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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 to climate change, at least in part.

On Sunday, Buttigieg was featured on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” where he claimed the effects of climate change are to blame for recent incidents of severe turbulence on airplanes and extreme weather.

Anchor Margaret Brennan asked Buttigieg about strains on the national transportation system when bad weather compounds a heavy 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, the effects of climate change are already upon us in terms of our transportation,” Buttigieg replied. 

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“We’ve seen that in the form of everything from heat waves that shouldn’t statistically even be possible threatening to melt the cables of transit systems in the Pacific Northwest to … hurricane seasons becoming more and more extreme and indications that turbulence is up by about 15%.

“That means assessing anything and everything that we can do about it.”

In response, GOP lawmakers and some climate analysts rejected Buttigieg’s invocation of climate change, with one legislator claiming weather and public transit systems are being politicized.

“Clearly, Secretary Buttigieg is not serious about addressing our numerous 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 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 scholar and the author of “Fossil Future,” told Fox News Digital the secretary is also wrongly attributing recent crises to climate change.

“Climate itself is not meaningfully affecting transportation, but terrible climate policy, including that of Pete Buttigieg,” Epstein said. 

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

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

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

“Even if the United States stopped using all fossil fuels right now, it would only make a difference of 2/10 of one degree centigrade by the year 2100, government models show. There’s no way that these changes can be attributed to climate change. The climate is changing all the time, but there’s no reason that these changes can be attributed to the use of greenhouse gases.”

Furchtgott-Roth also attributed the prevalence of social media and connectivity on planes to people being able to report in-flight issues almost instantly. 

However, the Department of Transportation pushed back on critics and pointed Fox News Digital to a 2019 study in Nature magazine that discussed connections between climate change and airline turbulence.

A representative for the department cited the study’s co-author, University of Reading atmospheric science professor Paul Williams, as saying study organizers had accumulated a large body of scientific evidence now that turbulence is increasing because of climate change.”

“An invisible form called clear-air turbulence is generated by wind shear, which, because of climate change, is now 15% stronger than in the 1970s. We expect a further strengthening of the wind shear in the coming decades, perhaps doubling or tripling 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 placed to Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., chair of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, were not returned at press time.

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