climate change

US 2020 Election: Will Republican Senate climate deniers lose their seats?

Photo credit: MotionStudios via Pixabay

By Anders Lorenzen

There is increased hope amongst climate advocates that the US could enter a period of pro-climate policies in the context of the fact that Joe Biden looks set to defeat Donald Trump at the November 3rd election, and also that the control of the Senate will swing to Democratic control. Assuming the Democrats would also keep control of the House, this will mean that nothing is in place to prevent Joe Biden enacting serious and ambitious climate policies.  

Just three seats

At present, the Democrats just need to win back three seats to gain control of the Senate, but it is believed that due to a couple of Democratic Senators who in the past have been hostile to climate action, that to pass serious climate legislation five is actually needed.

Several Senate races are hotting up; with current polling being neck and neck we could be looking at a nail-biting finale come the 3rd of November. 

The Republican field is a mixture of diehard climate neigh-sayers and politicians who might not outright deny the science but are hostile to climate action and in many cases are receiving donations from the fossil fuel industry. 

Here we look at three Senate races which could result in a much more climate-friendly Senate and two races where only a large upset could kick out two of the largest climate deniers of the Senate.

South Carolina

In a normally safe Republican seat, incumbent senator Lindsey Graham is running against Democratic Challenger Jamie Harrison. When in 2016 Graham ran to be the Republican presidential candidate, he was seen as one of the more moderate Republican voices advocating for action on climate change. Since then he has backtracked and become Trump’s biggest supporter in the Senate. 

Harrison might not be the most radical Democrat when it comes to climate change, but he accepts the science and supports the transition to clean energy. 

While Lindsey is still the favourite to win, the race has been tightening and could very well spring a surprise. No Democrat has won a statewide election in South Carolina since 2006.


The incumbent Republican Susan Collins, who is running for her fifth term, has been overtaken by her challenger Democrat Sara Gideon in recent polling. 

Seeing an opportunity for her to be beaten, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) are investing $800,000 in a media programme.

Collins is not as hostile to climate action as many of her Republican colleagues. For instance, she was the only Republican to vote against the confirmation of Scott Pruitt and then later Andrew Wheeler to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, she did vote in support of oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Gideon supports rejoining the Paris Agreement and government funding for renewable energy projects.

According to polling from Five Thirty-Eight, Giden is slightly favoured to win the Senate seat.


Current polling indicates this is going to be another nailbiter. 

Incumbent Senator Joni Erst is not only a climate denier but also a science denier and a conspiracy theorist, recently sharing a debunked COVID-19 conspiracy theory. She has proposed to eliminate the EPA and the Clean Water Act.

Her challenger, Democrat Theresa Greenfield, like many of her Democratic colleagues supports action on climate change and says there are too many US Senators who deny the reality of climate change. She supports growing the clean energy industry and strengthening environmental regulations. 


Coal reliant Kentucky is the home state of the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He has been a senator since 1985 and is one of the Senate’s most influential climate deniers. He has argued there is no conclusive evidence for climate change and was amongst the senators pushing Trump to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.  He also has close ties to the fossil giant, the Koch Brothers.

His Democratic challenger is Amy McGrath. She follows the Democratic line on climate change calling it a scientific fact which hurts the economy.

Polling from Five Thirty Eight only gives her a 4 in 100 chance of defeating McConnell.


Jim Inhofe is another influential climate denier in the US Senate. He once brought a snowball to a senate speech to try to prove climate change is not happening. Crucially he sits on many senate science and environment committees. As with McConnell, he also pushed Trump to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. He has a long record of trying to spread misinformation about climate change. As a big supporter of fracking, he has also downplayed any negative impacts of the industry. 

Abby Broyles the Democratic challenger is only given a 1 out of 100 chance of beating Inhofe. She is keen to underline that climate change is a scientific fact and that Inhofe’s relentless campaigning against action on climate change is an embarrassment.

Oklahoma is one of the largest oil-producing states in the US. 

Five Thirty Eight’s forecast predicts that the Democrats are slight favourites to retake the Senate.

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