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Head in the clouds: these 5 people hurt climate action by blowing hot air in 2015

Nihar Gokhale | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 2:43 IST

This was a remarkable year for environment. In December, over 190 nations signed a historic climate change agreement in Paris. In the run up to it, world leaders, scientists, policymakers, even priests made emphatic pleas to save the planet.

Also read - Climate change: Maneka Gandhi needs to get her facts right

It seemed the entire planet had come together to protect our environment. Almost.

Because 2015 will also be remembered for some truly bizarre claims about climate change, worryingly from people of considerable influence and reach. Most of them denied it's even a problem while others made grave factual errors. Here are some of these "gems".

Donald Trump, US Presidential Hopeful
Donald Trump bizarre climate quotes

Photo: Jef J Mitchell/Getty Images

The front runner to be the Republican Party's nominee for US president in 2016 doesn't "believe in global warming". In an interview in September, he said global warming "isn't a problem that in any major fashion exists", and challenged anyone to prove it did. Apparently for Trump, it's not enough that there is 97% consensus among scientists that global warming is for real.

Although he later accepted that global warming was real, the billionaire insisted that it was natural rather than man-made. Here is the Trump Theory of Climate Change: "I believe there's weather. I believe there's change, and I believe it goes up and it goes down, and it goes up again."

It this wasn't bizarrely incoherent, he went on a tangent: "You know, to me, the worst global warming, and I mentioned this to you once before, is nuclear warming. That's our global warming. That's what I see, because we have incompetent people, and we have these rogue nations, and not even rogue nations anymore."

Rupert Murdoch, Media Mogul
Rupert Murdoch bizarre climate qoutes Getty

Photo: Jason Reed/Pool/Getty Images

Rupert Murdoch controls some of the world's most influential media outlets, including the National Geographic magazine and TV channel. It appears he's also an amateur climate scientist. While other scientists need at least 15 years of data to show climate patterns, he does it in a jiffy.

It's all simple, really. For Murdoch, the existence of anything cold is chilling proof that there's no global warming.

Here's a summary of his methodology:

Murdoch: Can you think of at least one sheet of ice existing on the planet?

You: Of course.

Murdoch: There, no global warming.

Flying over the North Atlantic ocean in February, the media mogul tweeted a picture of the winter ice and wrote, "Just flying over N Atlantic 300 miles of ice. Global warming!"

No matter that NASA has found ice sheets in the Arctic melting at a rate of 9% every 10 years.

Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India
narendra modi bizarre climate quotes getty images

Photo: Justin TallisWPA Pool/Getty Images

Unlike Trump, Murdoch and Cruz, Modi isn't known to be a climate change denier. In fact, he spoke strongly in favour of climate action at the Paris meet. So, his comments just a few months before the summit came as a surprise to everyone.

He said it wasn't the climate that had changed but our ability to tolerate changes in weather. Worse, he said this, through video conferencing, to schoolchildren across the country on Teacher's Day.

A student from a central school in Assam asked him about dealing with climate change. The question was quite straightforward: "Sir, how can you help and guide us to save our pristine environment?" You would have expected a stock response.

Modi's reply, however, was jaw-dropping: "70, 80, 85 or 90 year old people, often during winters, you'll notice they say it's colder this year than the year before. Don't they say such things? Actually it's not colder. Their capacity to tolerate cold has reduced due to aging. In the same manner, the climate has not changed. We have changed."

Also read - COP21: despite Modi's strong speech, India is losing out to the West

Ted Cruz, US Senator & Presidential Hopeful
ted cruz bizarre climate quotes

Photo: Drew Angerer/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Trump isn't the only climate change denier who is in the running to be arguably the most powerful man on earth. Ted Cruz, another Republican, simply thinks that climate change is a matter of religious belief.

Strike that. He said climate change is religion. "Climate change is not science. It's religion," he said in an interview in October. He explained: "Look at the language, where they call you a denier... the language of the global warming alarmists, 'denier' is the language of religion, it's heretic, you are a blasphemer."

Maneka Gandhi, India's Minister for Women and Child Development

It's no secret that industrialised nations are most responsible for global warming. They have emitted nearly half of the harmful carbon dioxide gas that's in our atmosphere. India's share is just 5-6%. Yet, even as India was emphasising this point ahead of the Paris summit, Gandhi suddenly called it "rubbish".

She said India was "one of the main players in destroying the climate". Her argument was that India is the second largest producer of methane, which is more potent than carbon dioxide.

Bizarrely, even though methane comes from plants and cattle, her solution was to plant even more trees. A billion of them each month.

Not only do trees not reduce methane emission - they convert only carbon dioxide to oxygen - they actually add to it. So, the minister's idea to plant a billion trees to cut down methane will actually achieve the opposite.

More in Catch - Now, religions unite to save the world from climate change

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First published: 25 December 2015, 8:50 IST
Nihar Gokhale @nihargokhale

Nihar is a reporter with Catch, writing about the environment, water, and other public policy matters. He wrote about stock markets for a business daily before pursuing an interdisciplinary Master's degree in environmental and ecological economics. He likes listening to classical, folk and jazz music and dreams of learning to play the saxophone.