Flood victim confronts Cruz on climate change

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AP
Kristopher Radder, The Brattleboro Reformer/AP
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks at a campaign event Sunday at Pedraza’s Mexican Restaurant in Keene, N.H.

Texas woman took trip to N.H. to talk with candidates

HENNIKER, N.H. — Renee Boschert wanted an audience with Ted Cruz, and she traveled all the way from Texas to New Hampshire to get it.

The 63-year-old from Wimberley, in Central Texas about 260 miles south of Denton, arrived in the Granite State on Tuesday and returned home Saturday, filling the time in between by attending town hall meetings with the U.S. senator from Texas, as well as those of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, two of Cruz’s rivals for the GOP presidential nomination.

The question on her mind: What would each of them do to curb the effects of climate change?

“It’s been really healing for me,” said Boschert of the opportunity to speak personally with the candidates. “I’m hoping that if enough of us keep talking about it, they’ll have to pay attention.”

Boschert, who owns, runs and teaches at Wimberley Montessori School, has a personal reason to speak with the candidates. Her home was destroyed by the Memorial Day weekend floods in Wimberley last year, which devastated the community. A microburst of rain fell over the area, and the Blanco River rose 33 feet in three hours. More than two dozen people in Central Texas died, including two children who were never found. The water swept away hundreds of homes.

Cruz visited the area after the flood, and in the aftermath, Boschert and a group of eight other residents wanted to meet with him to discuss the effects of climate change. They reached out to his office and had arranged an appointment, but the senator changed his plans and the meeting never happened.

In his speeches, Cruz says that climate change is a political ploy by liberal scientists and politicians to enact more control over the lives of citizens through regulation of emissions and energy use.

When he approaches the topic on the stump, he prefaces his stance by saying he is the son of two scientists, “a mathematician and a computer programmer,” and that public policy about climate should follow the science.

The science he refers to is a collection of satellite and weather balloon data spanning 18 years, beginning in 1998, which he says show no significant warming.

A group called ClimateTruth.org entered the picture when its leaders learned about the flooding in Texas. Formed in 2012, the group works to engage elected officials in discussion of the climate, in order to stimulate action and solutions. Boschert got to New Hampshire with the organization’s help.

Grant Olson, 38, is the campaign director for the ClimateTruth.org. He was also in New Hampshire last week.

“This issue is real. It’s not going away,” said Olson. “The flooding such as we saw in Wimberley is just one example of why ignoring this issue and denying this issue is a real threat to the safety and the economy of Texas communities, including Denton.”

Boschert finally had the opportunity to speak with the senator on Wednesday at a town hall meeting in Henniker. He warmly took her hand and offered sympathy when she introduced herself and her experience in the flood.

“Right after [the flood] I saw you in an interview and you called climate change a political football,” she said. “It is not a political football, it’s a personal nightmare.”

The exchange was polite and civil, but didn’t provide a resolution. A video of the meeting is posted on the YouTube account of ClimateTruth.org.

Cruz is the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness. On Dec. 8, he held a hearing titled “Data or Dogma? Promoting Open Inquiry in the Debate Over the Magnitude of Human Impact on Earth’s Climate,” where he called on retired U.S. Navy Rear Adm. David W. Titley, who holds both master and doctorate degrees in meteorology.

Titley questioned the logic of using a data set of 18 years beginning during an El Niño cycle, and tried to move the conversation to analyze a broader time span, noting that satellite data can be compromised by orbital decay, overlapping satellite records and stratospheric temperature contamination.

There are scientists who question the majority consensus that carbon dioxide emissions are the cause of catastrophic warming, including a group of 49 former NASA engineers and scientists who wrote a letter to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in March 2012, condemning both for publicly supporting certain climate change conclusions.

“We believe the claims by NASA and GISS, that man-made carbon dioxide is having a catastrophic impact on global climate change are not substantiated, especially when considering thousands of years of empirical data,” the letter reads. “With hundreds of well-known climate scientists and tens of thousands of other scientists publicly declaring their disbelief in the catastrophic forecasts, coming particularly from the GISS leadership, it is clear that the science is NOT settled.”

Even so, these scientists dispute the cause of the warming, while Cruz denies that warming is occurring at all.

At a town hall meeting with Bush, Boschert was moved to tears by the former governor’s compassionate response to her story, and felt encouraged that he acknowledged climate change as a problem.

Boschert went to see Cruz again on Friday, and again shook his hand. She gave him a petition with around 15,000 signatures imploring him to meet with her and the others who initially tried to meet with him after the flood.

“He didn’t commit,” she said. “He smiled and he handed it to his handler.”

LINDSEY O’LAUGHLIN is a graduate student at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.


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