables of transportation systems in the Pacific Northwest into … hurricane seasons that are becoming increasingly extreme and indications that turbulence is increasing by about 15% .

“That means we have to assess everything we can do about it.”

In response, Republican lawmakers and some climate analysts rejected Buttigieg's appeal to climate change, with one lawmaker claiming that the weather and public transportation systems are being politicized.

“It is clear that Secretary Buttigieg is not serious about addressing our many transportation challenges. He is playing identity politics to the detriment of the American people,” said Rep. Aaron Bean, R-Fla., a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“Buttigieg's latest comments are contradicted by the National Transportation Safety Board and are just another example of how out of touch he is with hardworking Americans.”

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Energy analyst Alex Epstein, a former Cato Institute researcher and author of “Fossil Future,” told Fox News Digital that the secretary is also wrongly attributing recent crises to climate change.

“Climate itself doesn't have a meaningful impact on transportation, but on terrible climate policies, including Pete Buttigieg's,” Epstein said.

“For example, the EPA's new pollution standards represent a de facto EV mandate that will force Americans to drive inferior cars and place enormous new demand for reliable electricity on an already failing power grid.”

Another climate expert pointed to the increase in the total number of airline flights as a reason for the concern.

“One reason more turbulence is being recorded is that there are more flights,” said Diana Furchtgott-Roth, director of the Heritage Foundation Center for Energy, Climate and the Environment.

Even if the United States were to stop using all fossil fuels now, it would only make a difference of 2/10 of a degree Celsius by the year 2100, government modeling shows. There is no way that these changes can be attributed to climate change. The climate is constantly changing, but there is no reason that these changes can be attributed to the use of greenhouse gases.”

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Furchtgott-Roth also attributed the prevalence of social media and connectivity on airplanes to people being able to report problems during the flight almost immediately.

However, the Department of Transport pushed back on the critics and pointed out Fox News Digital Study from 2019 in the journal Nature discussing the links between climate change and airline turbulence.

Rep. Aaron Bean, R-Fla., leaves a House Republican Conference meeting at the Capitol Hill Club on April 30, 2024. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

A department representative quoted the study's co-author, University of Reading professor of atmospheric sciences Paul Williams, as saying that the study's organizers had amassed a large body of scientific evidence as turbulence increases due to climate change .

“An invisible form called 'clear air turbulence' is generated by wind shear, which is now 15% stronger than in the 1970s due to climate change. We expect a further strengthening of wind shear in the coming decades, perhaps doubling or tripling it. the amount of severe turbulence,” Williams wrote.

Requests for comment from the House Transportation Committee's top Republican, Sam Graves of Missouri, and top Democrat, Rick Larsen of Washington, were not returned.

Calls to Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., chair of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, were not returned as of press time.

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