Wagner, however, wasn’t finished.
“I haven’t been in a science class in a long time, but the Earth moves closer to the Sun every year ― you know, the rotation of the Earth,” Wagner noted. “We’re moving closer to the Sun.”
He’s slightly more correct here. The Earth’s orbit around the Sun is elliptical, so technically the Earth does get slightly closer to the Sun during part of its orbit, but then it also gets further away again. Cumulatively, per year, there is no difference, and it certainly has nothing to do with climate change.
He could be referring to the “wobble” of the Earth on its axis. This is one of the Milankovitch Cycles, three alterations in Earth’s orbit that occur on 23,000, 41,000, and 100,000-year-long cycles. These do change the climate quite significantly – but they are nothing compared to human activity, which is the primary driver of climate change today.
So no, we aren’t moving closer to the Sun. Actually, we’re moving away from it, by around 15 centimeters (6 inches) every single year.
Unsurprisingly, this particular lawmaker, who is currently in the running to be the Governor of the so-called Keystone State, is a long-time fan of fossil fuels. As can be seen quite clearly in the US, those who “dig coal” tend to strongly believe that climate change is a massive conspiracy, a myth, or (at best) think it’s an entirely natural phenomenon.
When American politicians do lean this way, they tend to come up with wonderful little clips of pseudoscientific nonsense to make it sound like they know what they’re talking about. In Wagner’s case, you can tell he had nothing convincing prepared – his brain just panicked and vomited out all the science-sounding words he could remember, hoping for the best.
The result is that he might be getting our inaugural James Inhofe Award.
The man of the hour
[H/T: State Impact Pennsylvania, NPR]